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Movie of the Day: Dark City

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What It Is: A genre mash up of science fiction and neo-noir, the mystery of Dark City unravels as amnesia-stricken John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) tries to piece his identity back together. Stalked by a group of trench coat and fedora clad men known only as the Strangers, Murdoch uncovers the conspiracy of nefarious supernatural forces controlling his world. Alex Proyas’s film is an overlooked entry in the paranoia cinema of the 1990’s.

Why It’s Unique: Arguably, Dark City deserves a spot in the pantheon of visually striking, dark science fiction films like Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey (Roger Ebert even compared it to the latter in his review at the time – see below). In fact, the film may have simply been overshadowed by another dystopian science fiction film released the following year, The Matrix, which shared a lot of narrative and stylistic similarities. If anything, Proyas’s movie is darker and weirder, a hybridization of American popcorn movies and European art cinema.

Who Made It: Alex Proyas was among the music video directors who transitioned to feature films in the 1990’s along with the likes of David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and, let us not forget, Michael Fucking Bay. Before this, Proyas directed the cult horror superhero film The Crow, which established his dark style that drew on punk, goth, and S&M sub-cultures, but was also marred by the tragic on set accident that killed star Brandon Lee. This film represented an evolution of the distinctive voice Proyas established, yet his later work has gotten churned up in the mechanisms of Hollywood commercialism. Perhaps Proyas will be able to find a return to creative form as darker and more adult films resonate again with audiences and studio balance sheets.

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