Time for review number two of the Summer Film Challenge 2012: Apocalypse Edition. This time we turn from the humorous halls of fraternity and binge drinking to the dankly Orwellian and aptly titled Dark City. The vaguely Dystopian and clearly fantastical DVD cover got me really excited for it and I can say that it lived up to a lot of my hype. Not all of it, but quite a lot.
The best way to describe Dark City is to say that it is the crossover of The Truman Show and Dragon Ball Z, as directed by Tim Burton. Awesome, I know. Centering around the life of John Murdoch, a man living in a Gotham-esque city, who finds himself awake during a corporate reconstruction of the city by a nefarious race of beings. He becomes a fugitive of the system and fights to uncover the truth of the world around him that seems to be changing every night.
The greatest strength of the film is the incredible atmosphere it builds. Dank and grimy, the dark city resembles a 1920’s noir world that perfectly blends in sci-fi elements which gives it a unique flavor. A beautifully crafted story world, what completes the ambience is the brilliant performances by the star-studded cast. Rufus Sewell gives a phenomenal performance as the man who sees to much. Jennifer Connoly, Ian Richardson, and William Hurt all play fantastic roles as well. But clearly the standout performance of the film is Kiefer Sutherland’s breakout portrayal of Dr. Daniel Schreber. Somewhere between Ed Harris’s Christof of Truman Show and Dr. Stranglove, his manic scientist turned nigh-on father figure is both touching and entirely fresh.
Yet despite the wonderful tone of the film and the brilliant creation of an engaging story world, I found myself feeling let down by the movie’s conclusion, beginning at a lengthy section of rowboat exposition. While necessary to provide me with key backstory, I couldn’t help silently singing the Nostalgia Critic’s “Exposition Song” in my head.
And worst still, the exposition led to a conclusion that I found shockingly underwhelming. Bizarrely cathartic, the real problem I had with it was that the filmmakers failed to utilize the incredible tool they had given themselves. **SPOILERS-ISH** When giving the protagonist powers to control his surroundings, it is thoroughly disappointing to see it dissolve into a mental DBZ showdown where the battling hero and villian stare at each other and try to out-think the other. I felt that they had given themselves so much potential for a fantastic final battle but had sold themselves short or not schedule the time to properly film the epic conclusion the film deserved. And don’t even get me started on the cheesy “What are you going to do now John?” line.
One final thought about the ending: it felt oddly out of place. For a film as dark and disturbing as it is, the ending is bizarrely resolved. And I don’t just mean emotionally. Watch how the film transitions from the last shot to the credits and notice how the music seems to stutter before finding its rhythm again.
Other than the disappointing ending, I still have to say that the film does do a great job of crafting a visually and emotionally toned film. Well performed and well sculpted ambiance makes this one of the most interesting films ever on my list. I do recommend you give this film a try and suggest that after seeing the ending, you imagine how you would have done the final battle scene given the abilities of the two foes. Dark City is a fascinating film and I proud to have it under my belt now.
Again, thanks for bearing with me. I have just started a new summer course at school as well as working almost full time on a film production (so excited!). And, as I hope to become a recurring case, Ryan and I recorded another podcast in which we discuss my thoughts on Dark City as well as his review of the first film I gave him: A Town Called Panic. Check that out below and let us know what you think!
Fair warning this time: it will be a while before my next post as I have a major bit of writing to do for my class, my schedule is almost entirely full right now, and I want to make this the review something special. I am pleased to announce that my next review will be of BIOSHOCK.
As many of you know, this game piqued my interest long ago and I have only just recently been able to complete it. Way back when this blog started, I went off on it for the absurdity I saw in certain actions taken in the first few minutes of the game. Since then, several friends have practically demanded that I finish it so as to placate my quandaries. So, check back every once in a while for my big review of the franchise that has baffled me since I started playing again. Comment, share around, and be looking forward to the next review here on Soontobeangel.