Dark City

And that's 100 posts.

Whoo boy, haven't done a full-length review in a while. It's something sorta old—Dark City, from the far-off antediluvian year of 1998. I watched this thing on my neighbor's TV with my sister, while we were housesitting for them; I honestly remember I couldn't follow it at the time. Now I think it may well be my favorite movie of all time.

So, uh, bad things first.


And now for the good! Oh, no, wait, there's one bad thing: good luck finding the version of "Sway" used in this film. All the ones I've found? Male vocalist. No, I don't get it either. But that's it, that's the only flaw, and it's not actually a flaw with this picture.

Okay, for the good. First off, Kiefer Sutherland, playing triumphantly, magnificently, neither-a-vampire-nor-a-Hijikata-ToshizĂ´-wannabe against type. He's a frigging gimp forgodssake, and yet he still has enough screen presence to blow a room full of reality-warping monsters and Jennifer Connelly right out of the theater. It occurs to me, he's the mad scientist who is his own Igor, and yet he's kinda awesome.

Second off, Jennifer Connelly. The lady has a very wholesome, girl-next-door kinda vibe, and yet she's so hot "Planck energy" is the only phrase that does it justice. Like Bettie Page, come to think of it, that's why they cast her for the Rocketeer (the heroine in the Rocketeer comic was based on Bettie Page pinups). Also, she refuses to age. Look at her in "Dark Water" (2005) and then look at her in the Labyrinth (1986). She actually was 16 in Labyrinth, or even 15—and yet she really doesn't look much different at 35.

Third, the guy who plays John Murdoch—why isn't he in everything? He actually manages to sell "raging at a world gone mad", which is probably the hardest thing for any actor to make believable. He looks cool, too, which is a rarity in a male lead nowadays (it never was that common, actually).

John Hurt's detective is the best in anything ever, but the real breakout stars of the picture—pretending for the moment that anybody went to see it—are the Strangers, who are just about the coolest damn spooky alien freaks in anything, ever. I admit I ripped off their habit of ending their sentences with "yes?" for one of the races in my book; if you can think of a cooler way to ask after somebody than, "Mr. Murdoch, yes?" I'd dearly love to know what it is.

But over and above all the cool stylistic elements (the Machine, the nightclub songs, etc) are the themes. Apparently a lot of critics didn't like that, once John Murdoch has the power to Tune reality, he pretty much just uses it to get the girl. Know what? Those critics should go to the guillotine as enemies of mankind—literally of the people. I'm sorry, but what better triumph is there than to be handed the chance to be a Nietzsche or Lovecraft protagonist, and deliberately choose, instead, to be a Chesterton one?

Oh but it gets better. Apparently the writers thought they were basing it on the Allegory of the Cave. Cute, isn't it? This is why I think they were writing inspired, literally—because, though they set out to express one set of ideas, they actually expressed another. Rather than the Cave, that dead horse that has, by now, been beaten to stiff peaks, this movie is actually based on a later, better work of philosophy. Specifically, the "De Unitate Intellectus: Contra Averroistas" of Thomas Aquinas. Or maybe just a quick run-through of all of Thomism. The Strangers with their single mind...the persistence of identity in the face of changing traits—that's Aquinas' refutation of Siger of Brabant, and his elucidation of Transubstantiation, respectively. Even the ending—which the writers claim means that John is "disabused of any hope of an outside"—actually makes more sense if you view it as the assertion of Aristotelian mitigated realism against Platonic hyperrealism. The film is third-rate Platonism at best, but it's nearly perfect Scholasticism. Far too perfect to be an accident, and yet the writers don't appear to have realized how perfectly Thomist-Aristotelian a film they were making.

1 comment:

penny farthing said...

True true true. I had this same argument when we watched it one of my film classes. I was one of only a few people who had seen it, and even after we watched it, no one liked it. They also didn't like the fact that he uses his powers to get the girl. I did. I thought it was awesome. And, yeah, all the characters are so damn cool, especially Kiefer Sutherland.

And, yeah, that version of "Sway" is mind-blowing, and I'm a girl. It really is odd for a guy to sing that song, although there are a lot of songs that are clearly from a woman's POV performed, quite famously, but men.