Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dark City

Dark City Productions
Director: Alex Proyas
Length: 100 min.
Country: Australia/USA
Format: DVD
Date Viewed; 10 April, 2006

Alex Proyas owes a huge debt to European sci-fi of the 90s, and the films of Jeunet and Caro in particular, for his Dark City, which in turn is owed a huge debt by the Wachowski's for their The Matrix, which took so much from Proyas' sci-fi noir that it's almost surprising Proyas didn't sic attack lawyers on the brothers.

The world that Proyas creates is breathtakingly beautiful in its bleak, near-Dystopian look, and indeed the film's style is its main strongpoint. The timeless look of the film and the costumes help bolster the visuals, and reinforces my view that men wearing suits and fedoras all the time, like William Hurt's character, always looks incredibly cool (just you wait until I can afford a suit). The use of miniatures and CGI are almost always perfectly blended, and Dark City is, until the climactic showdown when the effects overpower the characters and drama and become laughably poor, one of the best examples of heavy CGI done right.

And yet, the film is only mediocre at best. The film looks very cool and plays with some interesting ideas, but the film completely fails to create an emotional connection with us, the only way the film could have truly succeeded. Proyas tries to have us buy into the burgeoning love between John (Rufus Sewell) and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), but between lackluster performances by Sewell and Connelly and only a couple of scenes between them anyways, it is hard for us to really care much. As a minor sideplot it might not matter as much, but Proyas tries to make this a major storyline and the emotional center of the story. It is surprising, then, that it is so underwritten and poorly cast (the other actors in the film do a great job, however).

The main storyline suffers from a similar problem of being underwritten. The ideas come through long, breathless monologues - dull to listen to and a little overwhelming in their very high info-per-minute rates. You can tell that Proyas cared about the themes, but paradoxically wanted them rushed through so he could get back to the (stunning) visuals. As a result, the film is beautiful but empty. There's nothing for us to really latch onto except the style, and that's simply not enough for a film that wants us to feel something.

Apparently, an early cut of the film slowed the pace down quite a bit, developed the story and themes less hurriedly, and omitted the opening voice-over that tells a little too much about the set-up. This may have improved the film, and will hopefully be a part of the director's cut which is slated to have a DVD release later this year.

In it's current form, I can only recommend it for the pretty pictures, but don't expect any sort of emotional depth or well-developed story.


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