johnlink ranks DARKMAN (1990)

My new year started with a fairly big gap in movie watching. I do worry that this may continue as Quinn continues to be on the move more and more, the days of two hour naps and being satisfied to lay in my arms as I finish the last ten minutes of a film may have come to an end. But I can’t complain, because soon enough we’ll be watching TOY STORY or LAND BEFORE TIME or BAMBI and that sort of stuff together. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to see what I can see!

I watched DARKMAN (1990) on 1.12.11. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

I had always heard of this movie being silly, but I had never registered that it was a Sam Raimi film. Had I known that it was, in conjunction with it being a Liam Neeson vehicle which co-stars the great Frances McDormand, I most likely would have seen this a long, long time ago.

But, instead, I saw it 21 years after its release. I’m glad I did. I’m not sure if I would have been able to forgive some of its flaws before seeing so much of Raimi’s catalog (including the SPIDER-MAN films). There are some moments in DARKMAN that Raimi lifts for the web-slinger series. In particular, the montage of Darkman putting together his lab is very much mimicked in the Peter-Parker-creating-Spider-Man concept. Also, the music of Danny Elfman has some great similarities to themes in SPIDER-MAN.

The casting of Liam Neeson is perfect for this film. The role needed his size. At six-and-a-half feet tall, he pulls off the monster well (even if his mask switches seem less realistic because of his height). Plus, Darkman HAD to be a guy who could pull off the acting; be sane in a completely absurd world. There are two sequels which I recorded but had to delete off my DVR for space. I’m not sure I would have watched them anyway. This is such a delicate balance, which Raimi and Neeson walk, that I’m sure in lesser hands it just falls into terrible absurdity.

There are moments which don’t work. The circus scene feels contrived, as Darkman’s anger overcomes him. Also, the penultimate battle has a nice set-up (it must have looked awesome as a storyboard) but the green screen effects are a little too obvious to the 21st century filmgoer. They aren’t so bad as to take you out of the movie, but they certainly are not good by any stretch. The script, worked on by no less than 5 people, is a bit too predictable to make this a classic. Your first impression of each character turns out to be right, even if the film may try to turn you for some time here or there.

But there are some great visuals in this utilized by Raimi. Light and dark play a vital part of the mise-en-scene, as a single beam of light in a dark world will sometimes subtly (and in the last moments of the film, heavy-handedly) display the film’s theme of the Darkman trying to hang on to his last shreds of humanity. There is a transition from tragedy to funeral which plays well, and another image of deformed gargoyles bracketing a deformed hero which plays nicely.

Shit, I’m making this sound all so serious. But it is an absurdly brilliant comic book world. The opening scene, with nun-chucks and knives and machine guns sets the stage perfectly. This is a movie which knows precisely what it is, and walks a tight rope that it barely ever stumbles upon from beginning to end. It is silly, fun, and yet somehow… good. I hate movies of this tone all the time. For some reason, I kind of love this one. Definitely a brand new guilty pleasure.

Oh, and love the Bruce Campbell cameo. I spent about ten minutes wondering if Raimi had tried to get him to play the lead, but the studio balked…. just looked that up on IMDB, and the top piece of trivia tells me I’m right. Go figure. But Liam Neeson was better for it. As much as I love Campbell, Neeson grounds this film.



The bonus point is for the make-up. The make-up effects in this are effective even now in 2011. Great, great monster-movie work done here. Another notch in the belt for those arguing that movies should use more make-up and less CGI.



~ by johnlink00 on January 12, 2011.

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