Darkman III: Die Darkman Die

Darkman

Darkman is a 1990 superhero action film directed by Sam Raimi that was based on a short story he wrote that paid homage to Universal horror films of the 1930s. It stars Liam Neeson as Peyton Westlake, a scientist who is attacked and left for dead by a ruthless mobster, Durant (played by Larry Drake) after his girlfriend, an attorney (played by Frances McDormand) runs afoul of a corrupt developer (played by Colin Friels). Westlake survives, but is left totally disfigured. While hospitalized, he is subjected to a radical treatment that destroys the nerves connected to his brain, neutralizing his ability to sense pain. Now half-crazed, Westlake escapes the hospital and decides to get revenge on the criminals who took his life away, but now as a masked vigilante, known as Darkman.

Unable to secure the rights to either The Shadow or Batman, Raimi decided to create his own superhero and struck a deal with Universal Studios to make his first Hollywood studio movie. He was subjected to a grueling screenwriting process and equally difficult post-production battle with the studio.

Darkman was generally well-received by critics and performed well at the box office, grossing almost $49 million worldwide, well above its $16 million budget. This financial success spawned two direct-to-video sequels, Darkman II: The Return of Durant and Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die, as well as numerous comic books, video games and action figures.

Plot

Scientist Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is developing a new type of synthetic skin to aid burn victims. He is frustrated with a flaw in the "skin", which causes it to rapidly disintegrate after being exposed to light for 99 minutes; however, it remains intact in darkness. Despite his devotion to the project, he cannot get past this limitation.

Westlake's girlfriend, attorney Julie Hastings (McDormand), comes upon an incriminating document proving that corrupt developer Louis Strack Jr. (Friels) and mobster Robert G. Durant (Drake) have given bribes to members of the zoning commission. In search of the document, Durant and his minions attack and injure Westlake, retrieve the document, then blow up his lab. The blast throws Westlake clear of the lab; he survives but is hideously burned. He is brought to a hospital and subjected to a radical treatment in which the nerves to the pain centers of his brain are destroyed. Removing this sensory input gives him increased strength due to adrenal overload and keeps his injuries from incapacitating him, but it also destabilizes his moods and mental state.

Westlake escapes the hospital and sets out to get revenge on Strack and Durant. He also seeks to re-establish his relationship with Hastings. To hide his scarring and blend into crowds, Westlake rebuilds enough of his equipment to make his synthetic skin, but is still unable to overcome the 99-minute window of integrity. Thus, he can only appear briefly in public as himself (or later as others, whose features he is able to duplicate) in daylight, and otherwise wears bandages and a trenchcoat in his identity as Darkman. He is able to make masks in advance and store them for long periods by keeping them from light sources. He takes the opportunity to observe important people, such as the henchmen of his enemies, so he can masquerade as them.

There are at least two scenes in which the Westlake/Darkman personas have obviously become so closely intertwined that it becomes an exercise in futility to differentiate between the "facade" and the supposedly "real" personality of the title character. One of these involves a flash of berserker rage that "Westlake" experiences over a trivial insult at a carnival booth. The other involves "Darkman" very calmly, almost sadly, informing a villain that "I've learned to live with a lot of things" just before dropping him from atop an office building construction project.

Westlake eventually succeeds in destroying his enemies but is unable to return to his old life and thus continues his existence as Darkman.

Cast and characters

  • Liam Neeson as Peyton Westlake / Darkman: Originally, Raimi's longtime friend and collaborator Bruce Campbell was set to play Darkman/Peyton Westlake, but the studio balked at the idea because they didn't think Campbell could carry the role (Campbell instead appears at the end of the film as "The Final Shemp", a mask that Darkman wears as he disappears into the streets). Gary Oldman and Bill Paxton were also considered to play Darkman before Liam Neeson was cast. For the role, Raimi was looking for someone who could suggest "a monster with the soul of a man, and I needed an actor who could do that beneath a lot of makeup" and liked Neeson's "old Gary Cooper charisma." The actor was drawn to the operatic nature of the story and the inner turmoil of his character. To research for the role, Neeson contacted the Phoenix Society, an organization formed by a group consisting of people with severe disfigurements to help other accident victims adjust to re-entering society.
  • Frances McDormand as Julie Hastings: Raimi had wanted to work with Frances McDormand but the studio resisted this notion and almost cast Julia Roberts before Pretty Woman made her a star. At one point, they wanted Demi Moore for the role. The director even tested Bridget Fonda but felt that she was too young for Neeson.
  • Larry Drake as Robert G. Durant: He auditioned for the film and Raimi liked the way he underplayed the character, "quiet and careful, yet intense," the actor remembers. The director had never seen L.A. Law but found that Drake's face reminded him of "a modern day Edward G. Robinson. He looked so mean, so domineering, yet he had this urban wit about him. I thought, 'My God, this guy is not only threatening-looking, he has a good physical presence - what a perfect adversary for the Darkman!'"

