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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Day 31 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: exhilarated

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Roger Ebert

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Roger Joseph Ebert (1942 to 2013). Author, Journalist, Film Historian and Critic, and Screenwriter. Photo source: Wikipedia. Click to go there.

Gosh I miss him already. I love his reviews. For so long, after I’ve checked out a movie on imdb.com, I would click the ‘review: critic‘ link, which would lead me to a page of links to external reviews, which I would scan to see if there’s one by Mr. Ebert. I didn’t read every single one of his reviews, and my opinion of the movie may differ from his, but it was nice to know he was always there for me to turn to for a review that’s insightful, and many times humourous and entertaining.

That’s also why I have the link to his site here, under the blogroll list here I call ‘Movie Magic’, for the times when I already know which actors form the cast and other facts about the movie, and I just want to go straight to his review.

It’s so nice and fitting somehow that his last one, published posthumously last Saturday the 6th, two days after his passing, was for To The Wonder, a movie by Terence Malick, one of my favourite storytellers. I have loved Terence Malick’s dazzling and dreamy poet-like gift in seducing and breaking the hearts of his audience since his Days of Heaven.

To The Wonder stars Ben Affleck, who had touching words to say about his friend to USA Today. From the article published online earlier today:

“I did read it… I thought it was lovely. I went and visited Roger last summer and talked about Argo. I was in his home, and met his wife and saw how tough (conditions) were after his surgery. I was so moved by the cheerfulness that he had towards this, the sort of way that he bore that burden. I mean, for days after I left – he gave me a copy of his book and I read it, I just was so inspired by that. By a guy who was fighting something that was really debilitating, and was so gracious and warm and loved life.”

According to the Wikipedia page on him, Mr. Ebert was diagnosed with cancer as far back as 2002, but his dedication to his work continued. He would take some months or so off to recover from surgeries and other challenges to his health over the years, but would then return to his writing. He wrote of death in his journal entry on the 2nd of May 2009, entitled Go Gentle Into That Good Night. The first paragraph, and I was already blinking back tears so they didn’t have a chance to fall:

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

Here’s a great video of him being interviewed by a Mr. Allan Gregg, and uploaded onto YouTube by the Allan Gregg channel there.