October Extras 2: Dark City (1998)

OCTOBER 12, 2008

LAST SEEN: 2002? (DVD)

I still remember walking into a convenience store on a Monday morning to grab my morning coffee on the way to school (and the vacant locker next to mine that I filled with those empty cups for some reason), looking at USAToday’s box office report for the previous weekend, and getting super fucking pissed off. That was because Dark City, the incredible film I had watched over the weekend, opened in like 4th or 5th place with barely any money made, and the 2 month old Titanic was still breaking records. Now, I’m not a Titanic hater (I actually considered it for an OE2) but Alex Proyas’ film deserved much better.

Luckily, it found an audience on DVD, and its following continues to grow. As a result, we got a 10th anniversary director’s cut DVD and Blu-Ray, with all the original extras ported over, plus some all new ones. If there’s ever been a double dip that I had zero issue with at all, it was this one. Hell, even the theatrical version is still included, so there’s literally no reason to hang on to the original snapper case release (unless you really loved that lame scavenger hunt game, the only thing they’ve dropped).

The changes in the director’s cut are noticeable right off the bat, as Kiefer Sutherland’s VO over the opening title has been removed. This was an obvious choice for Proyas, as the narration was a studio decision that he (and fans) did not agree with. I almost wish I could see the film for the first time this way, as the narration gives away some answers that Proyas and the writers did not intend you to have until later in the film.

Other changes I’m not too sure about, as it has been 6-7 years since I have seen the film. I kind of like the irony in that; the movie deals with the essence of memory, what is real, what is something you just imagined, etc, and throughout the movie I found myself wondering what I have seen before and what was new. I am PRETTY SURE that the stuff with the hooker’s daughter was new, and also an extension of the cab ride scene between Kiefer, Rufus Sewell, and William Hurt, but I may be wrong (I looked for a comparison online, but turned up nothing).

Speaking of the hooker, she is played by Melissa George, who is now well known among horror fans thanks to Turistas, 30 Days of Night, etc. If you’ve never seen Dark City, this movie offers you.... something that those other movies did not. Hurrah for being a new actress without any contractual limitations!

Both versions of the film are superior to many of the other “alternate reality” films of the era, particularly The Matrix, which outright stole certain camera setups from this film (see here). The murder mystery that screenwriters Lem Dobbs and David Goyer designed is far more compelling than the “I know Kung Fu” nonsense of the Wachowski’s film. And it’s far more exciting than the dull Thirteenth Floor. Plus it’s got the most interesting cast – how often do you see Richard O’Brien in anything anymore? Kiefer turns in one of his best performances, without a single shred of the Jack Bauer badassery that he can’t seem to shed anymore. And besides George, you also get Jennifer Connelly, before she won an Oscar and forgot to eat at least once a day.

The real draw is Rufus Sewell though. No one was really familiar with him at the time, so to cast him as an amnesiac was pure brilliance. You don’t know who he is, and neither does he. And since he’s mostly played villains since (he’s played some sort of royalty who steals the hero’s girl like four fucking times alone), it’s nice to see him in a sympathetic role.

Blu-Ray of course makes some of the effects look a bit faker than before, but that’s OK. The effects are pretty great throughout, but more importantly, they are interesting. The “city changing” bits are breathtaking, and I love how they use them in action scenes, such as when Sewell escapes a bad guy by jumping onto a chimney that is growing out of the ground. Awesome.

The disc is jampacked with features; three commentaries, a full length retrospective documentary, and I think some other stuff too, but I just don’t have the time to get into it right now. Someday I will though, and I will most likely be enthralled by every bit of it (I have listened to the commentaries before, on the theatrical version, and they were great – definitely check out Roger Ebert’s track). But if you’ve never seen the film, PLEASE start with the director’s cut so you can experience the mystery (which I have tried hard not to spoil in the review) as intended.

What say you?


  1. Hell yes. One of my all time faves in the" dark/weird sci-fi" category. I had the chance to buy this in 2003 for like 3.50 on DVD and i didn't. O well.

    Keefe is great in this.

  2. best movie you slept through in 1998!

  3. I stayed awake! And i didnt even see it with you! You're thinking 13th floor.

  4. Huh. I'd never heard of the blatant rip-off by the Matrix. Obviously they are similar concepts, but that site you linked to... well I just feel dirty now.

  5. For the first time ever, I find that one of your reviews leaves me not wanting to watch a film... even though the film in question is one of my favorites. I think it came with two words: Melissa George. I pretty much relate her to retarded vampires, shitty Amityville remakes, and buck teeth.

    The lack of opening narration is a plus though.

  6. Whenever I mention this movie to people they always go, "Who? What? Huh?" This is a wonderful film that deserved bigger theater time than it got. Certainly a good pick for the folks looking for a new creepy film to watch this month.

  7. Nope. Laina, Eric, Jay... and either Josh or JiB.

  8. Better oh so much better than The Crow.The Mattress can fuck off and Mattress Refucked and Mattress value added anal rape part 3 all needed to not exist.I didn't mind the 13th floor most likely as it was supposed to be crap and turned out pretty fun on tv in maybe 2005.
    Shell beach is where its at though.Although I wish it was actually scary.Richard O'Brien is not scary at all or any of the other alien cityscape fuckers.

  9. I saw it with you... so & JiB. Thought Josh was there too? I did not see 13th floor. That was probably Jeff Kolleen and you.

  10. 13th floor was josh brian and me, and i don't think any of us stayed awake.

    i must have seen this with jeff and jon or something.

  11. This film is excellent!

    I was suprised by how lame I, Robot was compared to this.

    It's true that Richard O'Brien hasn't done that much but the guy is great. He was in quite a few episodes of an 80s UK TV production of Robin of Sherwood (the ones with Sean Connery's son as a blond Robin) and he also hosted a game show called "The Crystal Maze" which he made quite awesome.


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