Let’s be honest kiddies, “Dark City” was “The Matrix” before “The Matrix” was ever in the pop culture lexicon, and Alex Proyas simply gets zero credit for ever bringing this concept to the forefront with his own Neo set amidst an unreal world where time is an illusion, and the thirties are ever lasting. One of the most underrated and under credited science fiction films of all time proved that Alex Proyas wasn’t simply a one trick pony directing “The Crow.” Filled with a beautiful view of a city on the borderline of illusion and pure nightmares, “Dark City” is a world that really may not be all that we see it for. The characters in this world are all living in a gritty, dank, and dreary series of landscapes that engulf one another in to an abyss where the puppet masters named The Strangers drift in the darkness preparing to change the landscape at a moments notice.
John Murdoch awakens next to a dead woman and is on the run from the law after pegging him a prostitute serial killer even though he has no memory of ever killing anyone. “Dark City” is the classic neo noir that feels almost branched off from the world of Jean Pierre Jeaunet with an almost timeless aura that keeps every figure a sheer figment of our imagination. Proyas stays in keeping with the classic noir formula Murdoch struggles to retain the shards of memory at his disposal while trying to figure out why he can’t remember ever killing in his life. When the Strangers appear at his doorstep, he learns what a world they’ve crafted. While the entire premise behind the motives of the Strangers is slightly convoluted, “Dark City” is the rare science fiction classic that just does not get the credit for introducing this existentialist concept with themes of reincarnation, past life regression, and the strong undercurrent of reality that may just be one big variety of facades and lies that are always being altered by a mysterious force.
Proyas directs every frame of film like a living Salvador Dali painting with “Dark City” always aiming to be much more than a conventional Neo-Noir murder mystery. Rufus Sewell is strong as the profit Murdoch whose own mysterious connection to The Strangers unfolds gradually, while Jennifer Connelly is a marvel as his long suffering estranged wife. William Hurt and Keifer Sutherland are also respectively great, while The Strangers act as an antagonist acting on uniformity and a higher intelligence that still can never quite provide them with the correct insight on the civilization they lord over. It’s a purely awe inspiring epic, and one that is granted a rightful special edition with Proyas’ own cut at hand that provide a much sharper sense of ambiguity that fans will love. Don’t worry Alex, I forgive you for “I-Robot,” even though the movie looked good, because you gave me “The Crow,” and trumped it with “Dark City,” now filling my DVD Shelf with all its flavor. It’s an underrated masterpiece, a re-cut film, and a director’s vision, all in one.
As for the DVD, the Audio Commentaries are still there. The commentary with Roger Ebert is my favorite of the trio with Ebert (as usual) expressing his sheer love for the film, as well as showing his annoyance for the ridiculous opening narration that is no longer on this new cut from Proyas. Yep, it’s not there. There’s also the new commentary with director Proyas who opens up the director’s cut for the audience and revels in the fact that it doesn’t hold our hands through the story anymore.
And Proyas is correct, it’s so much more of a sophisticated version and test audiences are complete numbskulls. Proyas speaks of the problems with the test audiences and why “Dark City” was so split with the screening audiences initially. There’s also a commentary with writers David Goyer and Lem Dobbs. There’s also the introduction by director Alex Proyas, the fourty two minute “Memories of Shell Beach,” the thirty three minute “The Architecture of Dreams,” as well as the Production Gallery and the original Theatrical trailer. Truly, it’s a great treatment.