The Voice of The Underrated: Dark City

A Look at a movie that has been called "The Matrix before the Matrix"
July 23, 2012

A lot of people liked the Matrix, I am not one of them. Especially the whole normal world is just a ruse by a bunch of robots who are trying to kill us. I liked it at as a kid, because of the action scenes and because of Trinity because she was still hot in the first movie. However, as I have grown older I see it as a bad movie that overused special effects. Reloaded has a very memorable fight scene and Revolutions was total fucking garbage. The first one was cool for a bit but the whole trench coats and sun glasses guys running around, spraying bullets in no particular direction while Techno music blasts. It's stupid, its for the simple minded and it causes a bunch of Pee Wee's Playhouse jokes. If you want a good movie that's got a whole population-manipulation atmosphere and some good action, good acting, good writing and is gritty and noir-ey look no further than Alex Proyas' Dark City.

A great movie trailer with a great song called "Sleep Now"

The first time I saw this movie was a few years ago, I had failed grade 10 English again and had to retake it. We had this teacher, you may know him yourself. Neville Edwards, who is a bit part actor. Remember Dawn of the Dead when they Black guy is being questioned in the opening credits? the reporter asks if the zombies are dead or a live and he says "We don't know" That was my English teacher. I was a huge fuck up in High School, specifically Grade 10 and 11. I would show up to class late (if even at all) and stinking of cheap cigarettes. I would often walk out of class to smoke during lessons and would fuck around on my Cellphone. Me and Mr. Edwards had a strange relationship. I respected him a lot, but he was also a pretty big dick. I am sure he saw some hope in me because he was a lot nicer to me than some of the students who were there all the time. Anyway, Mr. Edwards was a hard ass, but as the year drew to a close, he lightened up on everyone (including his drama class where he was super hard ass) due to the fact that he was recently told his position at Danforth was not permanent. So our final unit in English class was Horror Cinema. We watched all these movies, without censorship (a lot of times even in High School teachers would fast forward through the more gratuitous sex and violence). I don't remember exactly what we watched, but as I recall we watched, Halloween, Silence of the Lambs, Nightmare on Elm Street part 1 and Alien, all of which I missed (save for Nightmare and Silence of the Lambs) I sauntered into class one day and Mr. Edwards said that we were going to watch one of his favourite movies, Dark City. I had no idea it was done by the creator of the Crow (one of my favourite comic book movies) or that it was even a good movie. As a young kid I remember my Cousin had bought a poster of it and hung it up on his wall.

That's the one, right there. I asked him about the movie and he said it was like the Matrix but with less action and stuff. I lost interest as I was 11 years old, and Story meant nothing to me. Either way, I ended up seeing it in High School. I usually talk throughout the movies in School, for the reason that I have either seen them a bunch of times, or that they are shitty Canadian Indy films, or just boring dramas. Dark City was a different story, I sauntered into class late as usual and was told to take my seat, I sat next to my friend Brad and asked him what we were watching, He said Dark City, at first I was like "Oh god this movie, never seen it but it will probably suck ass." How wrong I was.

Brief Synopsis

So the movie opens up with a starry sky, now we get a narration that spoils the film, the directors cut omits this narration so try and watch that. The first scene is our protagonist, naked in a hotel bathtub, he wakes up to find he has no memory of who he is. He wanders around his apartment and knocks over a goldfish, which he saves by putting in the bathtub. Our protagonist gets dressed and receives a call from his doctor, who tells him that his memory has been erased, but he can help him. Our hero leaves his apartment, but notices that a Hooker has been slaughtered on the floor, he leaves and sees the Hotel clerk, who asks him to pay some money that he owes, we see that our protagonist is named J.Murdoch, and he has received a call from a restaurant that he has left his wallet. Mr.Murdoch tells the Hotel clerk that he will come back and pay for the 3 weeks. the clerk says "yeah, and you don't get time off for good behavior" our hero goes to retrieve his wallet at this food vendor, the vendor has the wallet locked behind a glass door thingy that requires you to pay, but Mr. Murdoch displays psychic abilities and breaks it open. He gets confronted by some police but a local hooker covers for him and he is able to leave. We learn his name is John Murdoch.

Without boring you to death I will give a quick, mostly spoiler free run down of the film. A group of aliens named the Stranger's inhabit the bodies of dead humans, inside their heads are some weird energy beings that look like squids/insects. John searches around for answers. Meanwhile a detective is trying to track down John. John is being tracked down by the Strangers and this Doctor throughout the film. John tries to find a place called Shell Beach, a nice beach area that is in his memories.


Okay, so throughout some events of the film, John Murdoch begins to realize that the sun never comes up here, we also see that every night at midnight, everybody just falls asleep, and the Strangers come out and start swapping memories between its inhabitants. It is explained that every so often, people wake up during this ritual and freak out, one ex cop wakes up and gets away. He goes completely insane trying to figure out whats real and whats not. Eventually he meets up with John and explains whats going on, and reveals that he has a way out. The way out is suicide as the cop dives in front of a train. John eventually tracks down his Doctor and learns of what is transpiring, and that the Doctor was able to retain his medical knowledge, but forced to erase his own memories by the Strangers. John and the Detective team up and go looking for this shell beach. They open up a door and find a wall with a shell beach poster on it. The two break down the wall and find see that on the other side is space.The two stare on in shock and are confronted by the Strangers, while in a scuffle, the Detective and a Stranger fall out into space and die. John gets kidnapped and is about to have his old memories replaced, but the Doctor pulls a fast one on the Strangers and injects John with fabricated memories teaching him how to use his abilities. John and the leader of the Strangers; Mr. Book have a battle of psychic powers in the city. John wins and he turns the city over to see the sunlight. sadly, his wife has lost her memory, but he meets up with her again and starts life over.

End Spoilers

So, back to my experience with this film. I was bored at first, but somehow the complex plot (which I explained poorly mind you) just engulfed me, for once I was the one telling other people to shut the fuck up.The Noir atmosphere and the BEAUTIFUL Architecture was dazzling, and a scene in which the strangers use their powers to shift the buildings around were just awesome. Christopher Nolan studied this movie very closely while making Inception, along with the Matrix and a few other movies. So anyway, I watched this movie and was on the edge of my chair, I didn't even sneak out for a smoke! Dark City is a classic movie that only got recognition by the mainstream when Roger Ebert named it in his list of favorite movies, almost 10 years after it was made. Alex Proyas is a great writer/director and I wish he would do more work. Either way, I am acting as a voice for this underrated classic and I recommend anybody who likes Sci-Fi, Noir or special effects watch this movie because it is fucking awesome. The Strangers are creepy as shit too.
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