Alex Proyas' DARK CITY
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
My 2004 Review
This is what I wrote in my blog when, once upon a time in Indiana, I found myself working late at night with the TV turned on:
I’m working late and have TBS turned on to DARK CITY, one of my all time favorite movies.
I love this film. The story and images are fascinating. I particularly love the ending where Murdoch goes out into the sunlight for the first time and sees Jennifer Connelly and the spit of land known as Shell Beach. It’s lovely.
There should be more movies like this. The editing and details are terrific, like when the candles come on during one of the nightly “tunings,” you hear a small sound of ignition as the flames appear. Subtle but effective.
That pretty much sums up my reaction to this film, which was one of the very first DVD’s I bought back when I was just getting into DVD. I had seen DARK CITY when it opened in theaters (I was working in Schaumburg IL at the time) and I remember being in the audience with maybe ten other viewers; when the lights went on we sat there, stunned, and I couldn’t wait to see it again.
The DVD is a great package. I think that Roger Ebert’s commentary is a bit excessive at times; maybe that means that he provides the kind of commentary I wish I could provide had I as much knowledge as he has about movies!
I’ve never really played the Shell Beach game that is on the DVD. I’m content to love the film for its own sake. I don’t think director Alex Proyas will ever match this one, nor should he try. (I do like his follow up theatrical film GARAGE DAYS, which in most ways is completely different. I, ROBOT is also very enjoyable.)
Interestingly, when I was in the process of hyperlinking this review to my movie review web page, I was unable to find an existing category to link the movie to - that’s indicative of DARK CITY, I think; it’s one of a kind.
My review of the 2008 Director’s Cut on DVD
The movie is a tad more complete. The character of the police inspector has been fleshed out a bit, a few additional scenes have been inserted, we hear Jennifer Connely’s own nightclub singing, and Dr. Schreber’s narration at the beginning is gone. Plus, some of the special effects have been cleaned up.
Is it significantly better? Not really; I thought it was excellent to begin with. My enjoyment of it has not dimmed with time. Still, the three separate commentary tracks are great additions.
Director Alex Proyas’ commentary is insightful and informative. He views the film from the perspective of long ago and provides many fascinating details of the production and its numerous false starts. He comments repeatedly about the problems of dealing with Hollywood “suits” and their insistence that he “dumb down” the movie. He makes this latter point so often I began feeling somewhat embarrassed that I had enjoyed the film so much the first time I saw it !
The two screenwriters’ separate commentary track is really interesting — if you are interested in writing and how art and movies are combined. What came though from me was that Proyas was willing to work creatively with these two and did not “hog” all the creative juices himself. That raises my respect for him even more. This is an intellectually stimulating conversation and reminded me of the commentary on one of the Lord of the Rings DVDs by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
Roger Ebert’s commentary is a combination of his original DVD commentary and newly recorded material. Hats off to Roger for promoting this movie so much over the years! I especially liked the references to how “generous” Proyas is in many scenes with their richness of detail. Also, how the resemblance of some scenes to Edward Hopper paintings is beyond me!
Copyright (c) 2004-2008 by Dennis D. McDonald