Revisiting Dark City

Editor’s Note: You probably know Alex Proyas as the director of films like The Crow, Dark City, Garage Days, I Robot and Knowing, but for the next couple weeks the filmmaker has agreed to become a guest blogger on /Film. Proyas will be blogging a couple times a week, talking about his inspirations, the state of sci-fi cinema, Dark City, and his upcoming film Knowing.

dark city

Peter asked if I wouldn’t mind re-visiting Dark City. It has been over 10 years since I completed the film, though the recent director’s cut was an interesting process to go through. It was fascinating going back and watching the old cuts of the film before they were “tweaked” to satisfy test audiences and studio pressure. I was surprised to see a much more confident and satisfying film before it was compromised.

Although we have made huge leaps and bounds in terms of technology and visual effects, I think the reason why this film seems to hold up today is because of its ideas. I think it resonates even more so today than it did all those years ago.

I really do believe that Dark City happened before it’s time, or at least before a wider audience was ready to accept it. Because it was so forward thinking, there were a bunch of compromises I had to make, theoretically making it more accessible to a wider audience. Like most directors, compromise is just not something that sits well in the belly. I never felt comfortable “dumbing it down” to reach a broader audience.

So when the opportunity came around to re-cut the film for a HD release on Blu Ray, I jumped at the chance. It was a real labor of love, being able to go through all the old reels and pick out some elements I believed should have been in there from the start.

One thing I never liked about the original version was the voice-over in the beginning. I felt it gave away too many of the plot twists. The studio, however, pushed for the voice-over, urging that the movie may be too confusing for some otherwise. Well, that quickly went out the window on the new cut.

There were many more additions – little things, lines of dialogue here, extending a moment there. All the changes almost invisible, but resulting in a much better film I believe – a film which is far truer to my original vision.

Now there are people discovering the movie for the first time and watching the CORRECT version – so that’s a feeling of great satisfaction. Though there are some loyalists out there who are so familiar with the theatrical version they prefer it and I respect that. Though whatever you hear about the original theatrical version, please do yourselves a favor – if you have never seen the movie before please watch the Director’s Cut first.

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