Friday 9 October 2009

Review: S. Darko

Year: 2009
Director: Chris Fisher
Screenplay: Nathan Atkins
Starring: Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Ed Westwick

Plot Synopsis is here

Like a few people out there, I'm a big Donnie Darko fan. I was in college when the film was released and I remember how it blew my mind. I love how bold the film was as well as it's inventiveness but first and furthermore, I loved how it made me feel. Cheesy? Yes, but lets get one thing straight, this is one of my favorite movies. Richard Kelly's career since it's release has been an odd one at best but his Theatrical Cut of DD will always be a work of untainted brilliance to me.

Which brings me to S. Darko, a needless (direct to DVD) sequel to Kelly's 2001 cult hit. It would be easy for a fan like me to straight out hate the film but no that's too easy, Instead I pity it.

S Darko is a film with no true creativity of its own, nor is it a film that gives a damn about the fans (as much as the filmmakers may say), it's easy to see from the iconography thrown into the film that the higher ups behind the film are looking to reap in as much money as possible using the Darko "brand". Links to the first film are tenuous at best and the film tries to make up for it by nicking lines and shots from the first film and jumbling them around a bit.

The main problem of S Darko however is this; IT HAS NO EMOTIONAL CORE. The original Donnie Darko (sci-fi aside) was a teen dramedy of John Hughes-esque angst. Kelly wasn't at one time considered a wunderkind for no reason and Darko appeared to be evidence of this. The film confidently straddled many genres without losing it's tone and atmosphere. S Darko has no identity of it's own and it's clearly evident by how much it steals from it's big brother, but it doesn't know why. It has no heart of its own and desperately looks towards the first film for shallow inspiration.

A clear example would be the liberal borrowing (read stealing) of the virtuoso high school sequence shot in Donnie Darko . This scene not only looks good but sets up surroundings,introduces characters and prepares us for the next scene. Here director Chris Fisher uses the same filming techniques at a party scene but the shot means nothing only to exist because something similar was done in the first film. This is constantly done throughout the film with little thought behind why other than "people will remember it from the first film" and because of this the film becomes exceedingly trite and a slog to get through.

There's no help either from the film's weak and stilted screenplay which a mish mesh of re-hashed plotlines, forced wit and bizarre for the sake of it characters. From an acting point of few there's really nothing to talk about, the film is merely a stop gap for the young actors who have already moved onto something new.

It's not all bad. Fisher is obviously a competent director and the visuals of the film are at points better than some of the things you'd see in a cinematic release, while the choice of music while not as well observed as the first film (with an amazing Micheal Andrews score) it's still pretty strong considering.

It's just a shame that the film is so lackluster. It's a sequel that doesn't want to live out of it's brothers shadow. For some they may be able look at this with fresh eyes and gain something new out of it. For myself, I don't feel too bad that I watched it, but I do feel better that I won't have to watch it again.