A blog about movies and the Sturbridge area, including The Brookfields, Brimfield, Charlton, Holland, Wales, and Spencer as well as adjacent towns.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Movie Review, Just Another Dark Night of the Soul

Dark City came out in 1998. I just got around to seeing it because my son got the DVD as a birthday present.

Suspending disbelief is the only way to enjoy the bad plot devices of sci fi. I like many such movies, but you've got to get over the silly stuff.

For example, a staple of a lot of sci fi is the aliens aversion to water. In Signs, you have antagonists from a civilization able to cross galaxies to land on a planet 70% the substance that will do them in. You would think that higher life forms would figure this out. Okay, it doesn't ruin the message of the movie, but as a plot device, it is lame.

In Dark City the water problem is there , but is not fatal to the aliens as they seem to be a bit smarter than the wraith looking creatures of signs. the major plot device is, like the matrix, the creation of a controlled world inhabited by humans.

The difference is that in the Matrix machines let humans think they were living real lives while stealing the electric power while in Dark City it is dying aliens wishing to find what makes humans human so they can save their species.

the Matrix is more believable, if only because serious scientists such as Ray Kurzweil have posited that we must merge with our technology or be left behind by it. Still, it is not too believable. The idea that the machines need people as "coppertop" batteries and have to provide a virtual reality to keep us going does not really hold up. No matter, I enjoyed the fable and its twists and turns.

The Dark Night sci fi plot device of aliens crossing the universe to set up a controlled environment so they can find out what makes humans tick and then use it to regenerate their dying species is less credible. Somehow, studying beings orders of magnitude less intelligent so you can be like them and survive is not too believable. Getting some and dissecting them might be. Something that would be believable would be the aliens set up some powerful receivers to get Earth TV, watch a few reality shows and realize there is nothing terrestials have that they want.

So why did I like this movie? Well, once disbelief is suspended, the plot is not bad. Guy wakes up wondering if he's a killer. He is helped to awareness by a Doctor who knows what's going on. Falls in love with the woman he has been programmed to love and not love. Resists aliens and awakens the controlled population.

As Doctor Schreber, Kiefer Sutherland overdoes it, but it worked. William Hurt as Inspector Bumstead is William Hurt, as always. That isn't a problem. Rufus Sewell as the lead works well. He nicely does the confused guy trying desperately to find himself. Jennifer Connelly's performance is well done. Alex Proyas' direction of making a 1940s metropolis the locus of the story sets the mood. Sort of science fiction meets Mickey Spillane.

Sewell and Connelly could have been replaced by any number of actors. It is Sutherland and Hurt who give the movie its flavor. Hurt could have made a career out of the detective genre if there were demand.

For some reason I can’t get Connelly’s rendition of Runaround Lover out of my head.

Still, I can't say why I like dark sci fi. Such ridiculous stories, even when well done, are still ridiculous.

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