Dark City

Dir. Alex Proyas
Screening at: the Academy Twin, Randwick Ritz, Village City, and selected Hoyts-Greater Union cinemas

Gothic grunge kiddies the world over wet dreamed over Alex Proyas' 'The Crow'. Stylistically superb, but plotless, with banal dialogue and dodgy acting, Proyas established his credentials as comic book director minus the camp element suffusing other such films ('Batman Forever', 'Spawn', 'The Phantom' etc). Strange then that audience and critical response to 'Dark City' has been disdainful, recreating exactly as it does the elements of 'The Crow' listed above: beauty, brainlessness and bad acting.

'Dark City' is a visual feast: a gloomy metropolis encrusted with bristling Gothic ornament, redesigned and reinvented in impressive FX sequences night after night by a race of Uncle Fester-like Strangers. Around this decaying cityscape stumbles a tousle haired Rufus Sewell, searching (a la 'Blade Runner') for his true identity and the grim purpose of the Strangers, aided in his quest by a doctor employed by the Strangers, played by a pudgily twitchy Kiefer Sutherland. There's a token detective; a token whore (played with slutty aplomb by Australia's own Melissa George); a token virgin (the pneumatic if not sleepwalking Jennifer Connolly), but as characters they're mere diversions to the greater design of the film's crumbling aesthetic.

In many ways the city - a seamlessly plastic representation of a 'real' that no longer exists, modified and shaped by invisible machinery - is a metaphor for big-budget Hollywood filmmaking itself, which creates exquisitely meaningless, formulaic spectacle at the expense of the human element, all the time trying to quantify and synthesise the 'human' qualities in order to make more successful movies.

As an idea, 'Dark City' is interesting; as a movie, it's disappointing,

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