What do you get when you combine SimCity and "The X-Files"? Probably something a lot like Alex Proyas' Dark City, a sci-fi thriller in which aliens from outer space are once again messing with our minds. This time, they're stripping us of our memories and then using those memories to construct a kind of conceptual cityscape. While everybody's asleep, new buildings shoot out of the ground and scrape the sky, as if the world were contained on a CD-Rom. If you ask me, the new buildings are a lot like the old buildings--evil-looking stalagmites out of Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Tim Burton's Batman. The sun never shines in Dark City. In fact, it may not even exist.... Rufus Sewell plays the one man who's able to resist the aliens' powers. Like them, he's telekinetic. But he may or may not have murdered six prostitutes, and he may or may not be married to Jennifer Connelly. Either way, the cops are after him, and so are the aliens, a.k.a. "The Strangers"--pale, bald men in black who, depending on how seriously you take the movie, resemble either Nosferatu or Uncle Fester. Assisted by Kiefer Sutherland, who's doing an emphysemic Peter Lorre impersonation, the Strangers are trying to figure out what makes us humans tick. (Think souls.)
Proyas, who directed music videos and Nike commercials before escorting Brandon Lee to his maker in The Crow, is into nihilist chic, but he's so into it that you start to enjoy being lost in his dank, dark alleyways. Weak on plot and character, and with a telekinetic showdown that makes Carrie look like a piker, Dark City barely works as a movie, but it works as something--a bad dream, perhaps. Or a computer game that's gone horribly awry.