All sorts of it. One of the biggest questions, of course: would John "linking" with the Strangers have saved them? And if John is more than the sum of his memories then why, when given the power to do whatever he wants, does he build a life almost identical to the false memories the Strangers gave him in the first place?
One is that John Murdock is as good as any other name and it's one he will respond to. Second is that everyone remembers Shell Beach and he could really go for a vacation after all that.
I got this with the ending of Dark City, years after I first watched it. The ending at first appears to be a fairly unremarkable happy conclusion; the protagonist wins a telekinetic duel with the apparent leader of the Strangers, blows up their hideout, and finally brings light to the city. He then informs one of the last dying Strangers that memories aren't what makes us human, and their experiment was flawed to begin with. Yay humanity. But then something interesting happens: the protagonist, who has complete control over the city, and the power to be anybody and have anything he wants, decides that he wants his fake wife back, even though they never really had a relationship. He wants to go to Shell Beach, the fake place from his childhood, so he creates it. And when his fake wife, her memories of him completely gone, asks him what his name is, he delivers the last line of the film: "John. John Murdoch." His fake name. For all his talk about memories not making us human, John has immediately chosen to build his new life around the few things that he actually remembers! —Horatio Lint
Of course. It starts with memories. But then it builds outwards towards relationships with other people, something that the Strangers, being a hivemind, could never reproduce.
"I love you, John. You can't fake something like that." "No, you can't." That's probably what John means when he tells Mr. Hand that the Strangers have been looking in the wrong place, and why he decides to pursue a romantic relationship with Emma/Anna at the end. He believes she loves him (and that maybe he loves her despite his lack of memories - since he chose to protect her rather than let Mr. Hand kill her), and is willing to give it a shot.
Regarding the "nature vs nurture" message of the film, I think the scenes with the desk clerk (of the hotel where John wakes up) are telling. The white clerk had several unique figures of speech: "We keep our books neat and tidy", "cash on the barrel", and "No time off for good behavior". The black clerk, put in place of the white one, repeats the first two phrases like they're his own indicating to us that he now has all the memories that the white clerk had. But when the white clerk reappears as a newspaper vendor, he repeats his prior catch phrase, "No time off for good behavior", suggesting that this little quirk was him and not just a product of memories. Taken with the above-mentioned ending scene, it would suggest that film is saying that man isn't purely nature or nurture, but a mix of both. —Meta Four
I had this odd feeling throughout the movie Dr Schrieber was constantly pushing on John that it was (like The Matrix which used Dark City's sets) ultimately his choice, to make things better in the space experimental city for humanity. But instead of taking them back to Earth which seems to be the only logical motivation for the shrink, I notice his look of fear when he realises that John can choose to do what he wishes, and indeed chooses to induldge his fantasy as his first act as God. Which further showed me another difference between the strangers and humans, as the strangers, aside from Mr. Hand, were seemingly unable of performing an act purely for pleasure. Mr. Hand OTOH is not human for the opposite reason of the Strangers, he has become by his desires and is show to descend further and further into an obsession, and gaining pleasure through it, the whole replicating the serial killer side of it shows this. I can't really say if this is meant to be statement that humans are neither cold logical patterns taken from memory, or creatures of pure base instinct that become further obssessed with what appeals to resonate with their memories that describe their identity as a person, it could be a commentary that in middle ground of the two lies the truth about the human condition, it seems like a halfway decent shot at it, better than most films these days, I'm not a philosophy major but something seems to be said there. Eyclonus
I like your thinking with regard to Dr Schrieber's look of fear, but he does explicitly state that no-one remembers where they all came from, so he wouldn't be trying to return them to Earth simply because no-one knows about it. - Thomsons Pier
It wasn't until the third time watching the film that I noticed one brief bit of foreshadowing at the beginning: There's a closeup shot of John's shoes just before he puts them on. Why? So the audience can see there's no scuffs or marks on the shoes at all. John's only pair of shoes had never been worn before. —Meta Four
This is more Fridge Brilliance, but earlier in the movie, Bumstead speaks with Schreber about Murdoch. When the conversation turns to knowing the nature of people, Schreber analyzes Bumstead, saying that Bumstead is a meticulous and lonely man. On the surface, it may seem like Schreber is a good judge of people thanks to his knowledge of psychology. That may very well be true. But if you think about it some more, the real reason why Schreber knows about Bumstead is because Schreber imprinted that personality into Bumstead himself.
