Hard to believe
that's been 10 years since
the release of this criminally underrated sci-fi gem by the director of
This so-called director's cut doesn't feature any new scenes as such, just
longer ones with more dialogue. Most importantly however it gets rid of an
annoying voice-over narration by a wheezy Kiefer Sutherland which spills the
beans within the first few minutes of the movie's running time.
Even harder to believe though is that some critics
attacked Dark City upon its release for being
a case of style over substance. It is more of a case of both visual style
and philosophical substance. After all, how many Hollywood movies will
have you discussing Cartesian metaphysics afterwards? It is however easy to
believe that the movie didn't do particularly well at the box office, but
did however garner a cult status following its DVD release. After all the
movie is too downright weird for mainstream tastes but appeals instead to
the type of viewer familiar with film noir conventions, German expressionism
in film as well as the art of Edward Hopper.
The less you know about Dark
City's plot in advance, the better - which is why that idiotic
voice-over for dummies insisted upon by its studio was such a bad move.
Interestingly enough it shares many themes with another cult movie famous
(or is that infamous?) for a voice-over narration insisted upon by studio
bigwigs afraid that audiences won't get it. That movie is of course
Blade Runner, and both movies deal with
issues such as what makes us human? and can we rely on our memories?
Dark City kicks off with a man (Rufus Sewell, the
bad guy from A Knight's Tale) suffering from amnesia waking up at a
murder scene. Was he the murderer? He doesn't know. He doesn't even know his
own name for that matter. Things get weirder. Who are the strangers looking
like refugees from Nosferatu following him around? Why is it always
night in the city they inhabit? Why do all the city's inhabitants
mysteriously fall asleep at midnight every night?
The answers to all these questions may not be all that
satisfying, but the journey in this hyper-stylized film is definitely a
fascinating one especially for architectural fetishists and philosophy
majors. This director's cut is the version that should have been released
theatrically back in 1998 and is the preferred version.
Amazing what they can cram onto one disc nowadays! Not only does this disc
boast the sort of long making-of documentaries usually found on two-disc
sets, but it also boasts three (count them!) audio commentaries. Picture and
sound quality on the feature doesn't seem to have been compromised at all as
the movie itself looks and sounds great.
Noted film critic Roger Ebert who counts himself as a fan
of the film also supplies an audio commentary in addition to the film's
creative team. Unfortunately Ebert's talk is too often punctuated by
silences but is still worthwhile as he points out some interesting points
regarding the film's history and the composition of its shots amongst
others. Interestingly enough the film's director, Alex Proyas, admits in one
of the documentaries that he knew the voice-over narration was a mistake but
felt too unsure of himself as a film-maker following some negative test
screenings to contest its inclusion. If he had opposed it, he claims, the
studio probably would have relented - a pity then that he didn't.
RECOMMENDATION: Is Dark City too cerebral
and stylized as its own director of photography claims? Perhaps. However it
will appeal to a certain type of film school cineaste who will find it
endlessly fascinating. For them it is whole-heartedly recommended. Long-time
fans (such as myself) who actually fell in love with the movie upon its
initial theatrical release should seriously consider a purchase as this is
how the movie should have been released back in 1998.