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39 Things We Learned from the ‘Dark City’ Commentary

Remember that movie that came out around the same time as ‘The Matrix’ and it was like ‘The Matrix’ only not really, because ‘The Matrix’ had cool guns and shit?
Dark City
By  · Published on January 12th, 2012

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Neil Miller thinks about The Matrix while listening to Alex Proyas’ commentary on the cult favorite, Dark City.

Remember that movie that came out around the same time as The Matrix and it was like The Matrix only not really, because The Matrix had cool guns and shit? Yeah. That movie was Dark City. Now you remember it. Granted, there are a lot of us who love Dark City, its story and ideas and the brilliant execution in how the city looks and feels. But, even those of us who love this movie didn’t see it the way director Alex Proyas intended it.

That’s why, for this week’s Commentary Commentary, we’re looking at the track Proyas laid down over his director’s cut of Dark City. Chances are there will be more talk about why the film was changed before it was released to theaters than anecdotes about shooting and the underlying subtext. This DVD includes two other commentary tracks, one from writers Lem Dobbs and David Goyer and one from film critic Roger Ebert. Yes, that one has always intrigued, and it will surely be featured in this column somewhere down the line. However, this week we’re listening to the director and all he had to say about this director’s cut of his film, Dark City. There are no machine guns, no Oracle, but it’s still damn c

Dark City (1998)

Commentators: Alex Proyas (director, writer, story by), test audiences, feedback, and added CGI. Also a very thick, Australian accent.

Best in Commentary

“I’ve never really understood the concept of infinity. I think it’s something that human beings find very hard to grasp, and I guess in my simplistic human mind I feel like there’s got to be a boundary to all this somehow. There’s got to be an end to it all.”

“For me Dark City is a film of hope and optimism. It has a firm belief in the individual winning out over the mass mind, and I think that’s a very important feeling to have in this world.”

Final Thoughts

The director’s cut commentary on Dark City is a solid one. Alex Proyas is very gifted in expressing his visions. Most of the commentary delves into the film’s theory as opposed to anecdotes about shooting. There’s very little of that here. ome of it does fall into play-by-play commentary but it usually comes with an added explanation of the subtext, what Proyas was going for with a particular scene.

A lot of his commentary is regarding a character’s mind-set and why they are doing what they’re doing, much better than typical, one dimensional commentary. Some of the subtext and character’s motivations are easy to sort out without the commentary, so some of it comes off as dispensable. He does go over three or four different times how the original concept was from the perspective of William Hurt’s character, but even in this reiteration Proyas finds a way to dish out new perspectives and ideas he was working with while writing the film.

The commentary begins with Proyas explaining the differences in the theatrical and director’s cut and the dealings he had to contend with regarding test audiences and feedback. This dissipates after a while. It would have been interesting to hear two commentaries from Proyas, one focusing on the film itself and the other focusing on the testing, the reactions, and the director’s cut. However, what we’re left with is every bit as solid as the film itself.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)