Reviewed by: Christopher Ables
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake | Directed by: Sam Raimi | Produced by: Daryl Kass, Robert G. Tapert | Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Daniel Goldin, Joshua Goldin | Distributor: MCA/Universal
Dr. Peyton Westlake is working feverishly in his lab to perfect a synthetic skin, but so far skin breaks down after ninety-nine hours of exposure to light. While working late one night he is attacked by thugs who desire a paper he has in his possession. They steal the paper and burn his lab thinking he’s dead, but though he is horribly burned he survives the flames and Darkman is born.
After seeing the movie “Spider-Man”, I just had to go and rent Sam Raimi’s earlier foray into the world of superheroes, “Darkman”. I’m glad I did, because I was treated to one of the most entertaining superhero movies I’ve ever seen. “Darkman” is at times comical, paying homage to previous superhero movies and conventions, but it is also centered on one of the most tragic and sympathetic superheroes ever.
Darkman isn’t a self-proclaimed crime fighter. Hospitalized after the fire, his burns were so severe that the nerves that send pain and other senses of feeling to his mind were severed so that he could go on with his life. But (as the movie explains) when the mind loses certain senses it amplifies others, and in the case of this operation it is usually the emotions which are augmented. The operation also has the effect of allowing adrenaline to flow freely through his body all the time, giving him additional strength.
We watch as he tries desperately to be reunited with his girlfriend, whom he fears will not love him because of his appearance, and to exact revenge against the gangsters who stole his life from him. We watch his despair and pain as he realizes what has happened to him and his torment and embarrassment at his inability to control his anger. We also see his strong-willed desire to overcome his situation and triumph in his new life. Overall, it is an exciting and emotional story told with comic book flair and love story sensitivity.
From a Christian perspective, “Darkman” is typical, but with a few surprises. Like most other superhero movies, it is very violent with lots of gunplay and explosions, as well as other various violent acts. As mentioned before, Darkman is terribly disfigured from his burns, and this may bother some people (in the movie the subject of appearances before people is brought up and dealt with rather admirably). There is a small amount of cussing present, most notably two “F” words, and before being disfigured the hero sleeps with his girlfriend (we see them kiss, and later him massaging her back in bed. There is no nudity.). The part that surprised me is when Darkman, back in his lair and horrified by his actions while previously enraged, cries out “Oh God, Jesus! What have I become?” It is very obvious in this scene that he is praying. Indeed, hardships and the realization of our own sin often drive us to our knees. That said, it should still be understood that for most of the movie Darkman is more of an anti-hero.
Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. In my mind it is up there with “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” in terms of quality. I’d definitely recommend this movie to any fans of the superhero genre, though I wouldn’t let young children watch it since most of the movie is too dark and violent.