It is implied in the first film that he is gay, even attracted to one of the members in his gang, although he demonstrates an interest in women in his subsequent appearances.

  • Colin Friels as Louis Strack Jr.: The corrupt and ruthless billionaire developer who runs Strack Industries. He bribes members of the city zoning commission to further his ambitious construction project (which he dubs the "City of the Future"), and employs Durant and his gang to eliminate anyone who gets in his way. He and Darkman have their final battle atop one of Strack's half-finished skyscrapers at the film's climax.
  • Nelson Mashita as Yakitito
  • Jessie Lawrence Ferguson as Eddie Black
  • Rafael H. Robledo as Rudy Guzman
  • Ted Raimi as Rick
  • Nicholas Worth as Pauly

Development

Origins

For a long time, Sam Raimi had been interested in adapting a comic book into a movie. He had pursued and failed to secure the rights to both The Shadow and Batman and decided to create his own. The initial idea Raimi had for Darkman was of a man who could change his face. He has said that he drew inspiration from such films as The Phantom of the Opera, The Elephant Man, Batman and The Shadow. Raimi was also inspired by the Universal horror films of the 1930s and 1940s because "they made me fear the hideous nature of the hero and at the same time drew me to him. I went back to that idea of the man who is noble and turns into a monster". He originally wrote a 30-page short story, titled "The Darkman", and from this it was developed into a 40-page treatment. It was at this point that, according to Raimi, "it became the story of a man who had lost his face and had to take on other faces, a man who battled criminals using this power". It also became more of a tragic love story in the tradition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1987, Raimi submitted the treatment to Universal Pictures which they liked, greenlighted a budget in the range of $8-12 million, and suggested that he get a screenwriter to flesh out the story.

Screenplay

The more the director worked on it, the more Darkman became a crimefighting figure, "a non-superpowered man who, here, is a hideous thing who fights crime. As he became that hideous thing, it became more like The Phantom of the Opera, the creature who wants the girl but who was too much of a beast to have her," Raimi said. The process of developing his treatment into a screenplay was difficult with Raimi hiring ex-Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer based on his work on Navy SEALs. He wrote the first draft and then Raimi's brother, Ivan (a doctor), wrote drafts two through four with Sam. Ivan made sure that the medical aspects and scientific elements were authentic as possible given the nature of the story.

As Raimi and his producing partner Robert Tapert progressed through various drafts, they realized that there was a potential franchise on their hands. Universal brought in screenwriting brothers Daniel and Joshua Goldin to work on the script. According to Daniel, they were presented with various drafts and "lots of little story documents. There was just material everywhere; drafts seemed to go in many directions." Goldin said that they "spent a lot of time talking and pulling together a way of making the story work. I think that mostly we talked in terms of the nuts and bolts of the story." The Goldins added new lines of dialogue, new characters and bits of action. The studio still wasn't satisfied so the Raimi brothers wrote drafts six through twelve before they had a shooting script. For Raimi, he wanted to emphasize Peyton/Darkman's arc over the course of the film. He said, "I decided to explore a man's soul. In the beginning, a sympathetic, sincere man. In the middle, a vengeful man committing heinous acts against his enemies. And in the end, a man full of self-hatred for what he's become, who must drift off into the night, into a world apart from everyone he knows and all the things he loves."

Pre-production

Working with Universal meant a significant increase in budget for Raimi. This allowed him to design and build a laboratory set for Darkman and afford helicopters and professional stuntmen to film the climactic helicopter chase through the city. He was eventually given $16 million to work with, including a longer schedule and much more effects work.

