I've always felt that it's far, far easier to make a compelling mystery in film than it is to make up an answer for said mystery. Dark City is a perfect example of this. Now, for clarification, I watched the Director's Cut of this, so my opinions may be a little different than yours due to that. But anyway. This movie has probably one of the most awesome openings ever. A camera swoops through a light-lacking city and eventually zooms into a hotel room, where the protagonist (Rufus Sewell) is sitting in a bathtub full of murky water. He has no idea who he is, or how he got there. Fortunately for him, there's some nice clothes all laid out for him on a chair. After putting these clothes on, he gets a call from a jittery doctor (Kiefer Sutherland) who explains that bad dudes are coming for our main man, and he needs to get out of the hotel fast. Oh, there's a dead hooker in the hotel room, too. I forgot to mention that. Yeah. She's totally dead, with crazy patterns cut into her flesh. That's probably something to worry about. Anyway, our hero (who eventually finds out his name *might* be John Murdock) escapes and starts to unravel a giant mystery behind a city that completely rearranges itself every night.
Confused? That's the point. I love a movie that sets up a great mystery; one that seems far too large for the protagonist, let alone the viewer, to make heads or tails of. When this is done competently (such as in this movie), it's one of the best ways to open a movie in my opinion. Of course, most movies that have a mystery at their core intend to solve the puzzle by the end of the movie. That's where Dark City falters. It's sad, really. Dark City has a lot going for it. It has a great sense of atmosphere, and is almost oppressively creepy at times. Just watch any scene where John is being chased by The Strangers, who are the primary antagonists of the film. A sort of mix between vampires (aversion to sunlight, pale skin, creepy voices) and evil psychics who can bend reality with their minds, The Strangers really steal the show. It's a shame, then, that their powers bring about another one of the movie's faults. You see, the telepathy in the film is signified by really bad CG "ripples" coming out of dudes' heads. This looks super cheap, especially in the climax of the film, which basically involves people grunting, making laughably bad faces, and hitting each other with BRAIN BLASTS. Speaking of the ending, it contains the largest fault of the movie; the one I've been building up to. I feel that it's almost impossible to make this awesome of a mystery and not have the answer to it be a huge letdown. So when the origin of The Strangers is revealed, the mystery behind the city is peeled back, and John's history is explained, the movie just kind of... falls flat. I guess I was building myself up for something way too awesome that couldn't have ever happened. I don't know what conclusion I wanted, but it probably would have been better than the one that director Alex Proyas went with. I won't give anything away, though, because I want you to experience the mystery of this movie for yourself. It's a great 2/3s of a movie. I just wished that the last third met the lofty expectations set up by the first parts.