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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Dark Empire' or 'Dark World')


directed by Alex Proyas
Australia / USA 19


"Dark City'' by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like ``Metropolis'' and ``2001: A Space Odyssey.'' If it is true, as the German director Werner Herzog believes, that we live in an age starved of new images, then ``Dark City'' is a film to nourish us. Not a story so much as an experience, it is a triumph of art direction, set design, cinematography, special effects--and imagination.

Like ``Blade Runner,'' it imagines a city of the future. But while ``
Blade Runner'' extended existing trends, ``Dark City'' leaps into the unknown. Its vast noir metropolis seems to exist in an alternate time line, with elements of our present and past combined with visions from a futuristic comic book. Like the first ``Batman,'' it presents a city of night and shadows, but it goes far beyond ``Batman'' in a richness of ominous, stylized sets, streets, skylines and cityscapes. For once a movie city equals any we could picture in our minds; this is the city ``The Fifth Element'' teased us with, without coming through.

The story combines science fiction with film noir--in more ways than we realize and more surprising ways than I will reveal. Its villains, in their homburgs and flapping overcoats, look like a nightmare inspired by the thugs in ``M,'' but their pale faces would look more at home in ``The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari''--and, frighteningly, one of them is a child. They are the Strangers, shape-changers from another solar system, and we are told they came to Earth when their own world was dying. (They create, in the process, the first space vessel since ``Star Wars'' that is newly conceived--not a clone of that looming mechanical vision.) They inhabit a city of rumbling elevated streamlined trains, dank flophouses, scurrying crowds and store windows that owe something to Edward Hopper's ``Nighthawks.''

Excerpt from Roger Ebert's review at The Chicago Sun Times located HERE




Theatrical Release: February 27th, 1998

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New Line Home Video (original) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT)

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New Line Home Video

Region 1 - NTSC

New Line Home Video - Region 'A' Blu-ray
Runtime 1:40:15 1:40:18 and 1:51:43 (Director's Cut)

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.10 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Video codec: VC-1, Dual-layered
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Audio English 5.1 Dolby Digital / French 2.0 Matrixed Surround / Isolated Music Score in 2.0 Stereo

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 

Subtitles English, French, none English SDH, Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: New Line Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
Screen-specific audio commentary with director Alex Proyas, writers Lem Dobbs and David Goyer and director of photgraphy Patrick Tatopoulos
• Screen-specific audio commentary with Roger Ebert
• Static comparisons to Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," including the original H.G. Wells review / "Find Shell Beach" interactive game / Photo gallery / Set designs / Production Notes / Cast & Crew Biographies

DVD Release Date:
July 29th, 1998
Snapper Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: New Line Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 2.35:1

1080P Dual-layered, VC-1 encode

Edition Details:
• Introduction by Alex Proyas (5:00)

• Featurette: Memories of Shell Beach (Making of...) (43:25)

• Featurette: Architecture of Dreams (33:49)

• Neil Gaiman Review of Dark City

• Director's Cut Fact Track

• Theatrical trailer

• Screen-specific audio commentaries with director Alex Proyas, writers Lem Dobbs and David Goyer and director of photography Patrick Tatopoulos
• Screen-specific audio commentary with Roger Ebert

2nd disc - Digital copy of the film

DVD Release Date: July 29th, 2008
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 34




NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

To get some specifics out of the way first - on the Blu-ray the Director's Cut takes up 21.3 Gig of space and lasts - 1:51:43 - 11 minutes+ longer than the theatrical which takes up 19.4 Gig of space on the Blu-ray. Quality appears to be of the same consistently strong transfer as the DC. Contrary to what others have published about the last SD edition (original from 1998 - widescreen and anamorphic) is that it is single-layered and has a full-frame (pan-and-scan) version on the opposite side of the disc. Unfortunately this appears to be region-coded for Zone 'A' only.

I find it interesting to see how far home theater software presentations have come in a decade (actually exactly a decade since the SD came out) but another big benefit to this new package is the inclusion of this Director's Cut which has some obvious changes (no voice-over narration in the beginning etc.) and many more subtle alterations (two, of which, indicated in the screen captures below).

