Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Sunday, May 17, 2009

S. DARKO review

by Brian Holcomb

Richard Kelly, the creator of the cult classic Donnie Darko has nothing to do with this Direct to DVD sequel. All I can say is "THANK GOD". I liked the original Donnie released back in 2001 quite a bit though perhaps not as much as some college freshmen who thought it was some kind of religious experience they had between tokes. But I did think that Richard Kelly discovered an interesting hook to make David Lynch styled movies for a larger pop audience by focusing on the subtext of teen angst. The film was a clever amalgamation of John Hughes, J.D. Salinger and Phillip K. Dick all wrapped up in an everyday surrealism very reminiscent of Lynch's work in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.

Now, why Kelly couldn't just leave well enough alone is another mystery wrapped inside an enigma. He did the unfortunate thing of going back to his well received first film to create one of those horrific "Director's Cuts" that have plagued mankind since the dawn of the DVD extra (Damn you Ridley Scott and your 9,000 versions of Blade Runner!). Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut released in 2004 was supposedly the film Kelly wanted to make all along. Going for a 2010: The Year We Make Contact approach rather than sticking with the glorious ambiguity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kelly went ahead and tried to provide explanations for every damn thing in his movie. Replacing my own interesting possibilities of what might've happened to poor young Donnie with his own awful and very specific sci-fi mumbo jumbo about Tangent Universes, Living Receivers, and the Manipulated Dead. Bad enough on its own, it was just a precursor for the epic dystopian mumbo jumbo to come in his dead on arrival Southland Tales a few years later. Kelly's first film now seems to have been a accident of sorts, one of the few times where studio imposed cuts actually made the film better.

Unfortunately even though Richard Kelly isn't involved, S. Darko is the kind of film that limps right out of the gate since it really has no reason to exist in the first place. Donnie told a very self contained story and any attempt to come up with new ideas would seem to defy the mythology created in the original. In other words, this film should be as awful as expected. But while it isn't exactly good-it's a lot better than you might imagine, though that may seem like nothing but heresy to the converted.

You can read the rest of my review for CINEMABLEND.COM HERE

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