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Alex Proyas
Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard O'Brien
Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer

Forget the Sun. Forget Time. Forget Your Memories.

A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 7/29/2008

• Audio Commentary With Director Alex Proyas, Writers Lem Dobbs & David Goyer, Director of Photography Dariucz Wolski & Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulos
• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Roger Ebert
• “To Shell Beach” Interactive Game
• Neil Gaiman Essay
Metropolis Articles
• Trailer
• Set Design Sketches
• Cast and Crew Text


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Dark City (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2015):

Maybe I should pay less attention to trailers. Not only do they frequently steer me toward crummy movies, but also they sometimes prompt me to miss a film that I otherwise might enjoy. In the latter category fell 1998's Dark City, a picture that I skipped during its theatrical run.

Thank heaven for home video, because it lets us find little treasures that we otherwise wouldn't experience. Dark City definitely enters into that category.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a strange motel room and lacks memory of how he got there – or his own identity, for that matter. John seeks answers to these questions and also finds himself under suspicion for murder. We follow his journey as he attempts to solve a number of mysteries related to the nature of the town where he lives.

As I mentioned, I didn’t see Dark City theatrically, and don’t think I ever thought about seeing the film until after the success of 1999’s The Matrix. I heard that the two films boasted a number of similarities, and since I really liked The Matrix, I thought I should give City a look.

And I'm glad that I did. I prefer The Matrix because I'm an action film kind of guy, but City certainly holds its own as a more thoughtful alternative.

It's weird to say that because I first saw City months after I viewed The Matrix, so it's hard to remember that City came first. Both films really do offer a lot of similarities, primarily due to plots that revolve around the nature of the "real" world and expository paths that follow somewhat obscure and circuitous routes, but I don't think that The Matrix ripped off City.

Yes, Matrix came out more than a year after City, which certainly would seem to have been plenty of time for the makers of The Matrix to see and copy City. However, since the former film spent lots of time in preparation – with six months martial arts training for the actors alone! - it's pretty clear that these similarities must be coincidental.

Whatever the case, both films stand up on their own, with The Matrix offering the more compelling visceral experience and City the more emotional, more intellectually complex production. City revolves around questions of what makes us who we are, and although it's not tremendously deep in a philosophical way, it's definitely one of those movies that can provoke thought and conversation.

And it's pretty entertaining, too! I worried that City might lose something the second time around since much of the tale acts as a mystery. The viewer spends most of the movie just trying to make sense of what's happening and what the underlying truth is, both of which become irrelevant upon subsequent screenings.

However, City offers such a rich and detailed enough experience that I liked it as much the second time as I did the first. What I lost in impact I gained in nuance. City draws you in and keeps you hooked.

As with The Matrix, Dark City is one of those movies that can even wriggle out of apparent flaws due to the nature of the story. In my review of The Matrix, I noted that some of the computer animation looked fake, but that was actually a good thing due to the way the computer-created objects were supposed to have been generated in "real" life.

In City, it's the acting that often seems flat and wooden. However, the performances should come across as vaguely disoriented and uninvolved due to the nature of the story. These are people whose lives get changed radically every few days, so it would seem logical that their personalities appear unformed and tentative.

I'm not completely sure that the premise excuses everything - part of me thinks that while these folks have indeed gone through frequent personality changes, they don't know that and they think they've been who they are forever. As such, their personae should seem well established to themselves and their lack of engagement doesn't make sense.

However, I suppose the latter supposition requires the memory implants and their execution to be flawless, and it's probable that some bugs exist, so I guess it's sensible that the new personalities come across as pretty blah.

Dark City gives us an abnormally complex fantasy. It comes with an intriguing premise that it explores in a satisfying manner.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Dark City appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 displays. While not a bad picture, the transfer showed its age.

Sharpness varied but usually appeared adequate. Much of the film looked reasonably crisp and well defined, but a number of shots came across as soft and fuzzy. These weren’t extreme, but they appeared noticeable.

Light but persistent edge haloes added to these tendencies, but jaggies and shimmering weren’t a concern. As for print flaws, I saw a few specks and marks but nothing significant.

Colors looked erratic. The movie opted for a restricted palette that favored browns much of the time, though blues came through in a few shots. The tones looked somewhat bland and drab – more than intended, that is.

Black levels seemed fairly inky. Shadow detail demonstrated acceptable clarity in low-light sequences, but the movie occasionally was a bit hazy. Ultimately, the image was perfectly watchable but not especially good.

I felt more pleased with the movie’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, though it didn’t dazzle. The mix emphasized the forward channels, where we got good stereo music and a nice sense of place. Various elements moved across the front smoothly and fit together well.

Surround usage added a bit of material but not much that stood out from the crowd. The back channels tended to contribute ambience and not much more, so they fleshed out the spectrum without much stand-out material. Still, the surrounds gave us a decent layer of environmental information.

Audio quality was fine. The movie suffered from some iffy looping, but the lines remained intelligible and they sounded reasonably natural much of the time.

Music appeared vivid and full, while effects showed nice range. Those elements came across as fairly accurate and concise. This ended up as a reasonably satisfactory mix.

Two audio commentaries appear here, and the first involves writers Lem Dobbs & David Goyer, director of photography Dariucz Wolski & production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. Recorded individually for this edited, occasionally screen-specific piece, we learn about story/characters/themes, cast and performances, sets and production design, effects, music, editing and cinematography, and connected domains.

Some people don’t like this kind of edited “Frankencommentary”, but when done well, the format succeeds, and this track comes across in a very satisfying manner. We get a great array of notes and insights, as the participants flesh out different elements in a compelling way. The commentary keeps us informed and involved from start to finish.

For the second commentary, we hear from film critic Roger Ebert. He brings a running, screen-specific view of story/character areas, visual design, influences, themes and inspirations, performances, cinematography and interpretation.

Ebert clearly knew his stuff, so he gives us a fine examination of various aspects of Dark City. He provides nice insights and allows us to better understand different cinematic techniques. Expect an engaging, useful discussion.

In addition, City offers a fair amount of text information. An essay from comic book writer Neil Gaiman contains some interesting observations.

Since Dark City shares some commonalities with silent classic Metropolis, a historical essay discusses that film. We also see two negative reviews that greeted the initial release of Metropolis, one from no less an authority than H.G. Wells. This adds to the package.

Another section displays 15 set design drawings for the film, and we also see the movie's theatrical trailer. There are some good ; scenes from Lost In Space and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me can be found in this section within the bios for William Hurt and Kiefer Sutherland, respectively.

Last - and least - is an "interactive game" called To Shell Beach. After you go on a "wild icon chase" through all the supplements, if you click when you're supposed to do so, you'll eventually get to see a brief - and lame - cut and paste animation that semi-recreates a couple of moments from the film. Try it if you must, but be warned: it's not worth the effort.

Clever and exciting, Dark City develops a rich universe that maintains the viewer’s attention. The movie explores its themes and conceits in a satisfying, compelling manner. The DVD provides erratic visuals along with good audio and a set of supplements highlighted by two separate audio commentaries. Dark City delivers a winner.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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