Take The Matrix and blend it with say Blade Runner or any other neo-noir movie, and you get a sense of what Dark City is like.
Rufus Sewell stars as a man who wakes up in a bathtub with no memory, who then quickly realises that he is being chased down by mysterious figures, and that he has some sort of connection to a string of murders. This opening only leads to more intrigue and genuine surprises, as answers and further questions are slowly revealed over the course of this dark and intriguing film.
What Dark City really does well is create an involving and imaginative world, one that feels so fresh that it is really disappointing when it occasionally slips into predictability. For example the film’s villains do come across as somewhat cliché, and part of the climax takes a completely unnecessary turn towards the generic. Regardless of its slipups though, this film does overall come across as an intelligent piece of work.
The sound design here is pretty noteworthy, as is the noir tone that’s established. We have several good performances form the central cast, with Kiefer Sutherland’s Dr. Schreber most often stealing the spotlight, and Rufus Sewell being believable in quite a challenging role. In fact, there’s enough good work on show here that you can seriously ask the question ‘Is this the greatest science fiction film of the 90’s?’, and the answer is quite possibly yes. It depends on whether you’re considering Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park as sci-fi, or as action/adventure films. Either way, Dark City stands amongst the best of its genre and most certainly eclipses The Matrix, which I enjoy, but which does come across as fairly childish compared to this, too often overlooked movie.
What is the film’s greatest strength?
The inventive world in which the film is set.
Its greatest weakness?
A shockingly weak climax that feels more in line with The Matrix than this much less flashy film.
Would I see it again?
I certainly would. It has a few weak points, but overall this one is pretty memorable.
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