Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dark City (1998)

Directed by Proyas, the man behind ' The Crow' and with a title like this you get an idea of what you're in for. You could say this was the film that influenced 'The Matrix' and from then on a tidal wave of other fantasy films. Not in terms of action but mainly visuals, mood, stylings, the odd set piece and of course the dream like plot.

Even though the film sounds like some kind of period set superhero type action film like 'The Shadow' its a whole different ballgame. The story is set within a sprawling city, a dark city naturally, that never seems to see daylight and no one seems to notice. The main character of 'Murdoch' awakens with amnesia and up for murder, from this point on he must try to fathom out how and why he's in this situation whilst trying to avoid mysterious shrouded characters that are trying to kill him.

It doesn't sound much of a thrillingly new concept but its the look and atmosphere that was new for the time. I say new, there was Burton's 'Batman' of course and 'The Shadow', but this type of dark comicbook/graphic novel approach wasn't anywhere near as common as it is today.

Take a heavy set 30/40's city complete with classic cars and fedoras, give much of the architecture and style a bleak black n white German expressionist tone bordering with gothic and a plot that harks back to old detective noir thrillers. The other cool thing was the city we see in the film is a mix of different architectural styles from different countries. Bits and pieces from all over so you're never sure where exactly you are, it also seems to have bits that range from industrial to basic urban to classical. Overall a very deary dream that does remind you of the cityscape from 'Blade Runner' somewhat.

I'll be honest, this film takes time to get to grips with, the first time I saw it (theatrical release) I didn't really like it. I'll admit I expected something very different, an action film, the film is much deeper than that. I only started to get the idea about the same time as Hurt's character starts to follow 'Murdoch'. Its then you realise what's going on and it all clicks, everything is not what it seems, the world you know isn't real...sounds familiar doesn't it.

I think the casting let the film down in terms of box office success. I loved the cast personally and thought each person gave the film credibility and believability. I love Richard O'Brien and wish he would do more films where as Jennifer Connelly's looks are so 30's America she could have been snatched from the era in a time machine. She already proved this starring in the other 30's period set adventure 'The Rocketeer' (part of the 30/40's action hero trilogy with 'The Shadow' and 'The Phantom'). Hurt is stoic of course where as Sewell is a proper British actor. The inclusion of Sutherland was the only member there to try and attract a more mainstream audience, I think.

I think 'Dark City' is a damn good thinker, philosophical to a degree, questions aren't completely answered and you can look at the story in many ways from many angles. This is why it didn't go down to well upon release, everyone including myself expected something else and at the time (again myself included) people were disappointed and a tad confused. 'The Matrix' filled that part in the jigsaw puzzle and gave people what they wanted, the dark gothic bleakness, something to think about with another good plot and of course blistering action.

Upon reflection I now see how good this film is with its possible symbolism's and allegories, if you scratch beneath the surface there may or may not be more to find. You could also look at this as an extended 'Twilight Zone' episode, which is how I see it really.