Even with the spoiler-laden narration at the beginning, the movie leaves you a lot of apparent plot holes and unanswered questions until very near the end. As the story plays out and John Murdoch finally learns who these Strangers are and what the nature of their experiments is, you come to realize that what you thought were plot holes are all just natural side effects of their experiments, because with those ghastly syringes of theirs, the strangers have essentially come up with weaponized Handwavium! Nobody in the city ever thinks to ask a lot of the questions that would reveal their situation, such as what the name of the city is, where it's located (what country on what continent on what planet?) or why there's no rain, no sunshine, and never any aircraft overhead. Presumably, that's because the strangers purged their memories of such subjects just as they wiped Dr. Schreber's memories of his origins. If anybody does start asking any of those inconvenient questions however, those weaponized Hand Waves of theirs will soon lay all doubts to rest: all the inquisitive complainers will soon have completely different identities and memories, come midnight.
One of the more interesting changes introduced in the director's cut of the film is the return of Jennifer Connelly's singing during her nightclub appearances, as she was dubbed over by Anita Kelsey for the theatrical release, and Jennifer's vocals are admittedly rather lackluster in comparison. But then you realize: Emma has probably never sung professionally in her life, and just because she has the memories of a lounge singer doesn't automatically give her the talent of one. It's another layer showing that the Strangers are mixing and swapping memories around with no real regard for their subjects.
So at the end the world is saved, everything is great for humans - until you realize that they are still trapped on a relatively small rock in space. And since they can now freely do what humans do, the place is going to be more crowded than a can of tuna in no time. And then there is the panic that might ensue if people notice that they're, well, living on a tiny rock in space. Alternatively- even if John is capable of creating a full fledged planet out of the "Dark City" (and we're given no reason to think he can't), the lives of all the inhabitants are still controlled by the whims of someone else. Though in this case Murdock is obviously a lesser evil than the strangers.
It's even darker when you consider that humans were totally dependent upon the Strangers for everything, so when John Murdock eventually dies, there will be no one left to provide them fresh air, food, or water. —Agent Wu
I think people read too much into the thing. The City is just a spaceship— think about grabbing the engines of the Enterprise-D and wiring them directly into a holodeck projector, and using a forcefield to keep in the air. "Tuning" is the ability to access the City's computer and instruct it what to do— since the Strangers at one point obviously visited Earth, John can presumably access its location from the City itself and instruct it to go there.
It's explicitly stated that the banks of memories were destroyed at the end of the movie, and that no one knows where Earth is in the beginning of the movie. Which means, unless the Strangers decided to hang around the Sol system, humanity will most likely never find Earth. It gets worse when you consider that, given how much the Strangers deleted, there's probably no one with a knowledge of astronomy or its related sciences. Humans probably wouldn't be able to spot the difference between a habitable planet and a floating grave in space.
And even if the ship/city never returns to Earth, its programming was set at the end of the movie; it's likely to continue unless altered again, since micro-managing everything from proper oxygen levels to continuing gravity would be an inefficient way to run things. Since it doesn't seem likely that Murdoch will continue micro-managing peoples' lives, people will live "normally" in a world set for their survival. If Murdoch dies without leaving behind others who can Tune, all that will happen is that nobody will be able to consciously alter the city/ship, and it will continue on with the last set of specifications he's made.
There is no "programming". The machines are explained as amplifying the Stranger's power of tuning, and throughout the movie the only time we see them do anything is when someone tunes. Which means without tuning to guide them they will most likely remain inert. The Strangers also had an advantage in that they were a passionless hive mind instead of just one person. As they die off and there is no calm force to oppose his control over the machines, it begs the question of what will happen if John has a nightmare, especially vivid dream, or loses his temper.
"We use your dead as vessels"...and all that that implies.
Every time Dr. Schreiber was speaking with the Strangers, or surrounded by the Strangers, he knew he was talking to and watching moving, dead bodies. No wonder he's so frightened by them.
The Stranger who looks like a child.
It is not clear what Mr. Hand did to the prostitute before he murdered her. But if he did do anything, she would have been getting molested by a corpse.