Dark City (1998)

(In theaters, February 1998) Somehow, great things spring up from nowhere. Last year, low-budget lower-impact movie Gattaca managed to be the best SF movie of 1997, appearing out of the blue and sinking almost as fast. This year (so far), Dark City can claim to the same distinction. It’s not a “warm”, “easy” or “fun” movie, but it’s certainly cool, impressive and tremendously exciting. Dark City is a riff on the unusual themes (for cinema) of memory and identity, well-mixed with a good old-fashioned mortal-against-gods story and a very stylish noir atmosphere. Not your run-of-the-mill SF flick, but possesses terrific editing and visual effects. It’s not without faults, of course (said editing is often over-the-top, premise more “Science-fantasy” than otherwise, parts of the ending are disappointing, some visual effects are uneven) but it’s likely to be some of the best stuff this year.

(Second viewing, In theaters, July 2000) Ironically for a film about memory, I had nearly forgotten how good a film Dark City was. Decently scripted, wonderfully directed and amazingly designed, this is a film that will endure, most probably because it was designed from the onset to be timeless, which its quasi-retro look and atmosphere. A second viewing reveals wonderful small details that may be missed on first viewing (such as the protagonist’s fish fascination, or a shot where a rock thrown through a window flips over a sign from “Closed” to “Open”) Best of all, this is a film that’s enthralling for its whole duration. Most assuredly one of the best genre films of the decade, Dark City is a must-see-again.

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