“Donnie Darko was killed when a jet engine fell from the sky and crushed him while he was sleeping. The government never located the plane from which the engine fell, nor did they even admit the incident ever occurred. But that was just the beginning of the tragedy… and the mystery”
No truer words were ever spoken. First of all, this prologue is about as close to the original Donnie Darko film that this movie ever gets. S. Darko is indeed the beginning of a tragedy. It’s more a disaster than a tragedy, really. It involves a loss of life — your life. 103 minutes of your life to be exact, unless of course you’re stupid enough to watch the extras as well. That’s not a tragedy. I’d call that a self inflicted wound. The mystery? That’s an easy one. It’s a mystery to me that this film ever got off the ground, let alone released, albeit as a direct to video affair. Donnie Darko wasn’t a great film, but it was an intriguing one that left the audience with some thought provoking images. But there appears to be a fine line between thought provoking and mind numbing. S. Darko is mired in its own abstractness, a serious movie not to be taken seriously at all. In the end, I’m not even sure what the filmmakers were trying to do. I heard them try to explain it, justify it is likely the more accurate term. Still, I can’t help but suspect that whatever it was they were trying to do they failed miserably. And if you end up watching this film it will be you who pays for their shortcomings. Good cinema deserves to be rewarded. Bad cinema deserves simply to be ignored.
“Now 7 years later, Donnie’s youngest sister, Samantha, seemingly alone and lost in the world has run away from home, shattered by the death of her brother. Drowning in sadness and unable to dream, she has drifted deeper and deeper into the darkness of her sleep. And when darkness consumes the starlight, nightmares rule the night.”
Samantha Darko (Chase) and her friend Corey (Evigan) are on the road supposedly to Corey’s father where they hope to start fresh lives. When their car breaks down, they are forced to spend some time in a small town. Through some weird acid trip or time bending mojo they live about 150,000,000,090 alternate versions of reality. Yeah, that’s it.
Daveigh Chase returns as Samantha Darko. She’s the only character from the original film. She’s no longer just a little kid who had a very minor role in the cult favorite original film. She looks so much different that it wasn’t really all that necessary to use the same actress, but the filmmakers make a point of expressing how vital they considered the move. Unfortunately they didn’t spend any of that attention on the story or effectiveness of the original film. The movie moves between these realities with little explanation. It doesn’t surprise me. In the features for this release, they admit they didn’t really understand the first picture. Perhaps this was their revenge on the rest of us. Whatever the reason or the rhyme, this movie is a total waste of time.
S. Darko is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The film is presented in full 1080p through an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Since the film was shot almost entirely in the digital medium, you would expect a pretty phenomenal image here. You do get a very sharp and detailed image. Black levels are only slightly better than average. However, the picture does have a tendency to go soft on the colors and even the focus too often. It all looks so surreal that the image keeps you from ever fully entering into this world. And that’s too bad, because this is exactly the kind of movie that begs to be experienced. Absent a real story or theme, the film invites you into its what-if scenario and tempts you to enter its feeling like a drug induced hallucination.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is no more impressive. Dialog is fine, and the score weaves in and out of the presentation providing the off balanced feeling you get with the picture. I don’t mind being off balance if it gets me something or somewhere in return. This audio track often just lies there, providing no stimulation or ear candy to alleviate some of the boredom.
There is an Audio Commentary, but if you’re hoping for some answers, forget it. These guys are really a trip in and of themselves. They brag about not speaking to the masses, yet I’m sure they’ll complain about the low revenues. Hey, at least we know that The Great Salt Lake smelled bad.
The Making Of S. Darko: (15:01) (SD) Typical cast and crew interview clips mixed with film clips. They all get noticeably hung up on “what it’s about”.
Utah Too Much: (6:45) (SD) The crew talk about filming on location in Utah amid the verses of a song they wrote about the place.
Deleted Scenes: There are 6 total with a play all feature giving you a total 6:03 more of this convoluted mess.
Maybe if I had the time and pain tolerance to watch the movie 20 or 30 times I might finally get some idea of what the whole thing is about. Maybe director Chris Fisher is merely having a laugh at us from his comfortable perch on the other side of the camera. A movie marquee in the movie suggests that he admired such films as Strange Days and 12 Monkeys. I guess he was attempting to duplicate the quirky abstract nature of those films. I don’t really know. Samantha appears to have the power to rewind time and make alternative choices. It’s a wonderful gift that every reviewer wishes they had in their arsenal. But the film appears to also be about the willingness to sacrifice yourself for another. I can’t rewind and skip this movie, but perhaps I have not suffered for nothing. You can still skip the movie and spend those precious 103 minutes on something of value. The only way I can describe this experience: “It was like I was tripping or something”.