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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City of darkness
Cult films don't come much more groundbreaking than "Dark City" -- it was bending reality before the Matrix ever did.

At first glance, Alex Proyas' movie seems like a basic sci-fi little-man-against-evil-aliens flick. But it isn't. Instead, it's a dark grimy nightmare where nothing is what it seems, and everything we think is real is just an elaborate illusion...
Published on Feb. 22 2007 by E. A Solinas

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Great visuals
This movie leads the viewer through a maze of incredible imagery. The city above is neo-grunge, but the Strangers' city below is a bizarre Art Deco noir. The Strangers redesign that city above, every day, in amazing scenes of rubbery, expanding skyscrapers. The city below is filled with dark, cavernous spaces and monumental icons of unknown meaning. (The Strangers also...
Published on June 6 2004 by wiredweird


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City of darkness, Feb. 22 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
Cult films don't come much more groundbreaking than "Dark City" -- it was bending reality before the Matrix ever did.

At first glance, Alex Proyas' movie seems like a basic sci-fi little-man-against-evil-aliens flick. But it isn't. Instead, it's a dark grimy nightmare where nothing is what it seems, and everything we think is real is just an elaborate illusion. This is one of the rare films that is creepy from start to finish.

The Strangers are pasty-faced, bald, leather-coat-wearing aliens (think Darth Vader, post-mask), whose survival depends on somehow imitating human souls and dreams. So they created the Dark City, to observe and manipulate the unwitting humans.

Our hero John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up naked in a tub, with no memory of who he is, and the police hunting him for brutal murders that he is sure he didn't commit. And worse, hes being pursued by the Strangers, without even knowing who they are or why they're after him.

And then he starts seeing past the Strangers' illusions. Buildings are reshaped, people's memories change, and the sun never appears. As John searches for hints to his past, he finds that the places he knew never existed -- and it's connected to the Strangers. Now John and a suspicious cop will unravel the truth of the City -- and of why the Strangers want John.

It's not surprising that "The Matrix" and "Dark City" are often compared. They deal with an illusionary "real" world, malevolent manipulation, and one man who might be able to stop the bad guys. But "Dark City" is very much unique -- it's dark, angular, and haunted, like if Fritz Lang made a sci-fi noir.

The Dark City is a pretty creepy place, like a... well, like a city at night, with some surreal skyscrapers, big cogs and giant clocks. Proyas gives all these scenes a creepy feeling, which is only increased by the fact that there are so few people in the streets and houses. Even everyday things like eating soup and going to work become unreal.

But it's also paired with a very suspenseful script, which is equal parts surrealism and gnostic philosophy. All the dialogue is well written ("You know something, I don't think the sun even... exists... in this place"), and very spare. But Proyas makes all the dialogue weirdly disconnected, as if the characters are never really communicating fully. It adds to the dreamlike feeling.

Sewell is well-suited to the role of John Murdoch, moving seamlessly from confusion to skepticism to a pretty wild action scene where he clashes with all the Strangers. Connelly has a good if underused role as his nightclub-singer wife. Kiefer Sutherland is a bit annoying, but he does a good Peter Lorre impersonation with all those nervous gasps.

Like Kafka on acid, "Dark City" is a unique and compelling sci-fi movie, with outstanding direction and an amazing plot. Definitely a must-see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It is over before it begins, July 9 2006
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
In a city where the sun never shines and everyone knows the way to Shell Beach but you can never get there, John Murdock (Rufus Sewell) thinks he knows a truth, with his half remember past he now seeks to find out the cities secret.

It appears to be around the 40's and John is thinking of his wife Emma Murdoch (Jennifer Connelly), that now may or may not be someone else.

We are carried along with the story and just might find the secret out before John. Can we handle the truth?

What happens if john finds out how unique he is and whom he may be threatening?

