The whole premise behind Darkman in my opinion is a humble beauty and the beast tale really. Obviously Liam Neeson's character gets horribly mutilated but what follows is very similar to that French fairytale. On the other hand you could also say the character is very similar to 'The Phantom of the Opera' both in plot terms and visualisation. I think its fairly easy to see how Darkman is visually similar to The Phantom with his face mask of bandages and black sweeping attire. His appearance also harks back to other classic dashing heroes of the 30's such as The Shadow and more so The Spirit in the 40's, the age old dark coloured fedora always looking the business. Yet another influence (in my opinion) for Darkman's look could be Universal's sci-fi horror icon The Invisible Man who literately wears the same outfit with bandages of course.
The plot does kinda run along the same lines as 'Beauty and the Beast' or The Phantom. A disfigured man who hides in the shadows existing away from civilisation but watching them from a far at the same time. He has strong feelings for a woman whom he tries to protect and at the same time attempt to open up to her, but of course he cannot, he is conflicted inside over his hideous appearance. He is haunted by inner demons, how he is now treated and looked upon, and of course In this movie there is the added revenge and rage element against the mobsters that destroyed his life and face. Its the old winning formula of a hero (or anti-hero) who is scary for whatever reasons...but that fear draws you in, it intrigues you and makes you cheer for him.
I remember when I first saw this movie back in my teen years I wrote it off as a blatant Batman-esque wannabe (foolishly). Back then I wasn't totally aware of Raimi's work and hadn't seen his Evil Dead movies so I thought the effects were crude and poorly done. Watching now, being wiser and more experienced with movies, its easy to spot those typical Raimi effects and sequences, his way of directing that had become his signature. Yes the effects are still crude looking (carnival mans obvious rubber fingers getting twisted by Westlake), much of the movie showcases really bad bluescreen and some of the movie just looks cheap, but it all has that glorious Raimi style that peaked with 'Army of Darkness'. The most expensive looking aspect of the movie to me seems to be the use of a helicopter towards the end.
Did anyone notice that Darkman's burnt up face looks remarkably similar to Evil Ash's undead face in 'Army of Darkness'? The bottom of the jaw especially looks to be an almost identical design, still great looking though, the makeup and prosthetics are really effective in this film. I also really liked the tiny scene where Westlake's hands get fried in a wicked little stop-motion sequence. Its little touches like that that are pure Raimi and they look marvelous, plus its always nice to see the old methods being used. Looking back now the rage sequences in Westlake's mind are quite amusing too, its all very basic.
On the whole this movie is in all honesty a bit poor visually and not exactly an original concept. The acting is passable throughout but clearly hokey, its a good job Larry Drake is so fantastically cool, evil and distinctive looking as the main bad guy Durant otherwise this may have sunk without a trace. I think the film could of done with some more action sequences at night, hence Dark...man. I realise this title isn't suppose to simply mean a dark brooding gothic type character, its more to do with his damaged psyche and where it leads him. But if ever a character did need some murky menacing action set amongst neon lit skyscrapers its this. Still, you gotta give big kudos to Raimi for thinking this colourful character up out of thin air, to look at this film you could easily be mistaken for thinking it was an adaptation of an already established comicbook character. That is a pretty solid achievement right there.
The performances are good, especially Liam Neeson is really believable as the revengeful and crime-fighting figure hero.
The villains in the movie are over-the-top, leading with Larry Drake's character Durant. There also is some outrageous Rambo action which stretches way past credibility, such as people shooting from five feet away and missing our hero!
And I was surprised what I saw the final scene of an actor appeared cameo in this film was Raimi's longtime friend and collaborator Bruce Campbell.
"Darkman" has some great special effects, a good plot, and best of all, great acting. After he's injured, Peyton becomes a totally different person by developing a flaming temper. Liam Neeson does so good of a job that it will make you wonder who the real criminal is, Peyton or the men that destroyed everything he had.
"Darkman" is like many kinds of movies wrapped into one. It's mainly an action movie, but it has both sci-fi and horror characteristics involved in parts. If you like great action movies, I would recommend getting "Darkman." The two sequels to the movie are also good, but this one is the best. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2000 - loved this movie from the first time I saw it and still a good watch from time to time! Should be more popular.
When Sam Raimi couldn't get a job directing the superhero movies he wanted to do, he made up his own, and god dammit, it worked. Of course he went on to make "SpiderGold" a decade later, but here he still makes this kick ass R-rated superhero movie, with a neat premise, a fun score, and plenty of Raimi-style humor.
Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Peyton Westlake. He is developing a synthetic skin process in his laboratory, when one day a group of mobsters brake into his lab, wreak his stuff, torture Westlake, and then attempt to blow him up.
This beating was partly caused by his girlfriend, played by Frances McDormand, who has stumbled across some problems involving the boss of her big company.
Westlake, some how survives the explosion and is treated to some kind of experimental process that effects his physical strength and abilities, but also ruins his temper.
Now mutilated, he finds a new area in a condemned building to continue his work, learning how to create masks that last for a certain amount of time, and eventually engages in a tricky plan to get revenge on those who harmed him.
The story follows most outcast superhero stories involving a tragic hero, in this case Westlake is similar to the Phantom of the Opera. Basically Raimi has made a superhero/monster movie in the style of Evil Dead, with plenty of dark comedy running throughout.
Darkman: [to conference attendees after crashing through a skyscraper window] Excuse me.
The main draw of this movie is its style. Made on a modest budget, anyone who knows the Evil Dead films knows that Raimi is a wild man with the camera when the time calls for it, and it provides some zany sequences. The whole film resembles a pulpy kind of afternoon matinée from way back in the day. It is not afraid to go over the top with the melodrama or the action and the movie is better for it.
It also helps that this movie whips by. It's a lot of fun throughout, and was able to spawn a decent following with its to direct-to-video sequels, comics, toys, and even a Bruce Campbell cameo.
Rick: Oh, god! Don't! I've told you everything!
Darkman: [softly] I know, Rick. I know you did.
Darkman: But let's pretend you didn't!
It woud be easy to blame its poor quality on the bad fx and such, but those are simply a product of its era. No, they are not to blame. The basic idea could have made for a decent film, but in the hands of Raimi, it was a complete cheesefest. There are moments scattered throughout where it's not so terrible, but the rest.... well, at times it was so bad, it seemed to be a spoof.
Liam Neeson stars as the title character, who is disfigured by a criminals wanting to silence his girlfriends (Frances McDormand) discovery of bribery in elected office. After being restored to life by killing his sensations and upping his adrenaline he becomes Darkman, a person obsessed with revenge.
Unlike other superhero films, this is a revenge tale and Darkman will stop at nothing to achieve it. The acting is mediocre at best with Neeson over acting throughout the film, but it's the story and the execution that give this film the extra push it needs. Darkman is a film that was ahead of its time. The anti-hero has been hot lately and Darkman perfected it almost twenty years before. A great story with great visual execution.