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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In its own way, the film affirms the human spirit and individuality ("the soul"), compared to the super-powered but stagnant and dying alien race that holds people captive here.
Positive Role Models
Even though the hero is set up to think that he's a Ripper-like murderer, he really isn't, and even villainous-seeming characters are secretly working toward the liberation of humanity.
Violence & Scariness
Brief shots of bloody victims of knife-killings, with spiral designs cut into their flesh. Some of the zombie-like "strangers" get smashed/impaled, and one has the top of his head sheared off. Hypodermic needles plunged into foreheads.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Female nudity (topless and in profile) of a sex worker; bare-butt shot of the hero. Talk of an affair (which turns out not to have really happened).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking, background social drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is brief female nudity in a subplot about a helpful prostitute/single mother, though no sex results. She gets murdered for her troubles in helping out the hero, and there are several bloodied corpses plus fantasy violence in which zombie-like beings are decapitated or smashed. The nightmare imagery, recalling ghosts, vampires, and zombies (but with a sci-fi explanation) can be unnerving to sensitive viewers. A "director's cut" DVD lacks the opening narration that explains much of the complicated setup; some viewers might find this non-narrated version confusing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The way Dark City fuses science fiction with classic film-noir detective imagery and Kafka-esque fantasy-allegory is stylish and boldly visionary. It's definitely not your straightforward actioner of alien abduction. When outstanding computer-graphics effects show the Gotham-like city sprouting and growing out of the ground, it's not just f/x eye candy, it's key to the plot -- a concept rather similar to The Matrix ("reality" is a sham, manipulated by hostile forces) but wrapped up neatly, in one movie, not three, and without distracting kung-fu battles as a metaphor for the human spirit.
In fact, underneath its moody, cosmic-gothic ambiance, Dark City is unusually optimistic in suggesting that Earth people have something inherently precious, an inner grace that would baffle and defeat even creatures as super-powered as the strangers. One more unusual and praiseworthy touch: the script avoids swear words altogether. With a premise as far-out as this one, profanity would hardly have brought in "realism."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate