How The Crow Inspired Dark City's Building-Bending Weirdness

One thing is certain about Alex Proyas: he knows how to build a unique world. Beginning with 1994's "The Crow," Proyas has directed a string of films with moody, stylistic mise en scène (the overall look and feel of a film) that is as unique as you will find anywhere in Hollywood. Although "The Crow" is often remembered for the on-set accident that killed Brandon Lee, the film also served as a testament to Proyas' talents as a visual storyteller.

"The Crow" launched more than Proyas' career. The film's lack of color and brooding narrative helped usher in a new era of goth in American pop culture. A decade later, Proyas would capture fears over our growing reliance on technology and artificial intelligence in "I, Robot" with a slick futuristic backdrop seemingly inspired by early 2000 Apple iMac commercials.

From comic books to the mind of Isaac Asimov, Proyas has drawn inspiration from all sorts of places. But when it came to creating the mind-bending world in his 1998 film "Dark City," Proyas didn't have to look far. In fact, he turned to one of his own films.

Proyas created a moveable city

"Dark City" is a dystopian film where an alien race studies the human soul using a contrived city and memory control. When one man becomes self-aware, he begins searching for his own identity and the meaning behind the strangers that control him. The film is a fascinating science-fiction noir, somewhat similar to "Memento" but where everyone suffers the memory-loss plight of Leonard Shelby. It also has the vibe of "The Matrix," where people live in a fabricated world.

But it is the shape-shifting world that sets "Dark City" apart from its successors. At the stroke of midnight, the strangers in the film reset everything. The architecture of the city is rearranged, and new memories are implanted in the inhabitants, allowing for further exploration of the human mind and soul. It also leads to some stunning scenes.

Not only did Proyas rely on one of his previous films for one of the main elements of "Dark City" but he also remembers the exact moment it came to him.

A small budget led to a big idea

According to Spliced Wire, Proyas got the idea for a moving city years earlier on the set of "The Crow." Because the film had a relatively small budget, the production team built one-third scale buildings on wheels and moved them around to make the background scenes different for each new location. It was what was happening in between the shoots that caught Proyas' attention. The director said:

"I remember standing there on the set and watching these buildings just move, because you couldn't see the guys moving them, so all you could see was just the building sliding across the set. And I just remember thinking that was really cool and I'd have to use that in some way. So I stuck it into this movie."

While "Dark City" isn't Proyas' most well-known film, it has become a cult classic and its legacy lives on. There could be a "Dark City" television series in the works. Last year when promoting a short film set in the world of "Dark City" Proyas announced he was working on a TV series. Will it happen? As of right now, fans remain in the dark as to the return of the breathtakingly bleak shape-shifting city.