Friday, January 16, 2015

Dark City (1998) Review:

Director Alex Proyas is not what you would consider to be a mainstream or cash-grab filmmaker. Although he hasn't produced several outputs, his productions have more than not have had great feedback and has taken years to make. Unlike The Crow (1994) which was more heavily inspired by a comic book, this film starts Proyas' film career as the director who will include the themes of individualism and human life for next couple of entries. This would follow through in I, Robot (2004) and Knowing (2009). However, this particular entry in that field is probably the most surreal and bizarre. When a man named John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up after not remembering a thing about himself or what he was doing, he makes it his life mission to figure it out. This decision of course is only made after he receives a strange phone call from Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) warning him of the danger he is in.

Rufus Sewell
The screenplay was written by a combination of Proyas, Lem Dobbs and famed to be comic book writer, David S. Goyer. Together they produce a written work that will surely have the hooks to grasp its audience and have them pay attention. The basis of individualism and uniqueness is the story's strongest point. The fact that being human is one of the most important qualities in life is essential to our biological existence. Nobody is exactly the same and if we were, what would make anyone of us special or different from the others? Unfortunately, with this very thought provoking underlining topic come unexplained errors and loopholes. These of which cannot be elaborated on in much detail due to how critical it is to the viewing experience. To put it briefly, there are certain things that don't seem logically possible to accomplish physically. Thus producing big questions for how the plot unfolds.

The characters in this movie are memorable in some ways but not all. Rufus Sewell as the protagonist is convincing as a wanderer and grows later on with proper development. Yet, his presence isn't exactly the most ground shaking of performances. Also for anyone who has OCD, it may annoy them that occasionally Sewell will suffer from a lazy eye. Jennifer Connelly who plays Murdoch's wife also gives a believable performance for her attempts to try and jog her husband’s memory. Along with her, she also teams up with Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) who look to understand what is going on around them. Additionally co-starring these actors is Richard O'Brien, Bruce Spence and Colin Friels, all of which have key roles in the story being told. Still, the most interesting character is Dr. Schreber played by Sutherland. The knowledge that he carries and the rhythm at which he speaks is rare compared to the rest of the cast.

Lots of urban terrain
The finalizing attributes to the film are also well done. The cinematography administered by Dariusz Wolski (who also worked on The Crow (1994)) looks good. For a set that looks awfully similar in several locations, Wolski manages to show different angles and not make it the same view every time. Plus when it switches over to special effects, the integration is mostly unnoticeable. And because this is Alex Proyas directing, the visual style will be heavy handed and it's very creative. For music, composer Trevor Jones took the helm. Although more of an organic composer when it comes to instruments, Jones seems to operate the orchestra with synths with ease. The synths are played to represent memories which kind of sound like "scrapping" notes. For the villains, their theme is much more traditional with horns and percussion. The best however belongs to Emma (Connelly's character). It is very soft and sounds tragic too with background guitars and a leading flute. It's the most memorable piece.

Its plot holes are its biggest issue, which is located in its spoiler filled screenplay. To understand them, it has to be seen. Other than Rufus Sewell not having the most commanding of performances, the acting is serviceable, with appropriate music, decent special effects and a fascinating underlining theme of humanity.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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