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S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2009
ImageIn 2001, "Donnie Darko" became a cult classic.  It was perhaps one of the more originally thought up time travel and destiny stories.  There aren't many of us out there that ever thought a sequel would arise from "Donnie Darko."  It just didn't call for one.  Yet, a sequel, a direct-to-video sequel has been released.  "S. Darko" is an attempt to cash in on the original.  Unfortunately, I don't think it is going to happen.

"S. Darko" picks up eight years after Donnie's tale ends.  This time the story is focused on Donnie's sister, Samantha (Daveigh Chase).  Now 18 years old, Sam has left home with a friend, heading from Virginia to California.  Sam suffers from severe depression after the death of her brother.  Her parents neglect her, and her sister married and moved away.

On their road trip Sam and her friend, Corey (Briana Evigan), get stranded in Utah when their car breaks down.  Stranded in a little town, weird things begin to happen.  From this point on it is a complete re-creation of the original.  The concepts are all the same, with a few tidbits thrown in here and there to try and tie the two films together.  The voice in one character's head even makes him burn down a church.  Gee, does that sound familiar?

"S. Darko" has no originality, in either the story or the cinematography.  The creators of this sequel took the concepts of "Donnie Darko" and turned them into "S. Darko," without really understanding the connections and power behind the concepts.

The characters are empty.  They have no dimensionality whatsoever.  The lines they deliver feel like they are coming off a teleprompter or trying to be recalled without rumbling.  I will admit that Daveigh Chase does have a great on screen presence, and is probably what saves any credibility this film may have.  In fact, Daveigh is the actress that originally played Samantha in "Donnie Darko."  Now, she is all grown up.  Her friend Corey, is really there to just be eye candy and push a contrived plot along.  The worst character, and actor, has to be Randy (Ed Westwick).  He has a backstory that is superficial and Westwick doesn't seem to know what to do with his character.

In the end the character that ends up dying to save the world is someone that we don't care about.  Unlike Donnie dying in the original, the ending of "S. Darko" has us feeling like, who cares.  Having seen the original, you know exactly how the sequel plays out because we know what signs to look for.  The creators tried to trick us by have an additional do-over sequence in the middle, because we certainly can't have Samantha die.  I will admit, I did keep watching the film because I wanted to see how it really all played out.  But nonetheless, while watching the film I wanted to change things in the story to improve it.  That is something I typically don't do, so that is how I know when things are bad. I wish I could say that this film is a worthy sequel, but alas I cannot.

The video transfer on this Blu-ray disc is another matter.  While the story is severely deficient, the video is quite exquisite.  The limited budget of "Donnie Darko" didn't allow for a great Blu-ray transfer earlier in the year.  However, the sequel is a different story, no pun intended.  Right from the start, the image is beautiful.  The colors are bold and vibrant throughout.  Details are strong, as are textures.  The contrast is slightly boosted, but nothing too detrimental.  The blacks levels are also excellent, providing a popping image.  Fleshtones appear accurate.  Since the film was shot on a Red One Digital Camera, there is no real film grain to speak of.  The CGI effects are severely cheesy, but it is a direct-to-video sequel.  This is an impressive presentation.  It is just too bad that the film is not good.  Otherwise, would have a winner on our hands.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD master Audio 5.1.  The audio track is hit and miss.  The LFE channel rises and falls in its respective sequences.  However, when the thunder and lightning hits you truly feel it.  The very first time it happens you will darn near jump out of your seat.  This isn't due exclusively to the LFE channel, but also because of the use of the surround channels.  The fantasy sections of the film contain great use of the soundfield.  Like with "Donnie Darko," this film also places the voice of the future in all the channels, making it sound ominous.  The dialogue track made be a bit on the low side, but I never found myself truly struggling to hear what was being said.  The dynamics are better than I would have expected.  Frequency response seems to be limited, as the soundtrack never reaches the extreme upper frequencies.  My biggest issue with the film's audio is that the music score was not given enough presence.  The music is was truly made "Donnie Darko" dark.  The music score of "S. Darko" is relegated to the background and has no impact on the film.  This is one of the reasons why "S. Darko" is not as dark and disturbing as its predecessor.

As this is a direct-to-video sequel, "S. Darko" does not contain much in the way of bonus features.  However, it contains the essentials as far as I am concern.  I don't need anything fancy.  First, there is an audio commentary with director Chris Fisher, Writer Nathan Atkins and Cinematographer Marvin V. Rush.  Given the film, there isn't much use listening to this track.  There is no way that any amount of explanation could improve the film as it is.  Next, there is a "Making of 'S. Darko'" featurette, which is fairly standard.  "Utah Too Much" is a short featurette on the bland life of shooting in Utah.  There is a section of deleted scenes, about six minutes worth.  Lastly, there is a theatrical trailer.

"S. Darko" does not deliver the goods.  "Donnie Darko" fans should steer clear of this film.  Other casual movie fans might find it a good film to have on in the background.  The video and audio quality on the other hand are quite impressive and I would recommend this Blu-ray disc as a Blu-ray disc.

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