Action Movie Fanatix Review: Darkman


They Destroyed Everything He Had, Everything He Was.  Now, Crime Has A New Enemy And Justice Has A New Face.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Prof. Toru Tanaka

Director: Sam Raimi

1990  |  95 Minutes  |  Rated R

“What is it about the dark?  What secret does it hold?” – Peyton Westlake

Somehow the Darkman series has escaped me this entire time even though it was right in my wheelhouse.  I have loved superheroes for as long as I can remember and the ’89 Batman was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up.  I must have watched my Batman VHS a hundred times as a youngster and yet I never once watched Darkman.  In the words of Bruce Buffer… IT’S TIME!!!

Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist who has almost perfected a synthetic skin when some thugs attack him and burn his face and hands and then blow up his laboratory.  The doctors that treat him disconnect all of his nerve endings so that he doesn’t have to feel the excruciating pain that the burns would cause him.  Peyton utilizes his synthetic skin to fool his enemies and becomes Darkman to combat them.

Even though it is a completely different movie, Darkman has a very similar look and feel to Tim Burton’s Batman films.  Not quite as Burton as those other two films but there are too many similarities to not be felt.  Think Tim Burton’s Batman meets the goofiness of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead.  It’s not the best combination here.

A huge part of the Batman-esque feel of Darkman is due to Danny Elfman’s score.  Have you ever heard him not produce masterpieces?  I mean, what more can I say.  The guy is a fantastic composer.

Darkman’s origins more closely resemble The Joker’s than they do Batman’s and he is most definitely insane, just not quite as insane as Batman’s arch-nemesis.

Unlike Batman, Darkman never had any plan for the fights that he was bound to get in.  He didn’t go out and buy any guns, he didn’t use the insane amount of money he had stolen to buy some awesome gadgets, he didn’t even create some darkarangs to throw at the villains.  He just got shot at a whole bunch and got lucky enough to not get hit until he finally was able to take control of the situation.  Overall I was very disappointed in the action and fight scenes of Darkman.  They could have been so much cooler.  If I were to create a hero who can’t feel pain I would have played off of that characteristic repeatedly.  Darkman should have repeatedly gotten his butt kicked but continued to wade forward to kill the bad guys.

The acting is all pretty hammy.  It is unclear if Raimi is trying to make a true super hero movie or aiming for something of a super hero / comedy.  It’s too dark and unfunny to be a comedy but the action isn’t good enough to be a

Sometimes the special effects are surprisingly good, but mostly they are horribly bad.  The worst of the worst is when Darkman is dangling from a helicopter.  The city below is so obviously green screened that I couldn’t help but laugh.

The one cool gimmick that Darkman has is his synthetic skin invention.  He uses the skin to steal a briefcase full of cash and generally confuse his enemies.  The catch is that the skin is not yet perfected and Darkman has a limited amount of time in his skin.  It is fun and something very different from any other super hero movies out there and it is the highlight of the entire film.

The Darkman story has so much potential.  He is a super hero with some very unique abilities but the movie never reaches its full potential.  The action was sorely lacking and the acting was too cheesy for the suspense to be taken with any seriousness.  I look forward to seeing the Darkman sequels now to see if this hero ever reaches the heights he deserves.