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Dark City
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Roger Ebert just added this 1998 sci-fi movie to his list of "Great Movies".

I saw it about five years ago and didn't think it was that great, but reading his updated review I thought maybe I'd missed something, so I rented it again this weekend.

Nope, I think I actually disliked it much more this time than the first time I saw it.

Ebert says:

"Dark City" by Alex Proyas resembles its great silent predecessor "Metropolis" in asking what it is that makes us human, and why it cannot be changed by decree. Both films are about false worlds created to fabricate ideal societies, and in both the machinery of the rulers is destroyed by the hearts of the ruled. Both are parables in which a dangerous weapon attacks the order of things: a free human who can see what really is, and question it.

Well that sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Only I don't think the movie is at all concerned with what makes us human. And it isn't just about a free human who can see what really is and question it, it's about a guy who mysteriously becomes impervious to the powers of the aliens and can shoot matter-altering beams out of his head (no explanation for this is given other than that maybe he just "evolved"). Ummm.

Now then, Jennifer Connelly looks great in this film, even if her lounge-singing act is horribly dubbed. William Hurt is good too, but I found myself asking what the hell they were doing in such a crappy film. Kiefer Sutherland is just silly as the doctor...he's just not a very good actor, with a very limited range.

But mostly it was the silly plot and the inability to suspend disbelief at every turn...but I tried, I did.

I mean, at least Neo had to be trained before he could become The One. The guy in this flick just wakes up one day and has his powers.

Supposedly these aliens kidnapped a bunch of people to find out "what makes them tick". The idea is that if they unravel human nature it will help them save their own dying civilization.

Uh huh. Anybody else buy that one?

They're basically jelly spiders who occupy human hosts (I think this is how it works anyway). This made me wonder how they got to earth in the first place. Can they only live as parasites in hosts? What were they living in when they came to earth?

But the real problem is with all this anthrocentricism. Everything they do or say is so centered around us. I mean, don't get me wrong...we're interesting and all. But didn't these guys have recreational sports on their home planet? Television or movies? Jelly-spider sex?

Also, a big plot hole is that they are constantly running around looking for the hero. And yet they are able to "tune", alter reality just by thinking about it. Every night at midnight, they rearrange buildings and streets with their minds. Um, wouldn't you need to know where people are in order to keep from squashing them under a building you just morphed into existence? Or maybe they didn't give a crap, and they just plowed people under every night (this would have been cool to watch if it happened).

Anyway, I think the goal of the movie is cool looking set pieces and special effects, not any deep reflections on reality or human nature. Blade Runner and The Matrix both handled these issues in a much more entertaining and interesting way.

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