Spoilers wouldn’t mind going to the beach either.

Perhaps I’m just in a mood for those reality-bending films from the late 90’s. This one has been on my mind to review for a while. And yes, it will unavoidably be compared to The Matrix (1999). Apparently they even share some set pieces. There’s definitely an older aesthetic from the 40’s and 50’s and a few steampunk touches. As obviously dark as the film is, it does has a hopeful message.

(Credit: Warner Bros)

Dark City (1998) was directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by him with Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer, based on Proyas’ original story. When we meet John Murdock (Rufus Sewell), he’s waking up in a bathtub with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. In time, he will discover he’s got a wife named Emma (Jennifer Connelly) that sings in a night club. He’s also wanted in connection with the murder of several women. Warned by shady doctor Daniel Shrebber (Kiefer Sutherland) that he’s been hunted by the mysterious men known as “the strangers” and sought by Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt), his only recourse is to run. But as he witnesses the entire city falling asleep, save for himself, Murdock discovers the strangers change everyone’s destinies overnight with what they call “tuning”. Most important, he also discovers he might have the power to fight back.

Although it’s been categorized as science-fiction, this feels like a reality-bending fable about the human spirit and independent thought. I saw the theatrical release, which adds the narration explaining the premise right at the beginning. That’s something that the director cut omits since it’s really explained in the storyline. Sewell’s performance as Murdock is quite good. Sutherland mostly chews the scenery as Dr. Shrebber (he’s got an accent, a disfigured face and a limp) but he’s entertaining to watch. The strangers are eerie and creepy.

I think not only does it work but it does held up after all these years. There’s some sort of weird charm in this world of rewriting memories. Scenes are lighted up with spotlights that leave the corners in darkness, leaving you guessing where danger is coming from. It gives you a sense of claustrophobia as you really can’t see the corners of where the world ends, but you can sense it might just only exist where you can see. The effects still hold up somewhat. The strangers levitate by wire and the tuning has a certain cartoonish element to it but they look fine. Perhaps that final battle above the city does look a little cheesy now.

Highly recommended for fans of sci-fi and light existentialism. With decent performances and a solid premise, it still looks good enough and holds your interest. The concept is perhaps already known nowadays, but it remains a strong representation of the reality-bending genre with a strong execution. Very much still worth a watch.

That will do for now.