Dark City"Dark City" on Blu-ray Disc

Avante Garde filmmaking, or just plain weird?

By Jim Bray

Director Alex Proyas ("I, Robot," "The Crow") came up with an ultra lush look for his his second feature film. Dark City is a futuristic thriller that treads a fine line between science fiction, fantasy, and murder mystery, taking a bit from each genre and adding its own unique twist to create a film that really must be seen to be understood.

And even then you might not understand its ins and outs, especially if you opt for the even more delicious Director's Cut that's available with the original version on this Blu-ray disc...

Dark City is a terrific  view of a possible-but-highly-unlikely scenario in which a dying alien race takes control over a city full of very confused humans they plan to use in their experiments.

Without giving away too much of the plot (it's worth seeing this movie just for the fascinating way the story unfolds - and of course for its terrific look and feel), Dark City starts with the awakening of the hero (played by Rufus Sewell) at the scene of a grisly murder. Naturally, he's accused and confused - it looks as if it were he whodunit, but he remembers nothing about it - let alone the rest of his life.

What starts out looking like a typical murder mystery doesn't take long to veer off into totally uncharted territory, however - and you'd best pay attention if you want to keep up, because by the time the closing credits run you've gone from an apparently typical "film noir" movie to a thoughtful sci-fi film that stretches the imagination.

Dark City's look certainly hearkens to the film noir genre, with a healthy dose of movies like "Blade Runner" and "Metropolis" thrown in for good measure. But looks alone don't make a film. Dark City also uses computer generated special effects to create a mind boggling display of the alien technology as they manipulate matter to their own ends. But special effects don't make a good movie, either. Fortunately, Dark City offers a lot more.

Performances by Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, William Hurt, and Jennifer Connelly are first rate, each actor being stretched in new directions as they work their way through this unusual screenplay.

But enough about the movie itself - you really should watch it and I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say this is definitely worth seeing on its own merits, as well as being an early film from a director who could possibly become one of the giants if given the opportunity. He's the guy who did such a great job of bringing Isaac Asimov's I, Robot to the screen in a story that, while it has little to do with Asimov's stories, is an engaging film that's true to their spirit.

Speaking of that, one of the bonus audio tracks on the Blu-ray is a running commentary by film critic Roger Ebert, a man who definitely knows his stuff. He has compared Proyas to a young Stanley Kubrick, which is high praise indeed. Ebert's commentary is joined by ones from the director, writers Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer, DOP Dariusz Wolski and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos.

Both director's cut and "studio cut" are included on the disc and you also get such more standard extras as a reasonably full length documentary on the film, though it's mostly just talking heads talking. But there are also text essays, a production gallery and more,

Dark City is a worthwhile movie experience and the Blu-ray release is a fine example of the species. The 1080p picture is excellent, with wonderful blacks and great depth and the 7.1 dts HD Master Audio track is as good as can be.

And I must compliment New Line on not inflicting any (let alone multiple) FBI warnings and the like. Instead, the disc goes straight to the menu and from there to the movie uninterrupted. Well done!

Dark City, from New Line Home Entertainment
111 min, 1080p widescreen, dts HD Master Audio
Starring Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connolly, William Hurt
Written by Alex Proyas and Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer, Directed by Alex Proyas

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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