DARK CITY (vt Dark Empire, Dark World [working titles, 1997]). Alex Proyas, dir., story, script (one of three authors), prod. (one of two). USA: New Line Cinema, 1998. George Liddle and Patrick Tatopoulos, prod. design. Trevor Jones, music. Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien, Ian Richardson, and William Hurt, featured players.
The most noirish of film noir, with, finally, a sentimental twist and upbeat ending: the film ends in daylight, with the hero having conquered The Strangers and gained control of a controlling machine, and starting to woo the woman he loves, but who has forgotten him in this new reality (cf. THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, cited this section, and Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven [cited under Fiction]) — perhaps demonstrating that human identity lies in the metaphoric heart or literal soul, or, we will add, the body (though we doubt that last idea was intended). In the plot, humans have been somehow kidnapped and kept for experiment in a City (our capital "C") that turns out to be a sort of maze at the top of what Chuck Wagner describes as "a bizarre spaceship." (Kiefer Sutherland's psychiatrist character is seen early in the film running a rat in a large maze. [Cf. experiment in F. Polh's "The Tunnel Under the World," cited under Fiction.]) Wagner quotes the designer's comments that auteur Proyas "is fascinated by spirals . . . . and wanted a city that looked like a spiral—some sort of a maze. The city is not a real city, per se, but a fake world . . . . The Underworld of The Strangers in underneath, constantly controlling the city. It's a living organism, a living structure that controls the city, which is a fake set." At the heart of the Underworld is a clock that stops human time at 12 (midnight), "concealed," as Wagner notes, "behind a human face" (). The clock is associated with other machinery that allows The Strangers, and eventually the hero, to concentrtate telekinetic energy to reshape the City. Wagner's story is followed by a review by Steve Biodrowski in Cinefantastique 29.12 (April 1998): -35, 61. The City is related to the metropolises of METROPOLIS and BRAZIL, with other parallels to BATMAN (film 1989), THE MATRIX and post-modern film-noir cities generally. Note in addition to the controlling machines, underground transportation systems and the superimposition of the crudely mechanical upon Sutherland's psychiatrist, one of The Strangers, and the hero, with the last two held down for an injection into their brains that will alter them.