The image quality differences show mostly in detail and colors which prove superior in the Blu-ray - it also show a tad more information in the frame. The resized captures don't tell the whole story but you may click the Blu-ray to full-resolution to get a better indication of how improved the detail actually is. The color improvements are a bit more obvious by looking at the caps below which showcase truer skin tones, and more vibrancy in such areas as Jennifer Connelly's lipstick, Melissa George's blonde hair etc. Typical (now for New Line) the waxiness of DNR surfaces to varying degrees - most prominently noticed in the last comparison capture (sky backgrounds). Certain scenes, like in the diner, have a heavy green bias in the Blu-ray. Viewers with higher-end systems may also note how limited the digital noise in the Blu-ray - this is DNR folks and some will be more sensitive to it than others. It softens and removes textured grain. The old single-layered SD was fraught with these artifacts as there are so many dark, low lit, scenes in the film. But to be fair, for its time the SD was quite good - setting a pretty competent standard in the medium - which wasn't dramatically bettered for a couple of years. More to its credit, and the film itself, is that it looked as visually arresting as it did being only single-layered. But it is 10 years later...

Audio-wise the new edition has (only) a resounding DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which has some very strong moments. It effectively trounces the old 5.1 from the SD with some intense activity from the mains and many subtle moments cascading to the rears.

In terms of supplements the original snapper cased release from 1998 was quite the desirous product with two screen specific commentaries (one from prominent critic Ebert who championed the film). It also had some, mostly text based or static screen, bios and the Metropolis comparison etc. . The Blu-ray includes  those same, now rather dated, scene-specific commentaries but adds quite a bit more. The paramount value of Blu-ray is the relatively huge amount of disc space (50 Gig) on a dual-layered disc. In this case it allows inclusion of the original theatrical cut (as found on the SD) as well as this new Director's version which Proyas claims 'allows a truer representation of his vision'. For the still-growing legion of fans of Dark City this is quite a coup. So with over 40 Gig gone for the two editions of the film - there is still enough for some new stuff - a 5 minute introduction (Proyas and Ebert separately) and some decent featurettes; Memories of Shell Beach runs almost 45 minutes and is, more or less, a 'Making of...' with input from many involved in the production from the director himself to the screenwriters and a couple of the actors as well. I got a bit more out of Dark City by watching it and honestly my appreciation notched-up a shade too. Architecture of Dreams runs over a half hour and deals more with the visual properties of creation of the sets for Dark City. One can see the detail and time spent for this part of the film and it is quite impressive. The Blu-ray-unique feature that will differ from the DC SD release is the 'Director's Cut Fact Track' which can run concurrently to DC edition of the film highlighting some of the differences etc. - for those that are keen.

The second disc holds the digital copy of the feature film able to download to your favorite portable player (NOTE: watching this, or any, films via cell-phone or other tiny-screened device is not endorsed by this website - let's all put our heads on straight).    

Personally, I enjoyed the Director's Cut much more than I did the theatrical - although, admittedly, that full viewing was years ago. I only verified that the Blu-ray theatrical was of the same quality as the DC - I didn't re-watch the entire film. Could it have been seeing it in such a stellar 1080P transfer? - quite possibly. Comparisons to Blade Runner are apt and fans of that classic may well feel a kinship to Proya's filmic vision in Dark City. I can see though that this is cinema that will not suit all tastes and despite the director's dismissal of critics that state that it is 'style over substance' - many may feel that description is apt. But I was very happy to have given this another chance - especially considering the newer altered version. Fans of the film will be rejoicing that this Blu-ray package offers so much despite the occasionally visible DNR with its flickering and smearing. It looks and sounds vastly superior, has a totally new version of the film, and offers abundantly more supplemental information. It's really hard not to give it a thumbs up all around - although those sensitive to the DNR factor will probably be extremely dissatisfied!     

 -Gary Tooze


DVD Menus / Extras
New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT)





Screen Captures

(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


NOTE: There are a few scenes which are altered/slightly different in the Director's Cut version!  Example:



(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM).



(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)



(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)



(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. New Line Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)



More Blu-ray Captures








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