Schreber is the key to the world of “Dark City.” He works directly with the Strangers each night to implant the inhabitants of the city with new memories. The Strangers themselves are responsible for “tuning” the city and its structures. But without Schreber’s medical expertise or understanding of human nature, the Strangers could never hope to study humanity.

Despite the importance of psychology to “Dark City” though, the film never gives Schreber a distinct personality. Kiefer Sutherland plays the character as a broad archetype, squinting through small round glasses as he speaks in sentences laden with pregnant pauses. Despite being the only stable human in a cast of mutable humans and aliens, he fails to latch onto anything real.

Perhaps that’s simply the kind of film “Dark City” is. As a child, director Alex Proyas dabbled in stop-motion and animation as well as live-action. His titular Dark City is no generic Matrix cityscape, but instead a labyrinth of anachronisms, twisted architecture, and macabre visual gags.

“The ultimate creative thrill of making a film, Proyas told the blog Money Into Light in 2017, “is … creating a world that only exists in my head.” “Dark City” did not belong to Proyas alone. Patrick Tatopoulos’s production design was central to the film’s success, as was Peter Pound’s storyboarding and concept art. Not to mention actors like Sutherland who devoted themselves to creating the heightened reality of “Dark City.” But to Proyas, perhaps, the characters of “Dark City” were archetypical on purpose. It is his imagined world — which he had been developing since at least 1990 — that is truly alive.