Dark City
Rating -

Sci-Fi (US); 1998; Rated R; 103 Minutes

Rufus Sewell: John Murdoch
Kiefer Sutherland: Dr. Daniel Poe Schreber
Jennifer Connelly: Emma Murdoch
Richard O'Brien: Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson: Mr. Book
William Hurt: Frank Bumstead
Bruce Spence: Mr. Wall
Colin Friels: Eddie Walenski

Produced by Michael De Luca, Barbara Gibbs, Andrew Mason, Alex Proyas and Brian Witten; Directed by Alex Proyas; Screenwritten by Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Dark City" is one of the most imaginative and creative films ever made. It has a futuristic science fiction noir quality to it that is so appealing and amazing that I walked away from it with an sense of pure imagination flowing through me. It is not only a spectacle for the eyes, but also a story of originality and creativity that blends fluently on screen with the special effects and cinematography.

This is indeed a landmark for director Alex Proyas, as it is for actors like William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland and Rufus Sewell. These are faces we have often seen in mild to mediocre movies in the past, and here, they finally have the chance to experience the passion and product of a great movie. "Dark City" is not only great, but impressive, gorgeous, intelligent, and so overwhelming that it will remain in my mind for the duration of my life.

But the film is no easy and simple one. It is complex in both content and characterization. First, picture Sewell's character, John Murdoch. When he wakes up at the beginning of the picture, he is in a tub with a bleeding hole in his head, and has no idea who he is. At the apartment he lives in, he discovers a dead prostitute, and several other things that he has no recollection of. He packs up and leaves the apartment and hotel, going off in search of who he is.

Then take in Sutherland's character. This is a doctor who is a traitor to his race. In the first scenes of the picture, he explains of a crippling humanitarian race which he calls 'the strangers,' and how they expect to regain their humanity by testing on ours. Dr. Schreber is helping them with their several experiments, every night at midnight putting the residents of the city to sleep and moving around their memories, personalities, city structures, etc., all in the end to create new situations and new scenarios for the strangers to experiment on. One person may be a murderer one day, and the next, a politician--the possibilities are endless, with the way these people work. However, the experiment becomes revealed when John Murdoch wakes up during the course of exchanging and mix-mashing his mental characteristics, and thus, has an amnesia.

But he's more complicated than meets the eye. Apparently, he wasn't supposed to wake up, but he did anyway, because, somehow, he has the knowledge and power of the strangers built inside his complex soul. He can use their power against them, and use it for his own sake. Being one with no recollection of what has occurred in his life, he is angry and bitter, and in no mood to back down from the pale strangers.

When Dr. Schreber learns of Murdoch's case, he helps him get to know how to use his power and how to save the humans in the city, which, apparently, has no exposure to daylight. As we learn later in the picture, the city is built on its own turf and floats in space, nowhere near Earth. It's an isolated lab for the strangers to experiment.

This story sounds like it can come straight out of a comic book, but with "Dark City," the story is strangely original. Proyas and two other writers created the script through an entire original conception, and it was not spun off from any type of material, other than the material that exists in the writers' minds. It's the type of story that almost is assuredly based on comic, but after extensive study, no such story has ever existed in one.

Making up original stories in the noirish setting is one difficult task, as you can tell by watching the movie. It is complicated and mysteriously complex, all to the point where, if you take your eyes of the film for one second, you can get lost. Every moment of your attention must be paid to the movie as it unfolds, otherwise you may perhaps not appreciate the quality and effort that movie brings on.

Films like "Dark City" are the pinnacles of imagination and visual style--you look at them and wonder, how any human being could possibly create such breathtaking scenarios and stories. The movie is not for one second dull and dreary, and never for one moment a let down.

It is a treasure of creativity and vision. Alex Proyas deserves an Academy Award for treating us to such ambitious originality.

1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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