"Dark City" (1998) seems like a short story (both story and screenplay by Alex Proyas "The Crow") with a simple prime that was fleshed out to movie length. The visuals gothic in feel and style will hold you long enough to allow you to enjoy the slow unfolding of the story. Jennifer Connelly seems like she should have been born in the thirty's/ forties as she looks and acts her part so well that you forget you are watching a movie; At times you forget that it is a sci-fi movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the last great films during the 20th century!, July 19 2004
By 
Philip B. Yochim (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
"Dark City" will be remembered as the film that bridged the film noir genre at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.
Alex Proyas directs a suspenseful story on the meaning of reality in a dark, foreboding dream world. As people go about their lives, almost no one notices something is seriously wrong with their world. Until one man wakes up alone, one fateful night.
John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakes in a hotel room to find he's lost most of his memories. Even worse, he may have committed a string of brutal murders against local prostitutes. Fleeing the crime scene, he finds himself pursued by not only the police, but also a mysterious cabal of cloaked men.
Assisted by a cowed doctor and a supportive woman who claims to be his wife, Murdoch learns the truth of the city, and its secret Masters, the Strangers.
The feature actors all give strong performances, as a confused Murdoch and a supportive Jennifer Connelly as Emma. Keifer Sutherland is impressive, especially when you contrast the cowardly Dr. Scheber vs. his characters from "The Lost Boys" or "24."
The sets are as compelling as the actors, and credit is due for the deliberate "retro" look of the city. Making of movie of this style look creative guts, and it paid off.
I just beg of the producers of the story one request: don't make a sequel, this story will always stand as a one and only!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph, July 17 2004
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
In a city covered in perpetual darkness a group of strange beings known as "The Strangers" attempt to understand what makes us human and identify what the soul is. These strangers change the city and erase peoples memories and assign them all new lives, but one of their specimens also has this unique power. Now he must save the day and prove that he's not a killer.
Much has been said about Dark City. Roger Ebert called it the best movie of 98. A visually stunning sci-fi/noir tale of a man who wakes up with no knowledge of who he is or how he got to where he is. From the opening narration by Dr. Schreber (Sutherland), we learn that is a world that only mirrors our own. The inhabitants are nothing more than guinea pigs for a group of "strangers from another solar system" to study. Schreber knows that Murdoch (Sewell) has the ability to "tune" where he can change things around him by concentrating. The strangers also have this power and use it to change the city and imprint the inhabitants with all knew lives to see what makes us tick. But they must first take care of Murdoch who they in the process of imprinting with the life of a serial killer. Then we meet Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) and Emma (Connelly), the detective on the case and Murdoch's wife. He must learn who he really is, stop the strangers, and prove he is not a serial killer.
Dark City is a movie that's hard to forget, not only for its visuals but its great story and acting. Proyas (The Crow) gives us more of the same dark and dreary visuals from the The Crow, but in Dark City they are on a grander scale. Proyas delivers visuals with a flare and style all his own. Proyas and his writing team also delivered an original and brilliant story. The acting is dead on here too. Sewell is great as Murdock, Sutherland is amazing as the doctor, Hurt plays the hard edged copy well, and Connelly as usual looks great and is a hell of an actress. Throw all those elements together into an exhilarating comic book type flick and you have Dark City.
What you've heard about this flick is true. Its a masterpiece! A brilliant and beautiful film that you won't soon forget. It's not just a sci fi or a noir flick, its much more. Its a film about what makes us human. Although we are surrounded by darkness, the human spirit will triumph and that's just what Dark City is. A triumph.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Dark City', March 12 2010
This review is from: Dark City (Director's Cut) (DVD)
The Amazon editorial review implies this film is all style no substance, but that is untrue. Although a lot of effort went into the style (partly in homage to Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis') the darkness here is no mere plot device, it is a metaphor.

The 'dark city' is an elaborate device created by a soulless race of aliens (who all look like John Gielgud, perhaps because they "use our dead as vessels") as part of a giant experiment to find out what makes humans IRREDUCIBLE (i.e. the part of us that can't be measured or quantified - our souls). 'Dark City' is clearly influenced by Gnostic spirituality, with its concept of a demiurge who has trapped us in a materialistic 'circle of circles'.

