S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale (Blu-ray)
Directed by Chris Fisher
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 103 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 3.0 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Review Date: May 23, 2009
There are so many ways to produce unnecessary sequels to beloved movies, but surely S. Darko, the sequel to the cult hit of 2001 Donnie Darko, commits the biggest sin of all: it takes some of the characters from the original, borrows the original’s basic theme, and with some cinematic hocus-pocus proceeds to make the same film again. Actually it remakes it three times rerouting time to start again after each little mini-story completes its cycle. Three strikes, and it’s out, however. S. Darko is a complete misfire deficient in story originality, involving direction, and competent acting.
Seven years after her brother’s shocking demise, Samantha Darko (Daveigh Chase) and her friend Corey (Briana Evigan) set out from Virginia headed for Hollywood. They only get as far as Utah when their car conks out. Towed to the tiny hamlet of Conejo Springs, Sam and Corey begin witnessing a bizarre series of occurrences including the destruction of a windmill and a local church while local eccentric Iraq Jack (James Lafferty) proclaims that the apocalypse is only four days away. Their friendship begins to unravel, however, with Corey’s quick infatuation with local bad boy Randy (Ed Westwick) while Sam is attracting the unwanted interest of science nerd Jeremy (Jackson Rathbone). A missing child, some unexpected deaths, and the expected time shifting shuffle the pack of living and dead players for two story restarts.
Nathan Atkins’ screenplay has taken characters from Richard Kelly’s original film, but the plot which starts, stops, and restarts twice couldn’t be more hackneyed or lacking in interesting depth. Characters change motivations at the drop of a hat (or drop of a meteorite in the case of this film), and with all of the murky motives and the shifting personalities, it’s easy to become irritated and eventually detached from the plodding, uninvolving narrative. Whimsical moments (Sam playing with a pinwheel) are sprinkled into the story like nuts in a fruitcake, but they serve no purpose. Neither does the completely confusing mystery surrounding the abduction of a young boy in the town. None of this is served well by Chris Fisher’s direction which has no sense of pace or urgency despite the countdown of days until the end which constantly appears to remind us of the impending doom of the planet.
All of the major players are bereft of screen chemistry or charisma, though Matthew Davis‘ Pastor John comes the closest to an intriguing characterization. Both female leads Daveigh Chase and Briana Evigan have little or no impact (Chase’s role is by far the more difficult of the two, but she sleepwalks through the film), and their fates at certain portions of the story fail to deliver the expected power that would be necessary for the film to become something compelling. Instead, the movie’s various sequences limp forward with little or no propulsion toward that irritatingly familiar conclusion.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is almost always superb (only a couple of shots turn inexplicably soft), and superb contrast delivers a picture with solid color depth and excellent dimensionality. Blacks are impressive though shadows are sometimes too dark to reveal essential detail. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes good use of the wide soundstage for Ed Harcourt’s music score and a series of ambient sounds which are spread generously around the available channels. The subwoofer gets some impressive work with several heavy explosions as meteorites begin striking the Earth. Other opportunities for creative sound design, however, aren't always exploited.
The audio commentary is a joint effort with director Chris Fisher, writer Nathan Atkins, and cinematographer Marvin Rush. The three men have a jovial camaraderie and talk continuously through the film offering their motivations for various choices and some on-set anecdotes. They also acknowledge the film’s very erratic reception from fans of the original.
Apart from the trailers, the bonus features are all presented in 480p.
A making-of documentary finds the film’s producers, director, writer, and several principal cast members talking about their work on the film. It lasts for 15 minutes.
“Utah Too Much” is a song composed by three of the film’s principal actors and performed in this 6 ¾-minute featurette using clips from the film and behind-the-scenes footage.
There are six deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 6-minute grouping.
1080p trailers are presented for 12 Rounds, Taken, and Notorious. The trailer for S. Darko is not presented.
At one point in S. Darko, a character says, “I believe life sucks, and then you die.” Those words certainly parallel the truth about this unfortunate film. Its poor quality led to a quick theatrical death, and despite the Blu-ray‘s high quality video and audio merits, this is not a release I can recommend, even for fans of the original piece.