Monday, July 1, 2013

Dark City [1998] (action, sci-fi, film noir) - !!!SPOILERS INSIDE!!!


Studio: New Line Cinema,
Director: Alex Proyas,
Screenplay: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, David S. Goyer,
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Film Noir,
Starring: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien, Ian Richardson, Bruce Spence


Were you missing my reviews?! I know you weren't, but if you're here, you have no choice but to read this post, why not because it's my loud'n'proud comeback to reviewing movies! So let's waste no time: looks like it's appropriate to introduce a new movie genre by this point - 'Blade Runner for the ones who didn't get the Blade Runner', as well as a new type of spoilers (speaking of, I'm going to give away A LOT in this review, so if you haven't seen the movie, please stop reading NOW) - 'Hey, this movie is kinda like The Matrix'.


Anyway, the magnum opus of Dark City happens to be directed by Alex Proyas of The Crow fame. While The Crow was an over-the-top film noir just as well, at least it didn't copy the 50s style and was based on a comic book that was overtly dark to begin with. So let's get one thing out of the way as fast as we can - I'm right now absolutely f-kin' tired of the 50s. All those fedora hats, raincoats, pin-up posters and horrible women's hairstyles just drive me nuts, because right now we are seeing them everywhere - from videogames (yep, I still love BioShock though) to the pizza restaurants. Now, I know I have a Humphrey Bogart CD holder, but at least this guy starred in the 50s style movies that were made in the 50s; natur-produkt, so to say. Why doesn't anybody go all cargo cult on the 80s aesthetics instead?! I want my tiger spandex and hairspray mullets back! But oh well.


So, basically Dark City follows your standard Indigo Prophecy meets Nightbreed meets Brazil fare. But at least Indigo Prophecy has the honor of being my most hated videogame, Nightbreed had David Motherf-kin' Cronenberg and Craig 'The Cutie' Sheffer, and Brazil had a good message underneath its noisy and tiring visual style. Having none of that, Dark City is probably the first movie I'm going to proudly declare 'Adorably Pointless'. Seriously, the whole moral is given among the very last lines of those 110 minutes of pseudo cyberpunk.


Our story begins when the main character, who looks like M. Night Shyamalan eating up Ray Liotta and barfing out Jude Law (while being played by Rufus Sewell instead of all that), wakes up in a dirty tub with no clothes, a drop of blood on his forehead and, of course, some hardcore amnesia. Later on he wipes the blood off, suits up and finds a dead hooker in the next room. Turns out, there's a killer on the loose, and the moment you learn that, you immediately know what's going to follow. Later on, the movie becomes sort of like The Adjustment Bureau, with a group of stylish Cenobite ripoffs controlling all time, space and matter in the city, to the point that there's always evening on the streets. But at least The Adjustment Bureau had an okay plot twist in the end, while here the boo-boo bad guys remain this way throughout the whole story. Practically, they're this movie's version of the Matrix Agents - hell, they even say 'Mister Mur-rdoch!' whenever they see our hero.


Turns out, Murdoch is the only citizen of this weird place who has no submission to the time-space alterations that the Agents practice. Instead, he spends most of the time making his best djoged face, wondering what the hell is going on and battling the bald meanies with his ultra-super-cool telekinetic powers (you know we'll have to reference David Cronenberg again here, but which movie? Hmm, Videodrome I guess). So basically all the action scenes here look either like the early 2000s videogame cutscenes or really bad Harry Potter magic duels, or most frequently, like both at the same time.


Oh well, that's all for the main hero and villains for now, so let's talk about the supporting cast. There's the Doctor who (no pun intended), despite being played by Kiefer Sutherland, has only the purpose of making puppy dog eyes and acting like the villains' henchman, constantly switching sides to the point where you stop caring about him by the end, as his importance to the story fades into obscurity. Also there's the Inspector, played by William Hurt, who gets my personal Sarcastic Oscar for having the most laughable death scene in the movie. Oh, and there's Murdoch's wife, who despite being played by Jennifer Connelly, acts simply as a plot device that doesn't add much to the story just as well, to the point when Murdoch starts caring about her during the last 10 minutes or so.


And boy, these last 10 minutes! Okay, so by that point the movie flows very seamlessly. There are actually enough good ideas to outweigh the bad ones, and even the majority of bad ideas are played around from not always good, but at least interesting angles. But sweet holy almighty Jesus, nobody can tell you how do I HATE when this seamless flow - I'm talking about movies in general here - by the end is just flushed away in favor of showing the viewer some pew-pew battle action and pretty images just for the sake of all the popcorn bowls being emptied before the end credits roll! It's like Mr Proyas and the writers just said 'Ah screw it! The audience must be very asleep by the end of this sci-fi murder mystery, so let's just throw in something obnoxious to wake 'em up!'. And they did it, they f-kin' did it. This is what killed Ghost In The Shell 2, this is what could kill Jin Roh (and I bet my Back To The Future Collection DVD box set it will kill the Hollywood remake!!!) and tried killing Jack Reacher.

Yep, you know what I'm talking about - it's when the movie's pace and tone lose all shit and jump the shark as all the thought-provoking philosophic dilemmas and deep scenes result in the main guy picking up his machine gun (or telekinesis in this case) and blasting the crap out of everything in sight. And that's what Murdoch does! He and the head bad guy have a duel of psycho waves and evil stares while the villains' lair is crumbling around them, all rendered with the gloriously awkward CG of the late 90s - early 2000s. I facepalmed during the good half of the end battle, I swear.


And the very ending [cutscene?] doesn't give a f-k just as well. It's all so sugary fine and dandy that I'm surprised you didn't just end up beating yourself on the head and shouting 'What?!'. Basically, the same thing as I've described in the last paragraph - 'Hey, let's hammer in the moral at the last minute - there may be autists in the theater!'


Alright. From what I said above you might think I hated this movie, while in reality I didn't so at all. Basically, I have only two real big gripes with it, one subjective and one objective. The subjective one is my poor decision to watch Dark City right now, when I'm sooo tired of those 50s aesthetics. The objective one is that it follows this sickening trend of 'movies that start making sense halfway through'. Yep, one of those - during the first act you have absolutely no idea about what's going on, then it gets all suddenly explained in plaintext, and by the third act you're only re-thinking the beginning while losing concentration on what's going on with the story at the current moment. Always hated this stuff - Predators is one of the more recent examples of it.


Everything else is just my personal nitpicking. Someone will find the CG being well-aged, someone wouldn't laugh at the end action scene, someone would appreciate the revelation of what does the City look like from the outside... someone, just not me. After all, it is considered a cult movie with all its 7.x ratings on IMDB. Probably so many people saw the essense of life within it or probably started a new religion, or it's just the same case as The Shawshank Redemption, which gets its IMDB scores simply because not many people dislike it. I can't hate Dark City, too - for one thing, it's adorably pointless, and hating something pointless is a pointless thing in itself; and despite all the ironic giggles heard from my seat during those 110 minutes, I did care about the plot (eclectic as it was), the characters (pointless as some of them were), the ideas and what was going on. Not from the very beginning, but I did - so take Dark City for what it's worth.


My Rating: 6/10 (could be better, but okay as it is; very reluctant to call it 'mediocre')