Look-wise, the filmmaker was interested in paying homage to Universal horror films of the 1930s. Production designer Randy Ser remarked, "if you look at Darkman's lab that he moves into, which is an old warehouse, what was on my mind was Dr. Frankenstein. There were a number of references visually to what we were thinking about in regards to those films."

McDormand and Neeson worked closely rehearsals, rewriting the three love scenes they had together after he becomes Darkman. They got through these scenes, according to the actress, by depending on "each other's knowledge, of theater and each other."

Principal photography

Reportedly, McDormand and Raimi were not always on the same page while making the movie. The filmmaker said that directing her was "very difficult". Raimi said, "apparently I didn't know Fran as well as I thought I did...The reason it was difficult was that our conception of the best movie to make differed, arguing in trying to make the best picture possible. We did come across disagreements, but they were very healthy."

Durant's finger collection developed over the Pfarrer and Raimi brothers drafts. The director wanted a specific trademark for the character - one that hinted at a military background.

Liam Neeson worked in ten-piece makeup, sometimes for 18 hours. He saw the lengthy time spent in extensive makeup as a challenge and liked "the idea of working behind a mask on camera, and just exploring the possibilities of what that entailed." He and the makeup artists did tests using certain glues and resins. They also timed how fast they could put the makeup and costume on. Neeson worked with the costume designer on his outfit, including aspects like the cloak. The hardest part for the actor was speaking with false teeth and he ended up doing "a lot of work on my voice - I didn't want the [false teeth] to move at all."

Editing

Raimi and Tapert ran into conflicts with the studio during post-production. Early preview screenings did not go well as people laughed in the wrong places and complained about a lack of a happy ending. Then, two preview screenings, one with Danny Elfman's score went well. Tapert remembers, "the experience on Darkman was very difficult for Sam and me; it isn’t the picture we thought it should be, based on the footage we shot and all that. The studio got nervous about some kind of wild things in it, and made us take them out, which was unfortunate."

Soundtrack

Danny Elfman said of his score, "Again old-fashioned and melodramatic, but in a way that I'm crazy about. Sam Raimi has a wonderful visual style that lends itself easily to music. It was an enormous relief writing long, extended musical sequences, something which is very rare in modern films. No reason to hold back on this one.

Track listing

  1. "Main Titles" 1:37
  2. "Woe, the Darkman...Woe!" 6:09
  3. "Rebuilding/Failure" 3:16
  4. "Love Theme" 0:56
  5. "Julie Transforms" 1:11
  6. "Rage/Peppy Science" 1:37
  7. "Creating Pauley" 3:19
  8. "Double Durante" 1:50
  9. "The Plot Unfolds (Dancing Freak)" 7:01
  10. "Carnival from Hell" 3:16
  11. "Julie Discovers Darkman" 1:59
  12. "High Steel" 4:19
  13. "Finale/End Credits" 3:39

Reaction

Ads asking "Who is Darkman?" began appearing on bus benches, public transit and television as early as June 1990. Universal Vice-President of Media Vic Fondrk said that the studio did not want to spend much money promoting the film in advance, "but we wanted to create some intrigue for the Darkman character.

In its opening weekend, the film grossed a total of $8,054,860 in 1,786 theaters. To date, the film has grossed a total of $48,878,502 worldwide.

The film enjoyed generally favorable reviews. Los Angeles Times film critic Michael Wilmington felt that Darkman was the only comic book movie at the time "that successfully captures the graphic look, rhythm and style of the superhero books." Terrence Rafferty of The New Yorker said, "Raimi works from inside the cheerfully violent adolescent-male sensibility of superhero comics, as if there were no higher style for a filmmaker to aspire to, and the absence of condescension is refreshing." USA Today gave the film three out of four stars. However, Richard Corliss in Time said that Raimi wasn’t "effective with actors" and People’s Ralph Novak called Darkman, a "loud, sadistic, stupidly written, wretchedly acted film." Darkman was singled out for notice by comic-book writer Peter David in the Comics Buyers Guide as "The Perfect Super-Hero Film of All Time. Darkman holds a 74 percent "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Sequels

Darkman II: The Return of Durant

In this 1994 direct-to-video sequel, Scientist Peyton Westlake (now played by Arnold Vosloo) continues to work on his synthetic skin, whilst fighting crime as Darkman.

