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IN SHORT: Gorgeous SF.
At twelve o'clock, it may be noon or midnight, no one knows, the World gets Tuned. Everyone sleeps. Changes are made to the structures of everything. Pale men in black coats and fedoras with telekinetic powers float through the city. Bodies are moved. Clothing and identities are changed. Underground machines create or destroy buildings were there were none. The Strangers disappear underground and the clocks start ticking once again. Life goes on.
No human is aware of, or has any memory of, the manipulation. Except John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell). Murdoch is the one man who has developed powers identical to that of the Strangers and, with the help of the only man who knows what is really going on, is the sole hope for mankind.
This is the world of Dark City, a metropolis where there is no sun. There is no blue sky, save at the tourist trap called "Shell Beach" where everyone has been and no one remembers how to get to. The beach is, therefore, the key to the mystery confronting Murdoch, which can best be summed up as "What the hell is going on?"
Director Alex Proyas' followup to The Crow is awash in 1950s atmosphere. The mystery is just enough to make any boy happy, and it is driven along by tons of well integrated and subtle special effects. Unlike The Crow, Dark City is not based on a comic. It is, however, a great comic book on screen.
As Murdoch pieces together his past, we meet the Doctor (Kiefer Sutherland) who limps and grovels in front of the men in black, and carries a hidden agenda. We meet the gorgeous jazz singer (Jennifer Connelly) who may or may not be Murdoch's wife and the emotionless cop (William Hurt) hunting Murdoch the Murderer. There are huge, clanking machines and babbling crazymen who have come unhinged 'cuz they didn't sleep during the "tunings".
It's a good mystery laid low by one small failing. In this case, it's the difference between a great story and a very good one. In the great story, the main character uncovers and usually solves the mystery. You get to figure it out with him. In this very good one, the farther along Murdoch gets in the quest, the more he is *told* by the one man who knows. That doesn't get your brain working. The visual effects keep you distracted (and what a pleasant distraction they are) just enough so that you don't attempt to pick the story to pieces.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dark City, he would have paid . . .
The younger you are, the higher the rating. "Dark City" is really good stuff. Cranky liked it, but wasn't enthralled. The solution to the mystery is planted far too early and once you've got it, only the atmosphere carries you along.
Then again, that's far better than 90% of the junk onscreen now.
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