Dark City from 1998 flopped at the box office only to be revived later as a beloved cult classic. The film was produced on a budget of $27 million and made back a fraction more than that in its total worldwide release.
Writer and director Alex Proyas – who also directed ‘The Crow’ and ‘I, Robot’ – gives us a visually-stunning film set in a noir-heavy landscape coupled with elements of mystery, death, strange beings, and a constant dreamlike feeling of a nightmare.
The film casts Rufus Sewell as an amnesiac who wakes up one night to discover that his city is (quite literally) under the manipulation of a band of mysteriously pale men in jet-black trench coats and fedoras. Along for the ride is Kiefer Sutherland as a crazed scientist and Jennifer Connelly as our femme fatale, our hero’s estranged wife while he unravels a murder in the film noir style.
While the visual effects now appear dated following nearly two decades of post-Matrix CG, Dark City plays like an homage to classic science fiction and film noir while itself coming to influence 21st-century cult classics.
Much of the film’s visual style was inspired by Henry Bumstead, an art director on classic films set in the ’40s and ’50s including The Sting and Vertigo. While the sets take inspiration from early 20th-century architecture: Gothic, dirty, and lonely. ‘Dark City’ is a unique sci-fi film and an overall delight. With a satisfying conclusion and a superb cast.
The opening scene, as seen above, raises questions about the world and its characters that it introduces, with the design on display, it makes an absolute stamp on you from the start.