Big Joe’s Blu-Ray Buys #2: Dark City (Director’s Cut) Blu-Ray (2008)

Joe Viturbo here once again,

What is “Big Joe’s Blu-Ray Buys” Quite simply, I finally got a Blu-Ray player. Now, I find myself faced with he decision of which movie to buy for it. In it’s initial advertisements, Blu-Ray was promoted as being top of the line, full of extras and the WAVE OF THE FUTURE. How does it hold-up?  I put a lot of thought into my DVD purchases. My DVD’s represent me. My Blu-Rays have to fulfill the same role. I’m looking for movies that:
1. Benefit from the added detail and quality of High Definition – this will skew the picks towards visuals and actions but c’est la vie
2. I will watch multiple times and enjoy
3. I don’t already own – this guideline is somewhat flexible but I’m going to stick to it for now.

So, onto The Movie:

"I have a mouth, and I must SCREAM" or "Christ symbolism anyone?"

By way of contrast to (*deep breath*) James Cameron’s Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray, the Dark City (Director’s Cut) Blu-Ray is almost all commentary tracks. But more about that later. Dark City represents an impressive accomplishment made possible by several people with disparate visions working together to make something stunning, groundbreaking, and spectacular: tt’s a thinking man’s action movie. Dark City, particularly the Director’s Cut manages to keep the audience surprised and fixated on the movie from beginning to end. As a bit of a disclaimer, the Blu-Ray was released in 2008 but the movie was released in 1998

What’s going on:

The atypical protagonist, a Mr. John Murdoch, awakes in a bathtub in a hotel room. He leaves quickly after finding the body of a dead and mutilated woman in the bedroom. Unable to remember who he is or how he got there, he embarks upon a quest for answers. He soon learns that not only are the police after him, but there are also members of a shadow society that want to apprehend him as well. Things are not what they seem in Dark City.

Most of the acting here is top-notch and Richard O’Brien is at his creepiest.  You’re sure be surprised by Kiefer Sutherland, hamming it up in another of the roles typical of his post teenage/pre-24 years.  William Hurt and Jennifer Connelly are here too but while Hurt’s portrayal is quiet and nuanced Connelly is just good set dressing.  Alex Proyas made “The Crow” before this and wen on to make “I, Robot” and “Knowing” after this but those movies lack a certain restrained and calculated approach as seen in “Dark City”. It’s certainly his best film so far.

Let’s talk commentary tracks. There’s one by the Director Alex Proyas, one by the writers, David S. Goyer and Lem Dobbs, and (my favorite) a commentary track by Roger Ebert. The director of photography Dariusz Wolski, and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos even find a way to get in on the commentary action. I enjoy this movie and it’s surprising array of practical and visual effects. The two meld together seamlessly, influencing and feeding upon one another. The set design and overall look of the film is unique, alternating easily from retro to futuristic and back again. The editing and cinematography is equally impressive.

Just in case you’re on the fence:

My Favorite Feature: If you can’t tell by now, it’s all of the commentary racks, particularly Roger Ebert’s. Now that he can no longer speak with his own voice it is something to be cherished. Also, he constantly brings the film around to references to other, classic cinema.

Most Worthless Feature: This Blu-Ray includes the Theatrical Cut of this film and it is spectacularly spoilerific. If you want the movie to retain some of it’s mystery, I suggest that you skip it and go straight to the Director’s Cut. The only reason to watch it is that one of the commentary tracks is exclusive to the Theatrical Version.  Again, though, this is probably one of the worst commentary tracks made available for the film because, while it does have some new insights, it’s also a frankenstein track, composed of clips from the other commentary tracks included with the Director’s Cut of the film.

I bought this one at Wal-Mart for $10.00 and I feel that it was worth every one of those copper-colored, zinc-fortified pennies.


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