REVIEW: Dark City: The Director’s Cut

Posted: October 11, 2008 by Zee in Review, Uncategorized
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(I admit, I chose this flick for one very, very important reason:

I am f*cking obsessed with this movie.

This has been my favorite movie since it came out in 1998– let’s face it, something has to be daaaamn good for someone to have as her favorite movie for ten years straight. Be prepared for unrestrained gushing. This is my unabashed fangirl moment. -S)

For the uninitiated, Dark City was a sci-fi tour-de-force (as they say) that had three strikes against it:

1) It was marketed as a humanistic drama

2) It came out right after Titanic

3) and a few months before The Matrix

Dark City suffers from constant comparisons to The Matrix, in part due to the subject matter and also due to the unfortunate releasing schedule. As I recall, Dark City lasted only a couple of months in theaters. I, at 13, had no interest in seeing it, simply because my mother wanted to see it. WHY she wanted to, I have no idea. She doesn’t even remember it came out in the first place. So, I allowed my mother to drag me, kicking and screaming, to this movie where the major plot point was– as far as I knew– that everyone dressed like the 1940s. YAWN.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Now, I’m not going to go into too many specifics here, because the audience of Dark City seem to fall into two categories:

a) The ones berating me for not getting the director’s cut any sooner than I have, or

b) What’s Dark City?

It is for the latter that I am keeping it vague, and it is that audience that I am encouraging: watch the directors cut. It is much, much closer to how Alex Proyas, the director (if you recognize the name, he’s the Australian mastermind behind The Crow, and the owner of the worst combover-like-creation I have ever seen) originally scripted it. He actually began the process of scripting Dark City before he even thought about making The Crow, with the first draft created in 1992 (check out this script on Drew’s Script-O-Rama). It took the help of two screenwriters, Lem Dobbs and David Goyer, to make it “less weird”.

OK, I’m turning into behind-the-scenes fangirl here. Sorry. So, why should you get the Director’s Cut instead of the ‘normal’ version (aside from the fact that you’re all as nerdy as I am)?

Does 11 minutes of extra footage spark any interest?

In the grand scheme of things, 11 minutes ain’t much, but in movie-land, that means subplots galore! More character background! Bridges between scenes that otherwise made no sense! Things you read in the novelization but didn’t see in the movie and left you confused and disappointed!

Yes, there was a Dark City novelization, and I own two copies. Shuddit.

Small details count in a movie like this, where small details mean everything and make you understand what’s actually happening. But the most noticable difference between the Director’s Cut and the theatrical release?

No opening voiceover by Dr. Schreber.

Not to give anything away to the uninitiated, but the voiceover has been the thorn in the side of fans– and of the director AND the writers! Apparently (according to the commentaries and documentaries– did I mention there are extensive commentaries and documentaries? Because there are! Glorious ones!) the producers got nervous that audiences wouldn’t “get” what was going on, so they made Proyas add a Basil Exposition-type voiceover at the VERY FUCKING BEGINNING of the movie that essentially GAVE EVERYTHING AWAY.


Well, that’s gone now. The only thing I miss about it? When it was there, it actually made the movie from Dr. Schreber’s point of view.

And Vicki will tell you in detail (because she hates me) how very…very…very much I love Dr. Schreber.

(actual email

ME: …… it wrong to admit that if it was well designed, I’d totally get a Dr. Schreber tattoo?

VICKI: And as to your tattoo, you’d have to show it to me first. I’ve been to Thailand, i’ve seen these go badly…)

I am proud to say that a portrait I did of Dr. Schreber is on the first page of Google Images under the movie and his name. He is, in my opinion, the best antihero of modern film. If you (those who HAVE seen the movie) think about it, he actually IS the hero of the movie, someone who knew all the risks and the concequences of those risks but went through with them anyway.

I think it’s the kicked-puppy syndrome. Proyas’ commentary tells us that Schreber was intended to be older (Kiefer Sutherland told him he had wondered if the script had landed on the wrong Sutherland desk) but that after some rewrites it was decided the character– the only one who knows the truth about the city– would be more ‘tragic’ if he were younger and had “his whole life ahead of him”. I mean, how can you do anything but want to feed soup to someone who looks like:


Okay, bad example…how about, uh…

Ok, admittedly, he’s not a good-looking guy…but that’s what makes you want to feed him a nice bowl of soup. Maybe it’s just me, but I am a pathetic, slobbering sucker for the tortured types…and in Dr. Schreber’s case, ‘tortured’ is the right adjective to use. If nothing else, you’ll be shouting “STOP THROWING HIM ON HIS ASS!” by the end of the movie. Hell, I would cook him a bowl of soup at any point in the film. I have had an unnatural crush/obsession with this character for 10 freakin’ years, people, and the crush/obsession has shown NO signs of abating. I was writing fanfic about this dude when I was 13 and that is just not healthy. Were he real, he’d have a restraining order against me. As it is, once Kiefer Sutherland vanquishes the hoards of invading Christmas trees he’s selflessly devoted himself to battling for the good of mankind, he’ll put out a restraining order against me on behalf of Dr. Schreber.

(BTW, I don’t know what’s a more awesome public-intoxication incident than attacking a Christmas tree. Aside from the fact that he got arrested for DUI with Gary Oldman, my other unnaturally deep crush, in the early 90s.)

To wrap it up, because I realized I just spent most of this review blathering about one specific character and my own unhealthy fascination with him…please, for the love of God, watch this movie. It made absolutely no money when it was released so pretty much the only way anyone knows about it is through the glory of DVD. Watch the theatrical version if you must, but the Director’s Cut is, by far, the superior version.

Except for the cover. Those who know the movie…when, exactly, did Mr. Book take center stage? And when did he become so anorexic that he became a bobblehead– or more specifically, acquired Richard O’Brien’s body? And why did they decide to copy the cover of Invincible, of all movies?

The mind boggles…it’s as if my reality has been warped…my perception is off…it just does not make sense…

Maybe it’s the Strangers.

Those who don’t know, watch the movie.

Those who do, I’ll be making soup.


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