Return and Dark City

After not having updated this blog for three years, I decided I wanted to again. So without further ado, let's start with a movie I liked that never got recognized for anything.

"A world where the night never ends. Where man has no past. And humanity has no future."

Looks fun, right?
For those not familiar, Dark City was a movie that came out in 1998. Without spoiling too much of the plot (the circumstances of the plot are revealed slowly over the course of the movie) a man wakes up in a bathtub, with no memories, and finds that he is being accused of committing serial murders, which his present circumstance suggests he committed. He comes to realize that the city he lives in is controlled by mysterious beings who have power over its shape. This leads him into a race to find out what's really going on in the city, and how he figures into that plan. It's a really interesting sort of plot that makes you think you're watching one kind of movie, until you realize that it is totally different.

This movie came out around a year before theatres were swept by the first Matrix movie, and you can see a similar dark, dystopian, brooding city atmosphere on display here. I'm not even CLOSE to the first person to compare the two movies, and the internet is full of side-by-side comparisons that show how startlingly The Matrix seems to rip off this movie's cinematography. In fact, a large number of the sets and props from Dark City were sold to The Matrix, which was being filmed as Dark City entered post production. It's worth noting also that the film Alex Proyas directed prior to Dark City was The Crow, a movie which grossed very well at the box office (It was #1 its opening weekend), with a similar aesthetic on display. All the more shame then that Dark City was so very unnoticed, making a pittance at the box office and only gaining cult standing after it went to DVD years later. There a lot of theories one can posit about why some movies succeed while others fail, but I have worked up a few reasons that Dark City probably didn't do great.

This is what we got instead.
#1: Timing is King
Dark City had a really unfortunate release date, and is not the first movie to grace my blog that suffered a similar fate. Dark City opened into a packed field in February that included Titanic, still soundly dominating theaters despite being in its eleventh weekend of showings. That's right, Dark City never had a prayer in the world, because it was squared off against this bloated James Cameron/Celine Dion crapfest. At the time of Dark City's release, Titanic had already grossed in the ballpark of 200 million dollars. When the smoke cleared, it would have grossed over a billion dollars(after the 2012 reissue it grossed over 2 billion dollars). Just in its 11th weekend Titanic grossed more than Dark City would altogether domestically. Bad luck indeed.

#2 Sometimes, What's on the Outside DOES Matter
Dark City's female lead is Jennifer Connelly. This makes sense because she's a talented actress, and she is also I'm not shy about saying, smokin' hot as far as I'm concerned. Her opposite, the gentleman playing John Murdoch, is Rufus Sewell (ew) Who you are probably not familiar with by name. You may remember him as the bad guy asshole with the lazy eye from a Knight's Tale. While he may have many redeeming qualities as a person and actor, he is not an attractive man. In any way. At all. Consider for a moment the comparison I made to the Matrix earlier. Keanu Reeves is not the most buff, attractive man in Hollywood, but compare for a moment:
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
      Now I know, I know, Keanu has those spiffy sunglasses working for him, but Rufus is just not selling John Murdoch to me as a hero. His actions all seem well meaning, he kicks the asses of these creepy pale dudes in weird suits following him around, but he still creeps me out almost as bad as Kiefer Sutherland does in this movie as the Igor like mad doctor character. I feel like John Murdoch really IS a serial killer, even though I have no reason to think that based on his actions. I guess there's something just sort of comforting about Keanu's vacant, empty gaze. Whoa. I admit, partly my disposition towards Mr. Sewell probably has to do with the completely reprehensible shithead he played in a Knight's Tale, which now retroactively colors all my perceptions of him (which are restricted pretty much to those two movies). Still, I feel like they might've picked a stronger lead for their movie.

#3 Not Enough Explosions
That's not the most thoughtful bit of introspection I've ever done, but it's very true. In the Matrix, there are robots, and they blow up buildings, helicopters, annihilate an entire lobby full of guys with machine guns, and kung fu fight in the subway. There is not a whole lot of that going on in Dark City. There IS action sure, but this movie is generally pretty slow paced, moody and dark, rather than full of martial arts and machine guns. It seems one has mass appeal and the other does not as much

With those things being said, I still feel like Dark City deserves your time. It is an interesting movie that puts forth and interesting idea, that the world is not what it seems (another idea The Matrix would deftly pilfer). If you enjoy science fiction films that go all in on a high concept, then you will probably enjoy this movie. Also if you enjoy Jennifer Connelly, well then look no further.

And I so do.

P.S. If you do decide to watch this film, make sure to pick up the rereleased director's cut they put out in 2008. It's just a better cut of the movie. -J

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