Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Darkman

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal

    Year: 1990

    Length:  1 hr 36 mins

    Genre: Science Fiction/Action/Horror/Sam Raimi

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    BD Resolution: 1080p

    BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 25 mbps)

    Color/B&W: Color


    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps)

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Film Rating: R (Violence, Gore, Inappropriate Use of a Cigar Cutter)

    Release Date: June 15, 2010

    Starring:  Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels and Larry Drake

    Screenplay by:  Chuck Pfarrer and Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Daniel Goldin & Joshua Goldin

    Directed by: Sam Raimi

    Film Rating:    2 ½/5

    Darkman has just made its debut on Blu-ray, showing more than a little of its 20-year age in the creakiness of the whole idea.  Sam Raimi’s basic comic-book concept is that of a scientist (Liam Neeson) who is horribly disfigured and medically altered, and who finds a way to exact revenge on the men who tried to kill him.   If you can turn on your suspension of disbelief full blast, you may well have a fun time with this movie, in which our hero is able to rebuild his destroyed computers and laboratory in the usual abandoned factory hideout, and is able to somehow generate artificial skin in the likeness of himself and his enemies.  Sam Raimi’s strong sense of visuals and of humor comes through in many places, including a ferocious use of a “dipping bird” prop, and some lovingly frenzied close-ups of Neeson.  If you were in any way taking the movie seriously, a thoroughly over-the-top transition shot with Frances McDormand should take care of that idea in a hurry.  The performances in the movie range from the understated (McDormand) to the wild (Neeson), and some performances oscillate back and forth between the two poles.  In a way, the film can be seen both as a comment on the then-recent Batman, and as a precursor to the work Raimi would later do with the Spider Man films.  Darkman’s origin is quite similar to that of the Joker in Burton’s 1989 film, only with the situation neatly reversed to make that character the hero, or anti-hero.  Danny Elfman’s score underlines the similarities between the two films, while also amplifying the outlandish nature of the whole thing.

    Darkman has previously been on DVD and HD-DVD, with the DVD edition including a theatrical trailer that is not part of the current release.  From what I can ascertain, the current Blu-ray simply ports over the 1080p VC-1 transfer from the HD-DVD and uses a DTS-HD MA audio mix.  There are no special features, aside from the usual Blu-ray functionality, including BD-Live and the My Scenes bookmarking function.


    Darkman is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that I believe comes directly from the prior HD-DVD release.  It’s not a bad transfer, but there are some moments where the image goes a little soft – particularly a late scene in an office with Colin Friels.   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.

    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    Darkman is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which mostly lives in the front channels while Danny Elfman’s score fills the surrounds.   There’s a little subwoofer activity when called for by gunfire or explosions, and a late helicopter sequence has some punch to it.  I will say that my favorite part of this mix came in a bit of voiceover at the very end of the film, where the voice can be heard in the surround channels.


    The Blu-Ray presentation of Darkman comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, but no special features relating to the film – not even the trailer that was included in the original DVD release.

    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. 

    My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.

    The film is subtitled in English.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. 

    IN THE END...

    Darkman is likely to appeal mostly to fans of Sam Raimi, who will appreciate having an HD copy of the movie if they don’t already own the HD-DVD.  It’s a fun ride if you can turn your thinking cap off, and there’s some very witty visuals and dialogue, as one would normally expect from Raimi.  The movie hasn’t particularly aged well, but I doubt that Raimi’s many fans will mind that at all.

    Kevin Koster

    June 28, 2010.

  2. MattFini

    MattFini Supporting Actor

    May 7, 2004
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    It's a bit of a bummer that this movie hasn't received any bonus material. I heard that Raimi was micromanaged by Universal on this one, but I can't confirm that. But I would've enjoyed seeing some deleted scenes, at least.

    Still, I'll be picking Darkman up once it hits the $15 range.
  3. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

    Sep 4, 2003
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    Seattle, WA
    Real Name:
    Jeffrey Nelson
    DARKMAN (along with A SIMPLE PLAN) is Sam Raimi's finest Mainstream Hollywood hour IMO. Blows BATMAN away on every level except budget. Unfortunately, Universal reportedly made him take out a bunch of stuff; rumor has it that he was able to put some stuff back in at the eleventh hour. I'd love to see what a director's cut would look like. A pity that they didn't see fit to put any extras at all on the Blu-ray, not even the bloody trailer. Still, all I have is the old DVD, so I'll probably upgrade, as this is one of my favorite films.
  4. Bill GrandPre

    Bill GrandPre Cinematographer

    Jun 9, 2001
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    Bruce Campbell talks about it in his book. I haven't read it in about 5 years but the one specific detail I remember him mentioning is a scene in which Colin Friels writhes around on a bed covered in gold coins shortly after consoling the Frances McDormand character. Per Campbell the scene was axed after a test screening because it made the audience uncomfortable. Campbell was understandably frustrated as that is obviously the point of the scene.

    I always thought "Darkman" was a perfect fit for Anchor Bay, I always hoped they would release it in a configuration similar to their "Army of Darkness" release with the theatrical cut, a longer cut and other features like a documentary. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be and I don't see that happening these days. Putting "Spider-Man" and "Evil Dead"/"Army of Darkness" on the cover is probably all Universal needs to realize this film's maximum potential as a home video title. There's definitely a demand for more extras but I have to be honest when it comes to the fact that the demand is very, very low.
  5. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

    Sep 13, 2003
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    When MALLRATS was being made producer Jim Jacks, who was also a producer on DARKMAN, talked about this. There was a point where Raimi was very frustrated and Jacks suggested that Raimi simply put his foot down and refuse to make any more changes, and Raimi did and even put some stuff back in the film. The thing was, the negative was already being cut, so in putting back some of that material there are actual small "jump cuts" because a frame is missing. Jacks pointed one out to us, I can't recall exactly where it occured but sure enough you can see the image jump ahead one frame during a camera move that Raimi lengthened at the 11th hour. I'd also love to see a true Director's Cut of this loaded with extras.



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