Alex Proyas may still be licking his wounds after his latest effort, the big-budget fantasy epic “Gods of Egypt,” flopped hard with critics and audiences alike (he has subsequently gone on record as comparing film critics to “diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass,” but that’s another story). “Gods of Egypt” will eventually be forgotten, and while the jury is out as to whether or not Proyas still has a great film left in him, there was a time back in the mid-to-late 1990s when he was a director whose work was singular. Proyas is probably best known for his brooding rock n’ roll revenge yarn “The Crow,” but I would argue that his 1998 neoi-noir “Dark City” is actually a better film: weirder, but more assured in its execution, and impressive in its conjuring of a hellish nightmare world.
“Dark City” came out a year before the philosophically loaded cyberpunk thriller “The Matrix,” the directorial breakthrough of the Wachowskis that went on to become a massive smash it, inspiring a veritable slew of imitators and two inferior sequels. There’s undeniably a bit of a creative intersection that exists between “The Matrix” and “Dark City,” what with all the flowing black costumes, allegorical allusions, and poker-faced seriousness, and with this new video essay from Cinefix, we’ll take a look at those parallels.
These films might seem dated to some now, but it’s important to remember that the ’90s were a fruitful time for sleek, studio-backed sci-fi flicks (the video cites Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” and David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” as other noteworthy examples), and “Dark City” and “The Matrix” are very much a part of this genre. Granted, “The Matrix” is a bigger, louder movie — it’s undeniably a blockbuster — while “Dark City” is suffused with a quieter dread that is nevertheless unnerving. Still, the video is very much worth a look, especially if you’re into these sorts of films. Check it out below.