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Heroes Don't Die: Darkman Wouldn't Anyway; He's Simply Too Heroic
on January 21, 2008
Darkman is one of the few, truly unique characters you're ever going to find in any media, whether that be movies, books, comics, or cartoons. He's part Batman in his quest to fight crime and bring people to justice in reaction to his own victimization; part Phantom of the Opera in his rage against his disfigurement and freakishness and his deadly accurate skills in murder as well as disguise and in his ability to create and recreate his own underground world; part Hulk in his all-powerful, rage-fueled strength and part Bruce Banner in his scientific expertise; part Invisible Man in his bandaged, overcoated, hat-topped get-up and his ability to uncannily disappear; part The Question in his ability to ask the correct, very intelligent questions that lead him to see right through scams and dark plots and thereby take action to set things right. Like all these characters, he's terribly conflicted, ultimately good (at least when it truly counts in the first movie and nearly always in the second and third installments of his story), and he spends most of his time alone, outcast, and, to a great extent, within a self-imposed exile that is, in part, both shame and penance. As Sam Raimi, Darkman's creator has said, "I decided to explore a man's soul. In the beginning, a sympathetic, sincere man. In the middle, a vengeful man committing heinous acts against his enemies. And in the end, a man full of self-hatred for what he's become, who must drift off into the night, into a world apart from everyone he knows and all the things he loves." With this Franchise Collection, you get the entire three-film, movie franchise. (The only thing that hasn't been re-released is a thirty minute TV pilot.) With this, you'll see Darkman portrayed originally by Liam Neeson and then, in the last two films, by Arnold Vosloo (of Imhotep / Mummy & Mummy Returns fame). Both actors do a fine job. In the first film, simply titled Darkman, Liam Neeson perfectly portrays the wonderfully antic aspects of the character, including a truly scary but hilarious Tin-Man dance using a funnel for a hat that is a classic scene to this day. He is also much better than Vosloo at pulling off the cliche one-liners that somehow become verbally gory when he says them. Granted, Neeson had the benefit of being in a film that had a wonderfully brilliant, magician's bag full of dark-humor. I don't want to spoil the fun by giving out the details; each gag in this film is so good that you want the full effect of the surprise. Suffice it say that you've never seen a more lovable, pathos-inspiring character with such troubling behavior. And the ways in which Darkman carries out the murders of murderers redefines poetic justice. His arch-enemy, Robert G. Durant, is as dead-pan and cold-blooded as crimelord-assassins come. And Durant's goons have to be the best collections of villainous sidekicks ever created. And that's apparent in the first two minutes of this movie. The first Darkman is truly classic and is worth the price of the Franchise Collection alone. And everyone I've known who's seen the first film has felt 100% compelled to see the others. Darkman II: The Return of Durant maintains some of the oddball humor, but it is found in the character of Durant rather than Darkman. And Louis Strack, Jr., the developer who originally called in Durant to kill Dr. Westlake, takes center stage in this film. The story becomes much more serious, and Vosloo brings out the human side of Darkman / Dr. Westlake so that the humor and one-liners are gone for the most part, but a much more truly heroic character emerges. The action here is still remarkable, and you'll love the new underground world that Darkman has erected. The third film, Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die is about how Darkman has a choice to finally become rehabilitated. The last installment of Darkman's story has seen him make significant human connections. And this film takes that even further, to the point where he truly has a chance at a relationship with a woman as well as a chance to have a daughter. In the end, he is compelled to do make a wonderfully, heroic, loving, human choice. And that's what carries this film off. The villains here are just as memorable, Raimi still has a few gags up his sleeve, but he wants you too see inside Darkman's soul in this film and truly grasp the nature of the world in which he lives. As to practicalities, this 3-film collection is well worth the price. Check different retailers. I purchased it for approx. 14 dollars at the Mart on the wal, if you know what I mean. Others sell it cheaper than I see it here, also. There are no inserts or frills or special features. Not even scene selection. But I've purchased an original copy of the dvd, and there are none there either. Not even scene selection. So, you get everything here, minus original covers. As to the R rating, it's for bad language and nothing else. And the film starts right off with the "F" word. That being said, after explaining the presence of the vile verbals, I have let my children see all of these films. Because they are simply that good. These films have truly heart-rending and heart-warming scenes, and there's no better films for explaining justice and heroism. Go get your Darkman before this thing goes out of print.