I think I'm on a roll here, so I'm going to do another. You know, a long time ago there was this documentary about the Coen brothers, and the camera showed this shelf with screenplays on it. One of those screenplays was Darkman. Oh, yeah. The rabbit hole goes deeper than that for me. Well, if you look at the credits for Darkman 1, surely ONE of those names has got to be a Coen pseudonym! Not to say that Darkman on its own is not without its rewards. It's a full-fledged movie with most of the modern plot and special-effects accoutrements American moviegoers demand these days. Actually, I remember the ad campaign before it came out, that it hit #1 with less than 10 million dollars, and that the very next week it was bested by Postcards From The Edge. Not sure exactly why I remember that, but that's the kinda stuff I was paying attention to back then.
But the movie is kinda standard comic-book superhero stuff, even though it wasn't a comic book before it was a movie... was it? Hey, I'm not Ken Burns here, folks... (the next day) Turns out I wasn't on a roll. But I did have time to check Wikipedia, and indeed, Darkman was a film before it was a comic book. Usually it's the other way around. It also says that Darkman is a big doo-doo head who eats boogers and cheats at four square. Hmm! Sounds like the plot of Darkman 3. Guess you can't believe everything you see on Wikipedia, but normally you can accept most of it. I doubt they're messing about with the entry for, say, gallium. Not sexy enough.
Well, the plot of Darkman might not be much to write home about. There's lots of the old standard bully stuff. It may be forcibly eradicated from schools, but will live forever in the movies. Especially the Adam Sandler ones, probably with bullies named O'Doyle. But Darkman's got a pretty good premise based on science-ish type stuff. Good enough for Spider-Man 2, anyway. And it appeals to the philosophical quandry in all of us: how would YOU deal with not being able to feel pain? I mean, besides from diabetes. This is the kind of thing USA Today jumps all over nowadays, asking such topical questions as "Are you a You, a Me or a Dupree?" And who would win in a fight: Owen Wilson or Matthew McConaughey? In a wet t-shirt contest?
The film is also well-paced from an editing point-of-view. It's not choppy enough to be a Michael Bay film, but well enough to be an above average comic book movie. And I think Brian DePalma lifted the helicopter sequence for Mission: Impossible 1! Li'l bit! I will say that the picture quality suffers a bit from normalized lighting, but perhaps it's the way it was shot. Take, for example, when Darkman sets up his new lab and throws the Olympic-esque torch into that open stove. Look at the burst of flame that rises up and tell me the film wasn't pushed a little bit! Or maybe there was a filter on the lens. So flat, so lacking in vibrance. Many of the key sequences look good, though, especially the drinky bird and the lighter... oops! Spoilers.
There are the various homages to previous Raimi works. There's the funhouse mirror effect also used in Evil Dead 2, and a pre-homage! The coffee ring on the paper was used in The Hudsucker Proxy when they finally got a flying paper budget. The acting: acting's good, as you would expect from future Oscar nominee Liam Neeson and future winner Frances McDormand. I think this helped their careers a little bit... enough so to keep them from doing the sequels, anyway! Oh, snap. But I will say that, even though I've only seen bits and bobs of the two Darkman sequels, Arnold Vosloo brings an outward, sociable dignity to Darkman that he'll bring to Broadway should Darkman: The Musical ever get funding. Or Craig Bierko, whoever's available. Colin Friels masks that Scottish brogue as well as he can. I haven't seen him in anything better. Well, to be fair, he did have a meatier role in Class Action... or did he? I'd say Darkman served him better, but the early 90s were his for the taking, no question there. And Darkman's a little more, nay, a LOT more watchable for Larry Drake than, say, Dr. Giggles. Ugh!! Bill Pope did well enough on (operating the) camera that The Matrix and Spider Man 2 would be his for the shooting. Good Vista-Flex work, buddy! There was another name I recognized in the credits: Gary Frutkoff. On to bigger and better things, eh, buddy? Think I will, too.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan