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Dark City

Dark City (1998)

Directed by: Alexander Proyas
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland, Rufus Sewell

I've always wanted to bathe in purple water

Dark City is unlike most science fiction movies I¡¯ve ever seen. Overly-saturated genres such as science fiction and horror have a tendency to have their own set of clichés that are used over and over again in countless films. But this film delivers striking amount of originality; it makes The Matrix look crummy in comparison. It also blends a few genres, the most noticeable being noir. The plot might have had an abundance of explosions, special effects, and breathtaking (and tiresome) battle sequences. Instead, it actually tells a story, a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, always full of ideas, twists and imagination. Even old Hollywood films don¡¯t have such a nimble narrative. Rarely does one come across film that is determined to venture beyond the conventional limits.

Like I said, Dark City has a plot that is constantly on the move, changing and twisting, so it impossible to review it without being vague. Let¡¯s just say that a man named John Murdoch played by Rufus Sewell wakes up in a hotel with no memory of his past. At first he believes he is going insane, but slowly starts to unravel the mystery. Meanwhile, there is a secretive underworld controlled by ominous beings called ¡°The Strangers¡±. For some reason, these extra-terrestrial creatures are interested in us humans, especially Rufus Sewell¡¯s character.

The film begins with a zoom-in shot that slowly narrows through a cluster of shady building lacking height, and you¡¯ll noticed that the overall look is a bit different. It¡¯s a combination of the past and future: the dimly-lit streets, rectangular cars, and fedora hats (my personal favorite ) give off a film noir vibe, but futuristic places exist in between, such as a self-service restaurant, where you put in cash, press a button and voila – dinner.

Director Alexander Proyas uses the descriptive and creative world he is given to describe characters or situations. The first few scenes starring a single confused character have a lot of areas in the frame covered by dark, obscure spots. Occasionally lights will flash and cover up those holes for a moment, then disappear into the unknown oblivion. This perfectly describes John Murdoch¡¯s psychological inner torment – he seems to be getting a grasp of things, but nothing seems to be crystal clear. When he is walking down streets, or hiding behind a wall, we can only see one-third of the street, then the camera quickly cuts to another location. Cars movie busily, slowly revealing hidden roads, and trains blaze overhead – yet the destinations are unknown.

Dark City is a one-of-a-kind science fiction film, and it reminds me more of Metropolis than 2001: A Space Odyssey. The special effects are a bit clunky, blurred and have a color scheme consisting of black, brown, and blue. The Strangers have a not so pleasant design and lack grace. Polished looks are a rarity here, but these all fit in perfectly. Luckily, as the film progresses, you might be a bit surprised – an influence from 2001 does indeed exist.

I really do wish I could do a spoiler-filled review of this film. I have so much to talk about. Maybe it will come to life when someday, all MoFos have seen it. When I first sat down on my trusty couch (and also on my trusty dog, by accident), the expectation level was decimally low. None of the actors, producers, or directors could ring my mental bell. After 100 minutes, I was genuinely surprised and filled with excitement. Alas, curious Gatsby has discovered another masterpiece.