I just watched “Dark City” (dir. Alex Proyas, 1998) for the first time after hearing a lot about it and also reading an academic article written for a religious studies publication that mentioned it in passing when discussing Gnosis/Gnosticism and/in film.
(Aside: the nineties were such a good movie decade. )
“Dark City” fits in with “Matrix” – has an easy hopeful ending, though, and – thank goodness – does not need to be a trilogy. The whole “free your mind” and “we all live in a simulation” thing is getting a little old (to me, subjectively, anyway; maybe because I spent a good four years or so thinking about that kind of stuff professionally, more or less). Clearly, I’m saying this independently of chronology of first releases. I remember the blown-mind effect “Matrix” had on me when I first saw it at the cinema at sixteen. Holy crap. We might actually all be living in a simulation. Have you ever thought about that?! These days, my answer to that is: yes… yes… I have thought about it. A lot. And then I might follow that up with an annoying rant, listing all examples of popular/semi-popular culture, as well as some philosophical material treating the topic – pointing out, maybe in this patronising way in which some people mention their knowledge of such things, that Fassbinder sort of already kinda did “Matrix” when the Wachowski’s were toddlers.
So my mind wasn’t exactly blown by “Dark City”, but I thought it was just beautiful and I enjoyed watching it very much. But, then, I have been walking around Berlin enthusiastically pointing out art deco and art nouveau to whoever would listen: the city of “Dark City” is a very appealing visual mix of art deco, art nouveau, film noir, Raymond Chandler, Edward Hopper paintings, and these cheap steampunk mystery games.
In the end, the main character, Jack Murdoch, realises with the help of Dr Scherber (whose involvement stays a little unresolved), that he can manipulate the simulation. He decides to create a world in which people behave generally nice towards each other. For the first time, he creates light, but first he creates an ocean. Hm. Interesting. Go figure.