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A 1998 science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas.

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Despite Ms. Connelly, Dark City is a Little Too Dark

  • Jul 17, 2006
Pros: Jennifer Connelly all too briefly…

Cons: Pretty much the whole rest of the movie.

The Bottom Line: Some may find Dark City’s brooding underpinning palatable but the movie left a very unsavory taste in my mouth, one I am not keen to repeat.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Okay I will make an admission at the start of this review; the only reason I decided to watch Dark City (1998) again, is Jennifer Connelly, the earlier years, you know the ones before she decided to stop eating. The first time I attempted to watch this movie, some years ago, by the end I was two things: lost and bored. But that was then, and this is now, so I decided to give the movie another try; perhaps this time I could make something of it. And I succeeded, somewhat. This time around I wasn’t lost, just bored and disappointed, but at least Jennifer Connelly, what little of her there was in the movie, looked normal and incredibly beautiful.

Dark City is the long-anticipated follow-up to the surprise hit The Crow (1994) written by writer/director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Garage Days, I, Robot). The Crow features a distinctive vision of a futuristic city where reality may be just an artificial creation that takes place without sunlight and beauty; that theme is repeated in Dark City only the story is not nearly as engaging. Can you say The Matrix (1999)? But, since Dark City was released before The Matrix, who copied who’s over-riding theme?

Dark City centers on one John Murdoch, portrayed by Rufus Sewell (Dangerous Beauty, A Knight’s Tale, The Legend of Zorro), a man who wakes up in a bathtub full of water in a seedy hotel wondering where and who he is. He stumbles around in the perpetual darkness that is Dark City the city, looking for clues to his identity and eventually runs into Doctor Schreber portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland (Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns) a psychiatrist who appears to have the answers he is looking for. The good doctor has all the answers because the good doctor knows all about Dark City a place we later find is floating in the vastness of space. The same Dark City that is being run by “The Strangers” a group of men dressed in all black, with bald heads and ugly dispositions. The Strangers it appears are carrying on experiments to alter the city’s inhabitants’ memories, as well as time and the city landscape.

But John appears to be immune to The Strangers reality-warping powers and begins developing mental abilities and talents similar to that of The Strangers. And of course John may be the key to freeing the people of Dark City who are perpetually trapped in the nocturnal city/prison. He is helped along somewhat by his (maybe) wife Emma/Anna portrayed by Jennifer Connelly (Higher Learning, Hulk, Of Love and Shadows), a barroom singer, whose appearance in the movie is limited to eye-pleasing moments of dark titillation.

William Hurt (Body Heat, The Accidental Tourist, Jane Eyre) makes an appearance as Inspector Frank Bumstead who is pursuing John in connection to a string of vicious murders of prostitutes over the last three weeks. Other bit players include Melissa George (Mulholland Drive, Alias, Derailed) as May the prostitute among others.


As boogieman movies go Dark City is pretty silly; and did I mention boring and dark, and not the least bit thrilling, scary, or entertaining. The movie started out well enough but after John rises from the brackish waters of the tub, the movie quickly tumbles downhill. It’s not enough that the movie was depressingly dark, but the scenes were disjointed without a real connection to hold them together. The characters are introduced in a haphazard fashion and without preamble that it took me a while to tie them completely into the movie. And by the time I parsed out their roles, I no longer cared about them or the movie.

And it’s not as if this particular theme has not been done before and better. To be sure Dark City is an ambitious movie and tries to be deep and meaningful: where does the human soul really reside, and is it the repository of human identity? This is an on-going debate in my household; I believe mind is the central repository of the soul, but my wife believes differently.

Another theme of the movie: can the soul be captured and transferred into another being; in this case can aliens capture the human soul by harvesting human memories? And once again good and evil battle for control on man, and there is a Judas afoot.

In the end, despite Ms. Connelly, who, as I stated above was barely in the movie, Dark City is not a movie I would rush to see again, or even a movie I would want to watch on a cold winter’s day, or during a thunderstorm (both prime movie watching periods) for that matter. Some may find Dark City’s brooding underpinning palatable but the movie left a very unsavory taste in my mouth, one I am not keen to repeat.

