Before The Matrix there was Dark City

I grabbed this DVD years ago, about ten years ago, thinking it looked like an interesting horror movie, and it got Kiefer Sutherland in it, an actor I like. When I got home and watched it for the first time, I was blown away by how good and beautiful and original it was.

Dark City (1998) is a very noir sci-fi mystery, a stunning production directed by Alex Proyas, who also directed the Will Smith blockbuster I, Robot (2004).


I also remember that exhilaration was mixed with shock, and a festering disappointment, which were not directed at it but at another movie, The Matrix (1999), which I then realized wasn’t so original after all. I felt deceived, as silly as that sounds, because I was such a huge fan of The Matrix. I still am. It’s still very entertaining.

There are so many movies out there that are under-appreciated, that slip under the radar for whatever reason, and are not celebrated as much as they deserve to be. Dark City is like the epitome of that when it was first released, and that was really unfortunate because it’s so damn good. Furthermore, there is only a year’s difference between the releases of Dark City and The Matrix. How the latter could be such a massive hit without anyone raising a substantial voice back then that it was so strikingly similar to Dark City, I’ll never understand.


The Matrix is more slick and stylish, and I’m still a fan of it. But watching Dark City again, I still feel that it is the better movie, with more heart and spirit. It feels more raw and gritty. I just feel bad for it that so much praise and credit went to The Matrix, when much more of that should have gone to it instead.

Anyway, here’s a video by YouTube user Clara Darko comparing the two films.


Roger Ebert’s reviews.

It pleases me to read only just now how the late great reviewer Roger Ebert praised Dark City very highly in this 1998 review. So highly that he gave it his maximum of 4 stars. And as for The Matrix which he gave 3 stars, Roger’s review for it indicated he didn’t like it as much, and in fact he kept bringing up Dark City, haha! He matter-of-factly stated that The Matrixrecycles the premises of Dark City and Strange Days (1995)”, and overall the review indicated (to me) that he thought Dark City was the better movie. Ah, how I wish I had read these reviews when they first came out, so I could have discovered Dark City first before The Matrix.


Related: Interesting articles discussing the similarities of the two films:

  • Retrojunk: ‘Dark City vs. The Matrix’.
  • ElectroLund: Matrix City: A Photographic Comparison of The Matrix and Dark City


Day 31 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: exhilarated