"Dark City" Review
© 1998 Fontaine L.
- spoiler warning -

"There is hope when people remember." -- Simon Wiesenthal

Hmmmm. . . . "Dark City" is interesting. Smart. Thought provoking. I just wish they didn't have to provoke us in such a . . . bizarre way. Maybe it's because I have a less open mind - but baldies with weird brains that sort of remind me of "Children of the Corn" (the poster - never seen the movie) is just a little too much. Maybe that is why "Contact" touched me much more than this movie did - it seemed real. Yeah, you ask, how real are wormholes?? More real than this, I say . . . I can just imagine some dude sitting in the middle of his room, dreaming up this whole movie - it just seems so original and refresing - unlike anything I've seen. And I know that is going to be refuted, because I haven't seen a lot of movies. ;)

But on any account, the world in "Dark City" is convincing. The ideas may take a little getting used to, but bear in mind that this is strictly a science fiction movie. At least, it's much more understandable than "In the Mouth of Madness." The movie is a bit hard to swallow at first - extremely confusing and bordering on annoying in the beginning - but in the end everything clicks into place and your brain starts going into overdrive. I'll emphasize that I like any movie that makes me think - no matter how unqualified it may be in other areas. "Dark City" is a little messy in plot, doesn't seem to know which point to stress - but it certainly makes you think. The special effects and set designs are stunning - nothing haunts me more than a dead civilization (i.e. The spooky town in "Phantoms," devastation in "Independence Day). The whole city has a Gotham-ish look to it - only more grim, and each citizen is appropriately expressionless. The movie catches the eye from the very beginning. Everyone portrays their character well - even though Kiefer Sutherland's Dr. Schreber has an annoying way of speaking. I have to laud those who play the freaky alien people - they can do stupid stuff like float through the air and use telekinesis while still looking spooky. Near the end, the movie gets a bit funky and the Elderly Evil Dude and Murdoch staring and thrusting heatwaves or whatever those are at each other was just a bit too cartoonish (reminds me of Chinese Kung-Fu novels!), ruining the atmosphere a little.

Ah, but all that aside, I can't just watch a movie like this and not discuss something philosophical. Don't worry, it's not too philosophical. The question is what this movie is about, really. There is no definite answer - as I said the movie seems unfocused - but it makes many good points along the way. Splendid storytelling. Questions like, "What makes each of us different?" "What makes us human?" (And the answer apparently isn't any of that intelligence or compassion cra either) And, on a more paranoid level, "Why do we sometimes forget the oddest things?" "How do you get to the nearest beach?" What are we made of, actually? What makes us whole? It's memories. A life without memories. . . I cannot imagine anything more horrible, since I cherish memories more dearly than anyone I know. Hell, I thrive on memories. Are our feelings based on memories alone? So if we can fake memories, can we fake emotion too? These are some interesting food for thought the movie provides us. Oh. . . here comes a hard one. . . define the human soul. There is also a tinge of Descartes ("I think, therefore I am") in this movie - watch as the world changes under Murdoch's touch. The human imagination is boundless, and dreams do come true sometimes.

Last, I like how "Shell Beach" was thrown in there - perhaps symbolic of the end of man's search for self? For memory? For perhaps a deeper meaning, embedded within memory itself? A symbol of brightness and hope amidst the darkness? Ah, don't let me get carried away. ;) Despite some shortcomings, "Dark City" succeeds in scaring us with something that is imaginable - a world without memories; it also succeeds in giving us hope at the end. It's a movie that lends insight to who we are, and why we are here - if you'll take the time to look for the answers.

Rating: B (First viewing, 2/28/98)

* The whole movie reminds me of Samantha Mulder in "Redux," trying to remember her past.

*I think this movie has existensialistic overtones - the whole idea of individuals acting in a bizarre world, "strangers," and the bright, dazzling sun remind me of Camus's "The Stranger."