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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Ficiton > Thriller > Dark City – Director’s Cut (Blu-ray/New Line/Warner)

Dark City – Director’s Cut (Blu-ray/New Line/Warner)


Picture: A-     Sound: A-     Extras: C+     Theatrical Cut: C     Director’s Cut: B-



Alex Proyas is a formidable director and early on, despite not having much impact, his 1997 film Dark City is not much discussed, especially in the wake of the success of the trilogy that highly imitated it, The Matrix films.  Still, it has its name defenders and in one of our earliest reviews here on the site by our good friend Ron Von Burg was also a rave when he covered the film in its Platinum DVD release:





He summarizes the film well and expresses clearly why he likes the film.  I was never as big a fan, though it was uneven and though some aspects were nicely constructed, some of it felt like a gimmick of classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode.  Following their success with the final, definitive, reconstructive cut of Blade Runner, Warner/New Line has reissued the film in a new Director’s Cut and I have to say that it is an improvement over the version we have seen for eleven years and is more formidable in line with its reputation.


That does not make it perfect, but its influence has finally kicked in, though it is still not that well-known or discussed.  The issue of memory and the evil of the secretly transforming city have new relevance in the second Bush era, but I also am happy than it is more ambitious and smarter than so many bad formula thrillers that use the idea of someone waking up with a dead body and not knowing how they got there.  In all cases, we know it is a set-up well in advance.  Here, it is a different world and story.


Despite its digital work, which has not aged badly, the costumes and production design are interesting and have also aged well, while the performances are decent as they always have been.  It embraces and understands the original Noir era better than many of its contemporaries, but that never made this a Film Noir or Neo-Noir.  The look is an illusion, so it cannot be that, but something more sinister and you just cannot karate chop or kick your way out of this one.


Rufus Sewell was almost the next big lead actor, but that sadly did not materialize, though Jennifer Connelly is hardly in it and she has somehow endured.  This is also a Mystery genre work and like my predecessor, I will not reveal any secrets, but in the new cut, it is worth taking on unlike the old cut.  Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer were very ambitious here and all deserve credit for making the look tell part of the story for a change.  One wonders if this film could have been made today, especially with New Line no longer autonomous.


To tell more about the film, I need to get into the performance of the Blu-ray.  For one thing, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm film by Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, A.S.C., with a remarkable transfer that is one of the best of a back catalog title and Super 35 shoot we have seen to date with good detail, depth and color fidelity that is balanced with the darkness of each frame in a way that no previous format could have ever hoped to capture.  The DVD and 12” LaserDiscs before it can forget it, incapable of such high fidelity.  Like Blade Runner, you can finally see the film clearly in a case where too many jumped the gun and thought it looked too dark because they were not seeing transfers of the film it deserved.  This is demo quality.


Then there is the sound.  Always an interesting sound mix here, the film was a digital sound 5.1 release, in both theatrical Dolby and better DTS.  Many fans of the film and film sound know the DTS-only 12” LaserDisc was the best sound version on the market for many years, but this Blu-ray has a DTS 7.1 HD Master Audio lossless mix that finally succeeds that collector’s item and for a films its age, displays a character so few sound mixes do today.  Without giving away anything, to try and distinguish different scenes and realities, there are sound clues here including times when the soundfield becomes monophonic on purpose, dialogue changes in character or the subwoofer suddenly goes dead.  That is the only clue I will give you, but this is a mix of demo quality and the combination is one of the year’s big surprises.


Extras include all from the DVD including the trailer, two audio commentary tracks (one by Roger Ebert whose work is awkward here along with Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulos and DP Wolski, the other by Proyas, Dobbs & Goyer.  There is also a text essay, stills gallery, Director’s Cut Fact Track, Neil Gaiman’s review of the film and documentaries with Proyas introductions including Memories Of Shell Beach (Making Of) and Architecture of Dreams.


No matter what you’ll think of the film afterwards, this is as thorough a presentation anyone (including fans) could hope for and no matter how the film is remembered years from now, Dark City is finally getting it due and the new cut is the top reason why.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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