Dark City (review)

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Style Over Substance

What a cool movie crowd last Friday night. During the slew of previews, whom did this hip audience cheer? Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken. And ignored Bruce Willis and Wesley Snipes.

And what happened in the theater after we all endured Dark City (starring Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland)? One pair of hands applauded, and someone in the back of the theater yelled, “Oh, shut up!”

It was that bad.
Hollywood has finally achieved the ultimate in style over substance. Dark City is like a two-hour music video aimed at adolescent boys, full of dead naked women and nightmarish visions directly cribbed from Terry Gilliam movies and old Doctor Who episodes. (For a taste of the awfulness, check out the movie’s official Web site here. The movie is just as messy.)

The plot is the same hoary device that’s brought down many an episode of Star Trek: Aliens are experimenting on humans in order to learn what makes us tick. The aliens are some kinda jellyfish-type things that inhabit the dead bodies of humans — men only, natch. Imagine an army of Emperor Palpatines from Star Wars, and you’ve got it. Dr. Schreber (Sutherland) helps them with their nasty experiments — You. *gasp* Can. *gasp* Tell. *gasp* He’s. *gasp* Evil. *gasp* Because. *gasp* He. *gasp* Talks. *gasp* Like. *gasp* This. As you can imagine, after a few minutes of this, you wish Donald Sutherland and his wife had adopted.

John Murdoch (Sewell) is one guinea pig who’s had enough. When the aliens set him up as a serial killer (if they want to find out what makes humans kill, they should watch this movie), he rebels. Inspector Bumstead (Hurt) is on the case, though, but he can’t even founder around without the help of John’s wife Emma (Connelly), who’s around mainly to be pretty and pout a lot. Come to think of it, Sewell doesn’t have much to do but pout, either.

Dark City commits the worst sin a piece of entertainment can: It’s boring. Because the aliens are messing with people’s memories and the physical locations where all the action is taking place, the viewer can’t trust anything — and Dark City doesn’t give you any compelling characters to care about in the absence of a story to cling to.

It’s a shame that the talents of Sewell and Hurt are wasted here. Just a month till Lost in Space — at least Hurt will have a chance to make it up to us then.

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