Holy shit, that’s a lot of rain! If you reside in Trinidad and Tobago (i.e. my homeland), then you must be aware of the HEAVY rainfall that has devastated crops, disrupted traffic, left commuters stranded due to flash flooding and so forth during the past few days. The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Office says that this constant rain is normal around this time of the year, and it doesn’t mean that the rainy season (i.e. my homeland’s version of winter) has started just yet. Even though the rainy season is two months away (give or take), you can anticipate to spend some days during that season – or before – sick from the flu, or sleeping in your bed, or complaining for hours about how shitty the connection speed is simply because everyone within a 10-mile radius is at home and online as well, or staring outside, pissed off at Mother Fucking Nature for allowing the rain to fall on the one day you planned to go out. But if you’re like me, and you want to escape the rain-drenched, chilly atmosphere of the world around you for at least a couple hours, then it couldn’t hurt to enjoy what I call a “rainy day movie”.
So what is a rainy day movie, you ask? For one thing, it’s not a term that I invented. I’m sure that some other person in some other part of the world where rain falls on a regular basis uses that term as well. But for me, a rainy day movie is, simply put, a movie that you can watch while the rain is falling. Unlike the “popcorn movie” which is a film (usually action or comedy) that’s far from intellectual, a shitload of fun to look at, and best enjoyed while chomping down kernels of butter-laden, salt-laced, sodium-increasing, cholesterol-raising popcorn, a “rainy day movie” can technically be within any genre from any decade – as long as it keeps you enthralled even though it’s cold inside and rainy outside. In my personal opinion, a “rainy day movie” is all about mood. It can either put you in a mood where you’re so emotionally invested in the film (whether it’s romance or adventure or comedy or tragicomedy) that you could hardly care less if it’s still raining or not, or in a mood where the cold atmosphere enhances your movie-viewing experience, thus mentally immersing yourself into the world of the film, making you feel as “cold” and “moody” as the world, and its inhabitants, presented onscreen.
Today’s post is the first (and hopefully not the last) in a new segment called “Rainy Day Movies” – the idea of which, admittedly, I came up with yesterday morning while I was stuck at home thanks to the rain. In this segment, I’ll write about a film that you’re guaranteed to enjoy during wet, windy (sometimes), and worrisome (also sometimes) weather. Obviously, you don’t have to watch the film ONLY when it’s rainy outside, but if Mother Fucking Nature ruined your plans for the day, you can do no better than curl up on the couch or lay on the bed and be entertained with a movie or two – or even three.
Keep in mind that this write-up is pretty much a spur-of-the-moment affair. So if by the time you read this review, the sun is out and it’s blazing hot, please don’t consider this post to be meaningless. With that being said…..
From Alex Proyas, the director of the still-AWESOME 1994 comic-book adapted action fantasy “The Crow” (well-known for the ill-fated death of its lead actor, Brandon Lee), the 2004 sci-fi action flick, “I, Robot” (with a moody performance by Will Smith and a pain-in-the-ass performance by Shia “BUMBLEBEE!! BUMBLEBEE!! NOOOOOOO!” LaBeouf) and the dark and depressing-as-fuck 2009 sci-fi disaster film “Knowing” (starring everyone’s favourite Best Actor Oscar winner Nicolas “NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES!! AAAAAAAHHH!!” Cage), comes his neo-noir, sci-fi film “Dark City”. It stars Rufus Sewell (who people may remember, provided they gave a shit about the damn movie, as the evil vampire Adam in last year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), the always-attractive Jennifer Connelly (star of “A Beautiful Mind”, “House of Sand and Fog” and “Blood Diamond”), William Hurt (star of “Syriana”, “Into the Wild” and “The Incredible Hulk”) and TV’s “24”‘s very own Jack Bauer himself, Keifer Sutherland.
Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch, a guy who wakes up one night in a hotel bathtub with no recollection of how he ended up there in the first place. While trying to figure out what happened, and what his real name is, John gets a call from Jack Bauer…oops, I mean, Dr. Daniel Schreber. He warns John to leave the hotel from a group of men on their way inside. Before leaving, he finds the corpse of a mutilated woman and a bloody knife nearby. This sets in motion the possibility posed in the film that John may or may not be the killer. Anyhoo, the men after John belong to a mysterious group of male (or androgynous though it’s hard to tell due to their pale-white faces and bald heads) extraterrestrials called “the Strangers”. They have names like Mr. Clean, Mr. Book, Mr. Sleep etc. Mr. Hand (Richard O’Brien) is ordered by Mr. Wall (Bruce Spence), the leader of the Strangers, to capture John. It’s revealed early in the film that John was part of an experiment led by the Strangers, which went wrong resulting in the erasing of his memory. Also looking for Mr. Murdoch are his wife Emma (Connelly), a nightclub singer whom John was unaware he was married to initially, and a police inspector named Frank Bumstead (Hurt) who has reason to believe that John is behind a string of murders similar to that of the dead woman at the hotel. Meanwhile, John begins to realize that something is incredibly wrong with the city around him. It’s always night time (with no instance of daylight), the citizens instantly fall asleep at exactly midnight and then they reawaken with no memory of the day (or in this case, night) before. He then discovers that like the Strangers, he has psychokinetic powers (allowing him to move matter with his mind, and create matter out of his own thoughts) which he uses to evade them. Will John learn his true identity, and the truth behind the city, or will he be forever shrouded in darkness?
“Dark City” came out one year before the Wachowskis’ (then brothers) groundbreaking sci-fi, kung-fu, philosophical, cyberpunk, action hybrid “The Matrix” in 1999. And while the latter remains an influential film of the late 1990s, “Dark City” is usually little-known and underappreciated. Which is a shame since this movie is fucking BRILLIANT! It is SO brilliant that the late, great film critic Roger Ebert rated it as the “best film of 1998” (and on a side note, Ebert has his own audio commentary on the DVD for the Director’s Cut of “Dark City” which you should definitely BUY). And that was a year that gave us “Saving Private Ryan”, “Shakespeare in Love” and “Life is Beautiful” ….. so yeah, THAT’S saying something! As I mentioned above, the film is part neo-noir and part sci-fi. The concept of the seemingly-innocent man accused of a murder which is part of a much bigger scheme is a familiar staple of noir films. But in “Dark City”, this concept is only part of a much bigger story. “Dark City” deals primarily with memory and being defined by our memories. Questions are explored: are our memories really our own, or are they someone else’s? If you committed a murder, and the memory of that murder was suddenly erased, are you still capable of murder? But to the Strangers, the real question is: do memories make us truly human? Like “The Matrix”, “Dark City” also deals with the perception of reality; Is reality really reality, or is just a figment of our imagination – or in this case, memory?
And it’s funny that I would compare “Dark City” to “The Matrix”, since in actuality, they do share some similarities, most of which are coincidental. OR ARE THEY?! Hmmmmmm. For example, the Strangers are just as devoid of humanity as the Agents from “The Matrix”. On the subject of bad guys, Mr. Hand (played menacingly by Richard O’Brien) is similar to Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The scene where Dr. Daniel contacts John for the first time echoes the office scene in “The Matrix” where Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) contacts Neo (Keanu Reeves), also for the first time. John’s awareness of the false reality surrounding him, and his new-found abilities to bend that reality, resembles Neo’s path to becoming “The One”. But while “The Matrix” looks to Eastern philosophy, Japanese anime and Chinese heroic bloodshed films for inspiration, “Dark City” seeks its own from noir films of the 1940s and 1950s and German expressionist films like Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (which hugely influenced the themes and visuals of the film) and “Nosferatu” (evident in the make-up and costume design of the Strangers). And while “Dark City” is not as glossy, explosive and big-budget as “The Matrix” (even though its budget was around $30 to $40 million), it benefits from its dark, moody atmosphere, superb cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, solid acting from the entire cast, a powerful musical score by Trevor Jones and a well-written, well-crafted story by Lem Dobbs, David S. Goyer (who helped write the scripts for the Dark Knight Trilogy and the upcoming “Man of Steel”) and Alex Proyas himself.
This film has it all: bad-ass action sequences, heart-pounding suspense, creepy bad guys, ingenious special effects, memorable visuals and even a heartwarming love story. It immerses you into its world and keeps you there until the end credits start showing up on-screen. It’s one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen, and it remains one of my personal favourite movies. Long story short, you shouldn’t have to wait until the rainy season shows up to your doorstep to check out “Dark City”. See this shit as soon as you can! You can even choose between the theatrical and director’s cuts, as either one is DEFINITELY worth your time and your butter-laden, salt-laced, sodium-increasing, cholesterol-raising popcorn. Recommended viewing on a rainy day by yours truly.
MY RATING: 4 1/2 stars of out 5 (“Definitely see this movie”)