Despite looking as if he had been killed in the first movie, Robert G. Durant survived and was in fact comatose in the time since the helicopter explosion that occurred during the first film's climax, and returns to take over organized crime in the city.

Trying to perfect his synthetic skin with the assistance of Dr. David Brinkman (Jesse Collins), Durant turns up, and in a scene reminiscent of the first movie, Brinkman is tortured and killed, leaving the work in ruins. It is up to Darkman once again to disguise himself as members of Durant's gang and he ultimately manages to destroy them from within.

When Westlake is infiltrating Durant's gang, reporter Jill Randall discovers that Peyton Westlake is still alive while trying to prove that the facts and actions of Durant's gang show that Durant is back in business.

Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die

In the second direct-to-video Darkman sequel, released in 1996, Peyton Westlake (again played by Vosloo) steals a crate of money from drug lord Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey) to continue his research. Rooker is determined to find out how Darkman has his superior strength, and enlists the aid of Dr. Bridget Thorne (Darlanne Fluegel), a new character retroactively put into Darkman's origin as one of the doctors who first treated Westlake's body after he was burnt in the first movie. Obtaining a sample of Westlake's adrenaline, Dr. Thorne develops a designer steroid which enhances a person's strength at the cost of their mental agility.

Learning of what has happened, Darkman plans his revenge against Rooker by impersonating him while in the company of his family and colleagues in order to bring him down. It is up to Darkman to destroy the formula to the steroid and seek vengeance against Rooker, but not at the cost of Rooker's wife and child.

This film shifts some of the focus from action to drama, during Peyton's scenes with Rooker's wife (played by Roxann Biggs-Dawson), and his child, reminding him of how life could have been for him.

Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die was originally intended to be the first sequel to the original Darkman, but when Larry Drake became available to reprise his role of Durant, this entry was moved back until Darkman II: The Return of Durant had been finished and released.

Unaired television pilot

Universal Television financed a 30-minute television pilot based on Darkman, which was made sometime in 1992 and was to be shown on Fox. The pilot retold the origin of the character (with some alterations) and introduced several new characters. Christopher Bowen starred in the role of Peyton Westlake/Darkman, Larry Drake reprised his role of Robert G. Durant and Kathleen York plays the cop, Jenny.

The origin is very similar to the one in the original film as Peyton discovers his synthetic skin, is attacked and left for dead by Durant and his gang. In this version, however, Peyton is already married to Julie, and she is killed in the explosion.

As in the movies, Westlake becomes the Darkman, and seeks vengeance on Durant and his gang. Darkman's headquarters are based in an abandoned observatory overlooking the city, and he is wanted by the police for his actions against Durant's gang.

The pilot ends with some scenes from the first movie (particularly of Darkman and Durant fighting) and Darkman stating that Justice will answer with a brand new face.

DVD

On August 7, 2007, all three Darkman films were released in a box set by Universal Home Video. Each is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, along with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. No extra material was included. The high definition version of Darkman was released on HD DVD July 31, 2007.

Merchandising

Darkman has been the subject of two Marvel Comics series (one a movie adaptation, the other an original sequel), numerous novels, as well as computer and video games. Merchandising for the character all but disappeared for close to a decade until SOTA Toys obtained the rights to make a Darkman action figure. SOTA president Jerry Macaluso was interviewed by Dread Central:

"This leads to an interesting story on Darkman. Universal didn't know they owned the merchandise rights. It didn't show up on any of their merchandise sheets. I had to convince them to spend a little time and have their lawyers look into it. I knew at the time that film was made Sam (Raimi) didn't have the power to retain those rights so it HAD to be Universal even though they said they didn't have them. Turns out I was right and afterwards Darkman started to show up in all their catalogs of films available to license...

In 2005, SOTA produced two versions of their Darkman action figure (including interchangeable head and hands to allow the figure to be either bandaged or revealing his scarred visage), as well as a Darkman statue.

Dynamite Entertainment announced in 2006 that it had reached an agreement with Universal Studios Consumer Products Group to produce original comics based on Darkman. A bimonthly limited series entitled Darkman vs. Army of Darkness was published from August 2006 to March 2007. A regular solo series will follow in December 2007.

In November 2007, Sideshow Collectibles put up for pre-order a 1/4" scale "Premium" Format Figure version of Darkman that would be released 3rd Quarter 2008.

References

External links


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