Dark City – Review (Spoiler Free)

Dark City PosterTake 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.

Summary:

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.

Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts in the comment box below!

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25 comments

  1. Just bought this on DVD the other day to listen to Roger Ebert’s audio commentary. This is apparently one of his favourite movies – looking forward to checking it out. Hopefully the climax isn’t too bad!

    1. I didn’t know that about Ebert!
      Yeah it’s not that bad at all, just there’s a scene where the film suddenly just becomes a little generic all of a sudden which I wasn’t a fan of!

  2. Nice review. I like the sound of the premise and the fact that the film sets up an interesting world. Also, Rufus Sewell’s a good actor but he’s in a mixed bag of stuff so it’s good to hear about this. I’ve definitely been convinced to give it a go!

    1. Thanks Chalbo! I suspect that you might enjoy it, or at least find it interesting. Keep me posted if you do watch it!

  3. davecrewe · · Reply

    I’m a big fan of this film even if it is, as you say, not quite as good as it could be. Were you watching the Director’s cut or the cinematic cut? The differences aren’t substantial but they do flesh out the world a little.

    1. I was watching the cinematic cut… would you recommend the director’s then?

      1. davecrewe · · Reply

        Honestly, it’s not different enough to watch again right after watching the cinematic unless you’re a really big fan. The differences do improve the film a little, but they’re mostly little cosmetic things, little details that make the film make more sense (which isn’t always a good thing – the mysterious nature of the film means not everything needs to be explicable). Maybe watch it in a year or so?

        1. Right, well it sounds interesting to watch at some point, but as you say perhaps once some time has passed.

          The demystifying of the film doesn’t sound good at all though!

  4. Sounds interesting, will try it out for sure, I’ll let you know if agree with you or not.

    1. Great! It would be good to hear your opinion.

  5. Great movie James. I absolutely love Dark City. Like yourself, I enjoyed The Matrix but its not quite on a par with this one.

    1. Yeah it’s something of a shame that The Matrix is the better known out of the two.
      Do you like the villains in Dark City? I thought they were quite effective, but they did just feel somewhat predictable and cliché.

      1. I didn’t mind the villains all that much. They started off suitably threatening but did become a bit silly towards the end.

        1. Yeah I thought it was quite a shame that they didn’t live up to the rest of the movie.

  6. Looks interesting, your review makes me want to see it.

    1. Great! Well be sure to let me know what you think if you do indeed check it out!

  7. Nice review. Sounds interesting; will keep an eye out for it.

    1. Thanks man, sorry I missed your comment somehow. I hope you do catch it, it’s worth watching!

      1. Don’t worry! And I’ll look for it online. Don’t think the video store would have it.

        1. You never know, they may do. But you’ll certainly be able to find it online 🙂

          1. Online it is, then!

  8. Hmmm, looks interesting. Great review!

    1. Thanks Zoë! I think it’s a film that’s definitely worth checking out.

  9. This has been on my rewatch stack for a long time and this reminds me to get around to watching it 🙂

    1. Great! Well I hope you enjoy it 😀

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