Top 100 Films. 76. Dark City (1998)

One of the most underrated sci-fi’s of the 1990’s. Dark City has everything from a great unique story, fantastic aesthetics and marvellous performances. Some parts of the film are dated by 90’s filmmaking but this only adds to the charm. 

Rufus Sewell plays Murdoch whom suffers from amnesia and wakes up to be a suspect for murder.  He is chased by a group called ‘the strangers’ and Murdoch attempts to flee and find out who he is, where he is and what has happened. The world is strange and always dark and things are not what they seem.

There was something about the 90’s that loved the darkness. A lot of sci-fi was grungy and gothic in tone. Look at films like Strange Days, The Crow and The Matrix, all these films have a very bleak aesthetic. It does date these films but the tone and look is one that I adore. The scope of Dark City is magnificent, the bleak dystopian landscape feels claustrophobic and lost just like the character of Murdoch. The world that the director, Alex Proyas, creates is immersive and otherworldly. Dark City is a rare specimen of a film as it creates a universe that is easy to get lost in and a visual marvel with it’s gothic urban landscapes.

This film suffered from a theatrical cut of the film that gave away too much too fast. The 2008 director’s cut is a huge improvement and one can see the precursor to the style of The Matrix. You can see many influences in Dark City, the striking environment hark back to early German expressionism. The darkness, the brooding gothic environments is something I can not give too much credit. This is a wonderfully underlooked film. I caught this film on a VHS, at a bottom of a box and thought it would be a good easy film to watch. I was wrong, but that was one of those moments I was glad I was.

The story at times can be hard to follow, it at first seems to be a film grounded in reality that quickly evolves into a unique story of telekinesis and time manipulation. The levels of facades and curiosity was akin to the decade and this was one of the best examples of this. The twist and reveals throughout are pleasing and full of madness. Dark City is a great ride of plot development and a good example of fantastic filmmaking and writing. The strangers are a good concept and the performances are fantastic.

Dark City is a dark, bleak tale of visual magnificence. It fulfills the gothic dystopia of the 90’s but is unique enough to stand out. The film is underappreciated and if this review gets at least one person to watch and enjoy this film, then I have succeeded.

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