What is the appropriate reaction to have when a movie you love, adore, and cherish is somehow ... improved? I know, it's a strange feeling. I happen to think my all-time favorite film (A L I E N) is much better in its theatrical version than in its extended -- but where Aliens is concerned, I much prefer the longer version! It's something you have to approach on a case-by-case basis, of course, and it's the sort of movie-nerd activity that should be attempted only by those with a lot of free time -- or someone who gets paid to write about this sort of stuff. (Fortunately I am both.)
So it was with MUCH enthusiasm that I sat down with the brand-new Director's Cut of Dark City, a film that I absolutely love a whole lot -- and I know I'm not nearly alone when I say that. Like many of the finest sci-fi films, Dark City was pretty much overlooked for a good long while -- put once it hit DVD and heavy rotation on the cable channels, the sci-fi freaks found a film worth watching and re-watching, to say nothing of analyzing, deconstructing, and debating. And so I happily continue that trend by explaining what the fans will find in New Line's very impressive new Dark City package... First off, the cover is much cooler. Just adds a little extra value if you ask me. (Oh, and I picked the DVD up at a very common retailer for about $15, so it's a deal either way.) If you're itching for a blow-by-blow description on every single change that was made to the film, I'm sorry but I can't help you there. I spotted most of the "new stuff," but guess what? Roger Ebert is on board to help you out! Yes, the king of all critics (and avid supporter of Dark City) has recorded NEW commentary material just to help you keep up to speed on the new material. (OK, I'll answer the most obvious question: YES! The very lame opening narration has been removed! First Blade Runner, now this! Yes! Let's hear it for smart people and science fiction!
The Director's Cut is approximately ten minutes longer than Dark City's previous incarnation, although many of the changes are small, subtle, and very slick indeed. Best of all, we get a little more time with the character of Emma, and since Emma is played by Ms. Jennifer Connelly ... well, obviously that's a good thing. If you want a few clues on where to pay extra attention, here's a few: Watch Murdoch when he gets out of the tub, poke around the prostitute's apartment a little more, keep your eyes on our hero's fingertips, and listen carefully when Emma sings. Oh, and a lot of the "sleeping & tuning" material has been tweaked, shuffled, and switched around. And get this: Proyas' changes actually make the film better. Better than Dark City (1998), I mean! Impressive stuff.
In the extras department, we're in for some real treats. We have three audio commentaries -- one with director Alex Proyas, one with screenwriters Lem Dobbs and David Goyer, and a third with Dark City cheerleader Roger Ebert -- and a pair of featurettes: The 42-minute Memories of Shell Beach and the 32-minute Architecture of Dreams, both of which appeared on the original Dark City DVD. Definitely some fantastic supplemental viewing for Dark City fans both new and seasoned, but yeah -- they're from the original DVD.
That's what you'll get on the standard DVD Director's Cut. If you go for the Blu-Ray version, you'll also receive the original theatrical cut (which also comes with a pair of old commentaries and a "director's fact track"), and a few extra bells and whistles. Both versions also include a new introduction to the film from Proyas, Ebert, and other cast & crew members.
Best of all, the movie's (almost) a new experience, what with the great new footage and an audio-visual display that really captures the consistently (wonderfully) schizophrenic moods of the film. This is not a case of someone slapping a bunch of deleted footage back into a completed film just to snag a few extra bucks from the movie fans. This is a very special release that will absolutely delight the thousands who've discovered Dark City over the past several years. I won't be tossing my old Dark City DVD into the trash -- but I sure don't think I'll be needing it anymore.