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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> February 1998 >> Dark City

Dark City

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Dates on Record:
February 1998, February 1999
IMDB Name:
Dark City (1998)
Alex Proyas
sci-fi, suspense
MPAA Rating:
R for violent images and some sexuality.


When you think of lush, dark cities, you probably think of Gotham. Think again. Dark City has extremely elaborate scenery, and it's dark. Director Alex Proyas and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski have done similar work before, in 1994's The Crow. Most of the scenery occupies improbably large spaces, but everything manages to feel cramped anyway. This suits the plot perfectly. The special effects are well applied. The morphing of the city always looks really good.

Character Acting?

The characters in the movie are throwaway characters with throwaway personalities. It doesn't matter one bit because that's the point of the movie. If Jennifer Connelly seems a little too stiff when she sings in the bar, it's intentional. The movie is about arbitrary choices of personality. It gets fun when you find out who's doing the choosing.

The cast is pretty good. I've never seen Rufus Sewell before, but I like him. He plays a wide range of confusion nicely, and never gets carried away in his delivery. He's in a fish-out-of- water role (even though at the beginning of the movie he takes care to put a fish back into water), and he makes something of it. William Hurt makes a great film detective. He looks good in the clothes, he talks the talk without applying an inexplicable accent. Richard O'Brien is very spooky as the alien Mr. Hand.

DVD Comments

The Dark City DVD is very impressive from the moment it enters the player. The graphics and transitions in the menus are great. It's often difficult to determine which option is selected because the color differentiation is hard to remember, and not easy to pick out against some of the backgrounds. I've listened to most of the crew's commentary track, and it didn't offer anything too insightful. The Roger Ebert commentary is more interesting because he brings his wealth of cinematic knowledge to the table.

Six months after I first bought the DVD for Dark City, I noticed an interesting feature in the scene selection menus: previews. Unlike some discs, on which all of the previewed scenes are full-motion miniatures, the Dark City version allows the user to select one scene for previewing with sound. Each scene has two controls, a "P" and the right-pointing triangle usually understood as "play". The former starts the preview and the latter jumps to that scene and starts playing. Unfortunately, the scene menus are very difficult to use because the arrangement of the controls on the screen bears little relation to the arrow buttons used to get them. Four scenes are displayed in two rows of interlocking gears. The controls all appear along one horizontal line, but from left to right, they aren't in order. Worse, it's never clear how to move from one scene to another because pressing the left and right arrows can cause the transition from moving amongst the play buttons to moving amongst the preview buttons. Very strange!

Now, not long after finally finding the previews, I've finally found Shell Beach. "find shell beach..." is essentially a scavenger hunt through the disc's menus. The prize at the end is an animation that most viewers are probably best off never seeing. If you feel compelled to try it anyway, I'll tell you two things: start with Kiefer Sutherland and finish with the set designs.

See the IMDB information on Dark City's DVD or compare prices at DVD Price Search.

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Copyright 1998-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.