Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
A few weeks ago I went to OMSI’s (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) IMAX science fiction movie-athon to see a move I hadn’t seen in over a decade, Dark City. This movie is the ultimate mixture of science fiction and creepiness. It has everything I love. Incredibly eerie near omnipotent bad guys. Sexy fem fatales, a dogged accordion playing noir cop. A pre-24 Keifir Sutherland playing a crippled boffin, and a whole bunch of WTF!!! I forgot how much this movie rocks.
The cast is beyond superior. Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch and amnesiac who may or may not be a serial killer, who has developed psychic powers. It should have been the break out role for Sewell who is the English equivalent of “hey it’s that guy.” Jenifer Conley plays his wife who cheated on him, or at least she remembers cheating on him. Did her indiscretion drive him to kill prostitutes? Murdoch loves this woman who he can’t remember. Melissa George (in her first non-TV movie role) plays the working girl, that John decides to test if he is really a killer or not, by being alone with. William Hurt dose a pitch perfect performance as the gumshoe who find the evidence that his entire view on what is real needs to be seriously questioned. Sutherland plays a crippled scientist that is either the city’s savior or Mengele incarnate.
But the star of the show is the mysterious alien monsters call the Strangers. The inhabit hairless ivory colored human corpses and have eerie names like Mr. Book, Mr. Hand, Mr. Sleep, and Mr. Rain. There human skins hide a Lovecraftian-like entity that has psychic powers that can literally change the environment and population of the city.
The un-named city is more a character than a setting. No one can leave it and it is never day time, it just goes from one long lasting night to another night. It is a strange mixture of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s styles architectures and clothing. It is almost a sentient being and you get a feeling that the city has had it with the Strangers manipulating it and its people, to the point that it is kind of directing Murdoch’s journey. To say anymore I would have to include spoilers.
Now I have gone on record as being a fan of the voice over, but if you haven’t seen this movie, see the director’s cut. Which is sans VO. The voice over (Though given in perfect form by Sutherland) spoils the twist at the end in the first 60 seconds. Some people who only have the original version, I understand, turns of the sound until Kiefer takes the watch out of his pocket, when they show it new viewers, so not to spoil the wham ending.
The acting and dialogue is still first rate. But I have to admit that the 1998 effects didn’t have the same effect it did in 2001. Especially going from a 36’ TV to IMAX. But somehow the old fashion sets seem to add to anachronistic edge to the story. By the way a lot of the sets were sold to The Matrix, so you may recognize some of those creepy brownstones.
When it was released Rodger Egbert ranked it as the top movie of 1998, he also used it in his classes on how to make movies. You are going to be hard pressed to find someone who saw it and didn’t at least enjoy the movie. Then why is it so obscure now?
The only thing I can think is that it just didn’t make a lot of money. And Hollywood money equals success. It just may have been to out there for main stream movie audiences. And in the end of the twentieth century, studios weren’t as savvy as marketing sleeper movies to the fans when they hit video format. After Dark City OMSI showed Blade Runner, a movie that tanked on first run, but is now seen as one of if not the best Science Fiction movie ever. Although different 9and I love Do Androids Dream of electric Sheep…Uh I mean Blade Runner) DC is every bit as good a movie as BR Just not well know now a days.
So if you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and watch it. Just turn down the sound the first minute of you are watching the theatrical release.