All about: Dark City! (spoilers)

I just bought my first ever DVD, and it’s one of my all-time favorite movies, Dark City (1998, directed by Alex Proyas, starring Rufus Sewell and Kiefer Sutherland)! Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on it.

The set design is my favorite. I don’t really know much about film, but from what I’ve read, a lot of the movies I like are called “film noir”. And this movie seems to be in a subgenre thereof which is also a subgenre of sci-fi. The beautiful, dark, and creepy urban environment is done here as well as anywhere else. I also liked Mystery Men for this reason. I’ve never seen Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but I understand it has some things in common - the Dark City DVD apparently has a special feature which compares the two films.

NOW THEN, if you haven’t seen it and think you might be interested, stop reading now and go rent it. This movie is worth not spoiling.

Moving on…

It’s really like a dark Truman Show, and I think that Truman Show enjoyed a small amount of popular recognition for doing stuff that this film did first.

I thought it was brilliant how they get the bad guys in the end. Dr. Schreber and John are in quite a fix, but switching the syringes solved everything! It took me a little while to realize exactly what was going on, but I get it now, and it’s very clever.

Presumably, everyone in the City (which is never named, by the way) has at one point or another been part of some kind of experiment conducted by the Strangers, but the only one we know about in detail is John Murdoch. Would a man with the memories of a killer “continue” to kill? A side note to the main story to be sure, but one they try to answer. John says no, that we’re not just the sum of our memories. I want to believe him, but at the same time, I mean, that’s easy for him to say - he never actually got those memories!

So, has anyone else even heard about this movie? Or seen it? What do you think?

Dark City is one of my favourite sci-fi/film noir flicks. Primarily for the design.

Oh, and The Strangers (Mr. Hand, Mr. Book, Mr. Sleep et al.) gave me the willies! I doffed my cap at Buffy the Vampire Slayer when they had The Gentlemen because they seemed to clearly be in homage to The Strangers.

I mean c’mon, Riff Raff was one of them!

Dark City is a great movie, one of the few genuinely good science fiction movies of the 1990s.

The Roger Ebert commentary on the DVD is one of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard. It’s one of the few commentaries that I’ve actually listened to more than once.

If you liked the set design in Dark City, go out and rent Blade Runner and Batman, because that’s where the Dark City style has its roots.

The “reality is not what it seems, and is in fact all some kind of weird experiment” plot has been done many times in written science fiction, and even several times in movies pre-Dark City. Here’s one of the stranger examples:

(Come to think of it, this odd little movie also had considerable influence over Pleasantville.)

This is one of my favorites as well. I’m a big fan of movies where the set/local is part of the visual effects, and this movie does a great job with the set design and scenery. It’s got a fairly nice philisophical question it tries to answer, but it doesn’t get too preachy about it, which I also like. And the Strangers are absolutely fantastic in their design. The costumes in this movie are just incredible.
The one big question I have for those who have seen it is…what did you think about the ending? A lot of my friends feel like it was rather lame, the big fight at the end. Personally, I liked it, but the more I think about it, the more I tend to see more of where they’re coming. Here it is, a story about the struggle of mankind against adversity, and it ends with a bizare psychic battle and the birth of a new god. Unfortunately, I’m still at a loss as to any other possible way the movie could have ended. Any other thoughts?

The ending was good enough that Darren Aronofsky blatantly copied it in Requiem for a Dream.

The Matrix also blatantly ripped it off (and was shot using some of the same sets).

So I’m not the only person that ever noticed this!

What in the world was up with that? It was so exactly the same that it was almost some sort of bizarre homage, but thematically it just doesn’t fit at all.

IIRC, it’s even mentioned in the Requiem for a Dream director’s commentary track. Something about Jennifer Connelly mentioning to Darren Aronofsky that she’d done the exact same shot in Dark City, but I forget what was said after that. In any case, Aronofsky was aware of it.

Everyone’s capable of an oversight, but I don’t see Aronofsky being a hack, as an above post seems to be indicating.

Peter Lorre impression!

I have to admit, this was the first movie I ever saw with Kiefer Sutherland where I didn’t just want to smack him constantly. He shed his leftover Young Guns in this movie.


I definitely don’t consider Aronofsky a hack, I loved Pi and I thought Requiem was very haunting in parts. I was a little bothered by the riffs borrowed from other movies (there was a sequence borrowed from Perfect Blue as well.) Just because they were presented in a different way than you usually see as an homage, there was no signal, no wink to the audience, and in such a serious film it seems a little out of place. I definitely look forward to his next movie, though.
[we now return you to your regularly scheduled thread]

Yay! I just watched it! Everything about this movie rocks!

When I first got the DVD, I fretted that it’s only 97 minutes long. I mean, I’ve seen it before, but in my opinion, you really need a solid two hours to tell a good story. Watching it again, I remembered how excellent the pacing is. Every minute of the movie is as captivating as the final act of most films, with no filler at all. I really think it would have taken more like 2½ hours for most storytellers to get it done.

What time period is the City reminsecent of? When I first saw it, I was thinking that it was a mixture of everything from the 1930s to the 1990s, all thrown together, since the City was crafted from the memories of people abducted from different time periods. But watching it again, I think it’s more homogeneous. 1940s and 1950s, maybe? That would be the right time period for the classic films of noir.

Also, I guess that this idea of “everything’s an experiment” is certainly mainstream and obvious enough that it’s been done a million times, but it still surprises me every time I see the City floating in space.

Dark City is a steaming mass of tedious, self-obsessed bullshit with a limp plot.
And do you have a cite for The Matrix having appropriated their sets?

Here’s one.

Mind you, sets are reused all the time in Hollywood, so it’s not like it’s a big deal. (Fer instance, the high school in Gremlins and the high school in Back to the Future are one and the same.)

“Uncle Karl… haven’t seen you in so long…”

The first time I ever saw this movie, I immediately equated the ending with the ending of Akira. Now, I despise Akira for many, many reasons, but I actually sort of liked Dark City. And the first time I saw The Matrix, I thought, “It’s Dark City with computers instead of aliens!”

For me, I felt that the basic plot was a little too over-used, but otherwise, it was a good film. Now, Kiefer Sutherland was just kind of…not good. He seemed to me to be over-acting a bit in the role of the doctor. But then, I have trouble seeing Kiefer Sutherland in any non-Young Guns role, which some other posters have mentioned.

I liked the sets, very noir, but I fail to understand exactly what the aliens were trying to accomplish with the City. They apparently created an amalgam of several different time periods, which made the City very generic-looking, urban, gritty, etc., and then they threw some humans into the City, and started messing with their heads. I’m not exactly sure why. They kinda explain it in the film- the aliens have only collective memories, (or something like that) and they want to experiment with human behavior as it relates to the perception of memory. Okay. But still…what for? And where is the sun? Why is it always dark? (Obviously, this is the title- but I forget how they explain the eternal night in the City.)

Also, I’m assuming this City experiment took place on another planet. The Strangers (who are the best aliens, ever, IMO) must have abducted various humans and set them up in the pre-fab City. So at the end, is John somehow controlling the planet and/or reality? Or is some manifestation of the collective memories/consciousness of the inhabitants of the City?


Well you missed my favorite shot in the whole film, then. Come on, pay a little attention. :wink: