As you might expect coming from Burton, it’s a bit weird – portraying a young boy who hopes to emulate a famous man who shares his first name – Vincent Price. Narrated in rhyming couplets by…Vincent Price.
But if you think that’s some dark material, Sander’s feature presentation has it beat by a mile – Dark City, directed by Alex Proyas. Proyas seems to have a bit of a Sci-Fi focus, with his other well-known films The Crow and I, Robot, and an upcoming action-heavy adaptation of Paradise Lost, of all things.
Fortunately, we watched the Director’s Cut, which takes out the opening narration that basically explains the plot of the movie. Instead, the viewer is forced to try to figure out the movie as it unfolds, which is kind of appropriate.
Our hero John Murdoch wakes up one night in a bathtub with no memory, only to receive a mysterious phone call telling him to flee. As he flees, he sees the mutilated corpse of a prostitute. The first act of the movie pretty much covers John learning about himself – what his name is,
that he’s being sought by the police in connection with a series of murders,
he’s being chased for some mysterious reason by a large number of pale-skinned aliens (technically some sort of jellyfish/octopus inhabiting dead human bodies) who can “tune” – which means they can affect the structure of the world with the power of their minds –
he’s got a really hot wife who recently cheated on him,
he’s being sought by a twitchy guy with a stilted accent who claims to be his psychologist,
he’s obsessed with memories of a vacation place called Shell Beach that nobody seems to remember how to get to,
and nobody else seems to realize that it’s always nighttime.
OK. So here’s the deal. Dr. Scratch and Sniff is working for the aliens (unwillingly) in their devious scheme, which involves implanting false memories into the populace of Dark City, because somehow they think that this will help them to understand humanity, and somehow they think that understanding humanity will allow them to sidestep their race’s upcoming demise. Strangely, our hero is an anomaly, and while the pale dudes are studying him as they try to implant memories of being a serial killer he rejects the memories. He also turns out to have at least some ability to “tune”, another oddity (this isn’t ever explained, by the way).
The pale guys are highly disturbed by the fact that Murdoch isn’t taking his nightly memories but for some reason they can’t quite seem to track him down, despite the fact that they have complete mental control over Dark City, which turns out to be some sort of spaceship. Well, that’s why it’s always dark – there’s no sun!
Oh, and by the way, this whole revelation is a sort of good news/bad news thing. The good news is that Murdoch’s hot wife didn’t cheat on him – it was just an implanted memory. The bad news is that they’re not really married, either, and in the meantime the pale dudes have erased her memory.
Anyway, with the help of Dr. Kiefer, Murdoch faces down and utterly defeats the pale dudes. Which leaves him stuck on a spaceship somewhere with a bunch of people who don’t have any proper memories. But don’t worry! From a hole in the spaceship he uses his impressive tuning power to make…
his very own Shell Beach! And on the pier, he meets this really hot chick…
For me, this movie just never came together. It’s got a 7.8 out of 10 on IMDB, but I don’t get it. The film is excessively dark, and the plot is marginal at best with holes all over the place. I mean, after an hour and a half of encounters with mind-erasing, world-bending aliens and being hit over the head with “something’s not right here” in a city that seems extermely small and poorly lit, we find out that we’re really…on a spaceship? That’s the payoff? On top of that, the acting is poor as well. Kiefer Sutherland especially hams it up, and were it not for the presence of Jennifer Connelly, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to watch the whole movie again. It’s just a film where ambience trumps everything, and when the ambience is really nothing but the lack of light.
Amazingly, I think I am defending Connelly as a good actress here – and I think she was actually good. Then again, maybe I was just remembering a formative scene from my high school years: