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Darkman (1990) Print E-mail
Monday, 07 June 2010
Image"Darkman" is pretty much a cult classic and Raimi fan favorite.  However, the film will likely strike a chord out there with some and leave some others just shaking their head.  There is a lot of thematic elements and drama in this superhero/villain adaptation.  However, much of it is overlooked due to the campy nature of the film.

Sam Raimi, who is most known for his work on "Spider-Man" shows his roots in this film.  Like "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness" before it, "Darkman" is simply cheesy and brilliant at the same time.  The film combines elements from all genres, particularly horror and crime.  It is uncertain whether we should be rooting for or against Darkman, due to his split personality.  Some of the driving forces in the film are obscured by less likeable characters and plots, which is what holds this film back.

Liam Nesson portrays Westlake, a scientist that is studying genetics and trying to create skin from a liquid goo.  Unfortunately, it falls apart after 99 minutes (a central time theme in this film if you watch closely).  When his girlfriend, played by Frances McDormand uncovers some papers that she wasn't supposed to possess, it is Westlake who will pay the price.  Gangsters for hire blow up his lab with him inside, leaving him all but dead.  When his nervous system is severed to control the pain, he regains consciousness and takes off from the hospital.

His tolerance for pain is now limitless, but his mind is fragmented and temper uncontrollable.  At first Westlake tries to rebuild his machine and perfect his skin growing technique so that he can restore himself to former glory, covering his horribly burned self.  When his temper kicks in he begins to use the machine for revenge, taking out everyone that blew him up.

That is basically it.  The story is simple.  Unfortunately, the characters are not given much backstory.  McDormand's character seems to only be there to serve as motivation for other characters.  She lacks any real depth and self-motivation.  Plots are contrived and situations are cliché.  Still, there is something about Raimi's style that makes this film work.  It certainly would not have work on "Spider-Man," so thankfully Raimi evolved past this horror/drama entanglement style.
"Darkman" comes to Blu-ray with the same transfer that was present on the previously released HD DVD.  The VC-1, 1.85:1 encode is representative of the age of the film.  Source noise is abundant.  Just take a look at the opening title sequence.  Dust, scratches and flecks are all over the place.  This comes and goes in the film.  Black levels are decent but not perfectly resolved.  Colors can be perfect and horrible out of whack.  Fleshtones also fluctuate.  Details and textures are strong for the most part, but a couple reels throughout the film appear extremely soft.  To put of succinctly, the film is a hodgepodge just like the split personality of the hero.

In terms of audio, "Darkman" doesn't impressive, but doesn't exactly disappoint either.  The audio is limited by the source material.  The sound effects are cheesy and completely exaggerated.  The surround channels contain some bled effects and ambience but nothing really ever is discreet in the rear channels.  The LFE channel is fairly present in the film, at least when look at the meters on my console.  Dialogue is clean and clear, but the original source is hampered by poor ambience fill and harsh fades and cuts.  Dynamics are not as expansive as I would have hoped for.  Some the Westlake mind torture sequences give you a bit of a jolt but that is about it.  This is a solid but aged audio track.

There are zip special features on this Blu-ray so don't be fooled by the 0.5 star rating.  The system won't allow for 0.0.

"Darkman" is a horror/action/crime/drama film that will leave some puzzled.  However, those that know Raimi's work will find this film to be entertaining.  Sadly the video and audio qualities are limited by the original source material.  Recommended.

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