Movie Details:

Principle Actors: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O’Brien
Director: Alex Proyas
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.
Number of Discs: (1)
Rating: R for violence, including some disturbing images, brief gore, nudity and sex.
Studio: New Line Home Video
DVD Release Date: July 29, 1998
Run Time: 100 Minutes
DVD Features:
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Dark City (1998 film) reviews
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I once read a story by Philip K. Dick - I can't remember the name of it for the life of me - in which a large organization would periodically stop the world and a team would go in and make adjustments, changing little this-and-that details around. The people in this world had no idea this was going on.     Dark City operates under what is kind of this same concept. There's a group of people who live under the ground. When the clock strikes, they put everyone to sleep, go out, …
Quick Tip by . December 29, 2012
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I thought about this movie a little more, and it's actually worse than I initially thought.      Thanks to the extremely hokey acting (Kiefer Sutherland's Peter Lorre impressions alone will make anyone cry tears of blood), bland characters, totally non-scary villains, silly plot devices, and liberal ripping off of elements from movies like Akira, Total Recall, Metropolis, Batman (the 1989 movie), and The Addams Family, I was nearly bored to the point of falling asleep …
review by . July 08, 2011
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I heard about this movie several years back and it looked pretty interesting and I was fairly impressed by the large amounts of positive reviews it got, and luckily for me, I found the whole movie on YouTube, so I didn't even have to invest one dollar at the local Family Video. I finally found the time to watch it about a month ago and boy was this a deplorable flick.      STORY      The story for Dark City is that John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) finds himself …
Quick Tip by . March 05, 2011
This is the great cult classic that movies like "Inception" strives to be like...
review by . July 13, 2010
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It's difficult to describe Dark City without giving anything away.  Really the only way to give a review of Dark City is to describe the after shock.      It's one of those films that completely engrosses the viewer until the credits roll and then you are left just completely baffled by what just happened to you.  You sit and think on it for a while and just say "woah" out loud and realize you have watched a masterpiece and the only thing you can do …
Quick Tip by . June 12, 2010
Loved it
Quick Tip by . August 20, 2009
A surreal and exciting blend of noir and sci-fi, Dark City is a compelling and sometimes disturbing thriller with an awe-inspiring climax.
review by . December 17, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
The Strangers attack Murdoch...
When it comes down to it, a large part of who we are comes from our collective experiences, from our past, from our memories. But what if our memories weren't our own? What if all of our experiences were generic? What if our pasts had been manufactured? Would it then be possible to manipulate us through our memories? Luckily, no one has that power... or do they?          John Murdoch awakens to find himself naked and vulnerable. He has no memory of his past or of his …
review by . October 01, 2008
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A $28 million budget art house film that features several actors who have now ascended the ranks of stardom beat The Matrix to the punch in presenting many on screen concepts that questioned what it is to be human. Very underrated, constantly drifting on the edge of obscurity, Dark City is a magical film that transcends many levels of modern filmmaking with questions of human nature and interactions.     The story follows John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) who wakes up in a bath tub …
review by . November 14, 2008
Dark City
Dark City is an extremely interesting experiment of blending futuristic settings with an oddly 1940's style of society. Its dark atmosphere surrealistic imagery contain murky allusions of dread and foreboding, making a visually stunning treat for the eye.     John Murdock (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a bathtub in a strange place, and staggering from his seedy hotel room sees a murdered woman lying on the floor. But John has absolutely no memories of who he is or why he was in the …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


Dark City is a 1998 neo noir science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas. It was adapted from a screenplay written by Proyas, David S. Goyer and Lem Dobbs. The film stars Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jennifer Connelly. Sewell plays John Murdoch, a man suffering from amnesia who finds himself accused of murder. Murdoch attempts to discover his true identity to clear his name while on the run from the police and a mysterious group known only as the "Strangers". Dark City asks the question of what it means to be human, and explores the relationship between memory and personal identity in an attempt to answer it.

The majority of the film was shot at Fox Studios Australia. It was jointly produced by New Line Cinema and Mystery Clock Cinema. New Line Cinema and New Line Home Video commercially distributed the theatrical release and home media respectively. The studio was concerned that the audience would not understand the film and asked Proyas to add an explanatory, voice-over narration to the introduction. The film premiered in the United States on February 27, 1998, competing against James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic. Dark City performed poorly at the U.S. box office during its initial release and received mixed reviews.

Following its screening in wide cinematic release, the film was nominated for the Hugo and Saturn Awards. With the help of Roger Ebert and home screenings, the film has since become a cult classic. In the years since its...

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Director: Alex Proyas
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: February 27,1998
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: July 29, 2008
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: New Line Cinema
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