s. Darko (film, 2009)
From the DVD review, printed in Death Ray #20.
Director: Chris Fisher
Writers: Nathan Atkins, Richard Kelly (characters)
Starring: Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Ed Westwick, John Hawkes
Film: TWO STARS
Extras: THREE AND A HALF STARS
A sequel to Donnie Darko! Um, why? That’s what we want to know.
Donnie Darko is love-it-or-hate it cinema, an alchemical cocktail two parts disquieting philosophy, three parts David Lynch, one part teen moping and just the tiniest drop of SF. But its dark view of young adult life came with a certain catharsis, Donnie’s life was expunged fulfilling a role forced on him by the universe itself, it was a powerful metaphor for growing up. At least, that’s the way I saw it. And that was why it was so great – it is infinitely interpretable.
s. Darko is not. A movie reverse-engineered from the smouldering remains of the first, it doesn’t get it right at all. There’s uncertainty, ambiguity, atmosphere as in the original, but these have been self-consciously placed into the structure. The story, concerning Donnie’s kid sister Sam lost in deepest Utah, chooses friendship and sacrifice as its themes, but it lacks the freaky otherliness of Donnie Darko. Furthermore, it relies on robbing a handful of keynotes from the first, diminishing then reversing them, so the film never manages to be anything other than a pale reflection of its predecessor. (An effect of this grave robbing is that all seemingly Godly men in the Darkoverse are represented as evil paedophiles. It’s a shamefully easy target). There’s beautiful cinematography throughout, but the lack of soul leaves these sequences as nothing more than pretentious pop-video images gilding an average tale of small town weirdness.
Critically, s. Darko lacks the weird vision of Richard Kelly. Donnie Darko is a flawed movie; that it intrigues fans may well be a happy accident, but it has the artistic integrity of one man’s madness. s. Darko is a wholly artificial construct.
Extras: A 15 minute making of, a 10 minute music video where the cast bitch about being in Utah, director’s commentary and a handful of deleted scenes.