DVD Review:Dark City


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Dark City:Platinum Edition
New Line Home Video
2.35:1/Full-Frame/Dolby Digital 5.1/Extras

"Dark City" is a wild work of art that was overlooked by audiences and by most critics. The film is a major visionary work by director Alex Proyas("The Crow") combining outstanding visual effects with a well done script and story.

The story focuses on one man, John Murdoch, who wakes up in a world completely foreign to him. Who is he really? What does he do? He sets out into the city, the night, to find out. It's a dark dream, where no one can trust any of their memories, and no one tries to find the truth but Murdoch; it's interesting to watch Murdoch working through the world, interacting with the other characters and waking them up to the world around them.

It seems that Murdoch has...is...was...still is... a serial killer. He doesn't know. It's the fun of the film to watch as Murdoch as well as the viewer puts the pieces of the puzzle together as Murdoch tries to reconstruct was he thinks his life once was. There are so many fragments, "Dark City" is structured well-enough so that the script works and the story and plot are believeable. At every turn he is followed by a group of beings known as "The Strangers", who are after him to see what makes him tick.

I usually dislike giving away much in the way of plot points in my reviews and this film is the same way; there are many wonderfully original elements to "Dark City" in terms of it's story and visual effects; some have called the film derivative, but I think that it only takes the best of some other films such as "Strange Days", "Metropolis" and "Blade Runner" and adds some elements of it's own. It's a new genre, I think, this "dark comic" fantasy; it started with "Batman" and has worked it's way into current films like 'Blade" and "Spawn". "Dark City" is easily the most successful in bringing this new gothic landscape to life. There is so much detail in the sets and the shots themselves, you would think that Proyas took days to construct every shot. There are different cameras involved with some of the shots and the special effects themselves are richly detailed and marvelous.

I liked the "Strangers" as well. They definitely are far more interesting villians than we find in today's cinema; I liked the details of their lair as well and "tuning", how they adjust this "city", is also quite interesting and not overdone. The performances by everyone are quite good.

The DVD:
New Line has done a very good job transfering such a dark film to DVD. With the exception of a few compression errors in the darker, smokier scenes, the film looks about as good as it did when I saw it in the theaters. You'll have to watch the film on the letterboxed side, as it preserves Proyas's compositions. I haven't watched the cropped full frame version and I don't plan to, the letterboxed version is far more enjoyable. Sound-wise, "Dark City" has a very good, rich sound quality with some strong effects.

Extras are great, with one of the best commentary tracks out there, by Roger Ebert. He provides a fascinating, detailed version of his theories on the film and its characters. He goes through the whole film, pretty much non-stop and always interesting. On the other commentary track is the filmmaker and crew. We also get the trailer, reviews and comparisons to "Metropolis", a game, and most interestingly- production photos and sketches; I liked the ability to see the basic ideas behind the film's effects and costume work.

The Film:A-

Overall Package:A-

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