The film is tightly scripted and packed together, with extremely fast camera shots (like British show 'The Prisoner', with which it has much in common), and more than one viewing may be necessary to understand the plot in its entirety.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The myth of the ocean, July 10 2004
By 
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
Imagine a city that is always dark, that lives in eternal night. Imagine its inhabitants that are human beings whose memories have been erased and replaced by some borrowed recollections from other human beings, hence artificial. Imagine that city is being built and rebuilt every-« day » in that eternal night at what corresponds to midnight when everything stops, everyone goes to sleep and forgets everything to regain when waking up a newly arranged consciousness in a newly arranged environment that has been reorganized following the dreams or recollections of some human beings that are not even in this city. Imagine that all this is done by some extraterrestrial species that is testing the human race to see how they live and react. Then this city is nothing but a bubble in the middle of cosmic emptiness. The discovery of the extraterrestrials is that some humans can resist this process and then they stick to some dream of sunlight, a beach, the ocean, etc. And this dream will lead these human beings into breaking the bubble to go beyond this selfcontained city. That's the film. It is interesting but it remains rather superficial : a real human being always wants to escape a limited space or time that is imposed onto him or her.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific sci-fi movie with noir tendencies and decent DVD, June 8 2004
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
The DVD contains both formats of the movie with two commentaries: one by the filmakers and one by Roger Ebert. It's very interesting to listen to. The other features are somewhat scimpy. I really don't get the game about shell beach and I've never been able to get that going. Whatever, the film features a terrific supporting performance by William Hurt as the detective and a creepy Kiefer Sutherland performance to good effect. Rufus Sewell does a good job in the lead, but his character is more or less an effect of the environment rather than an individual character for most of the film. William Hurt's character has more individuality throughout even though he doesn't have the special power. At any rate, it's a classic of escapist sci-fi and truly creates a world where the individual can make it anything he wants and isn't that the message that we're always trying to convince ourselves of? That we can change the world to fit our own desires, which are to the benefit of the entire world would be a goal that anybody would have.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great visuals, June 6 2004
By 
wiredweird "wiredweird" (Earth, or somewhere nearby) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
This movie leads the viewer through a maze of incredible imagery. The city above is neo-grunge, but the Strangers' city below is a bizarre Art Deco noir. The Strangers redesign that city above, every day, in amazing scenes of rubbery, expanding skyscrapers. The city below is filled with dark, cavernous spaces and monumental icons of unknown meaning. (The Strangers also defined the trenchcoat look later popularized by The Matrix.)
The story has that Kafka feeling about it that is blatantly fictional, but still sounds true to that frightened little voice in the back of the mind. The city and everyone in it are manipulated every night at midnight by dark forces for dark purposes. Each morning, that facts of history have been altered. The population's memory has also been altered to match. All of the past has been changed, switched onto a new track -- except for one man.
It's quite amazing how, with such a strong start, the movie falters so badly. There was much more to be made of this plot, and much better use to be made of Jennifer Connelly. The Strangers never managed to make much sense - despite the nominal purpose for their experiment, they show little interest in its outcome. In the end, the incredible visuals carry the movie.
I like this one for its imagery and for the Twilight Zone sense of its beginning. It could have been more, but that's enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this film, May 22 2004
By 
Adam Chen (Mercer Island, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
When I first saw this, I was confused partly by the main character's responses to his awareness of his life being a fraud. Because in the movie, he discovers that all his life is a series of memories that are not real, and the physical world itself is not even real, being capable of change just through sheer willpower and mind. Thinking back, however, I see what they were trying to do (the movie-makers). The big problem with this movie was that the technology of film was not good enough to communicate what was being said. The film was supposed to make you question the screen you were looking at (the computer, TV, or movie screen) and use that as a basis for meditation on what was real or not.
Also, the main character's internal emotional experience could not be justified on the basis of him and one other character alone. In the movie he is the good guy, and another guy played by Kiefer Sutherland is the bad guy. These are supposed to be motifs of the good guy, but it turns out looking like they were both equal in strength and stature. This severly dampens our understanding of Proyas's intense and ugly view of reality--how little we question it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "We use your dead as vessels!!!", May 1 2004
By 
D. Knouse (vancouver, washington United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dark City (DVD)
First off, it is gratifying to see such a high, collective rating for this film. For the longest time I thought I was with a select few who appreciated this gothic Sci-fi tale from director Alex Proyas. Alex Proyas also directed "The Crow" which has a similar ambience. But "Dark City" is a different animal, altogether. Take the gothic texture from "The Crow," add an eerie touch of "Hellraiser," just a dash of "Blade Runner," and a vague understanding of this film begins to emerge. The title character played by Rufus Sewell is searching for his past, constantly pursued by "The Strangers," and slowly the mystery unfolds. I've heard some say that they knew what was happening long before the end, but when I saw this in the theater I had no idea what to expect so I let the story play itself out. Eventually I was rewarded for my patience with a superb plot revelation. As for the acting, Rufus Sewell is excellent, almost single-handedly carrying the film. All of "The Strangers" are memorable, particularly the lead characters who bring a seriously evil feeling to these nightmarish beings. Jennifer Connelly is passable, seeing that she really has nothing to work with here; that, and she can't lip-sync to save her life. William Hurt is good here, adding a slightly cynical perspective and depth to the grand mystery. But the eye-sore of the film is Kiefer Sutherland. He overacts in every scene, apparently gasping for air...between...every...word(or phrase)...he...says. It gets annoying fast. As for the visual effects, some are outstanding while others need a little more work. The look of the movie, from the costumes to the dark city-scape, are all well-thought out and memorable. "The Strangers" are some of the creepiest creations in recent memory: pale incarnations walking slowly after their prey while wearing long, black trenchcoats and black hats. More than once they hover and fly through the air, other times wielding switch-blade knives. All in all, this is a worthy edition to the Sci-fi genre, very nearly (at least in my mind) achieving Cult Film status.
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Dark City (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
Dark City (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray] by Alex Proyas (Blu-ray - 2008)
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