Darkman III Die Darkman Die, originally planned to be Darkman's direct sequel but pushed aside because Larry Drake became available to return as the villain, is slightly better than the film that postponed it. It's not a whole lot better, but it at least has a few scenes worth watching, and didn't bore me to tears. It tried to develop Darkman (again played by Arnold Vosloo) as an actual character, playing to his human side instead of keeping him at arm's reach from everyone, and it has a couple of points with genuine tension.
It also has a killer villain. The first film had two villains, the most memorable of which was Larry Drake's. Drake came back in the sequel, but phoned in his performance, especially when compared to his over-the-top antics in the original. This time, we have Jeff Fahey, playing Peter Rooker, a drug lord similar to Drake's character in the first film, except there's no twist regarding whether or not he's the top dog. He seemingly owns and knows everything, and is so powerful that even his neglected wife and child won't leave him; they're too scared.
Anyway, Darkman has actually started to go through his whole "I'm going to be a vigilante" routine, and begins the film stealing money from the wrong man: Rooker. I suppose his definition of "vigilante" might be slightly different from yours, but he's morally in the clear because the money was gathered from selling drugs. Anyway, Rooker now knows about Darkman, sends a female scientist (Darlanne Fluegel) to seduce/trick him, and before you know it, the two are feuding. And "feuding" is putting it lightly, because either one is willing to kill the other if they ever meet again face to face.
Things take a more dramatic turn when Darkman impersonates Rooker and learns about his broken family life. And then, after that touching scene, a surprise birthday party brings us laughs that haven't happened since the original. A bit of humor is added here and there, and in tone alone, Darkman III feels a lot more like a sequel than the second installment.
In fact, since nothing happened in the second film that carried over to this one, it's almost like the filmmakers -- director Bradford May was behind the second film as well as this one -- decided to more or less ignore its existence. It didn't have anything happen within it that had to happen, and none of it carried over to this one. And since this was the planned second movie anyway, it makes a lot of sense that this one feels much more like a proper sequel.
Really, save for a couple of questions that could be raised at the start of the second movie, this could be set between the first and second films. 800 days passed between Drake's villain being defeated and waking up from his coma, and we don't get a sense of what Darkman was up to during that time. Maybe this would fit properly in that place. I'd have to wonder or not whether he forgot about the family he met and started to care about in this film, but considering his solitary nature, that wouldn't be hard to write off.
This is also the first chapter in the trilogy to attempt to develop Darkman as a character. It's not completely successful -- it's hard to believe that Darkman would suddenly just start caring about a mother and child out of the blue like he does -- but at least there's an attempt made here. I liked the scenes in which he and the mother or child interact, as they're sweet and sometimes funny. And seeing him start to have an emotional side -- even if it's not going to stay at the end -- is fun to watch.
Some of the scenes actually generate suspense and tension. While few of them use the time limit imposed by the synthetic skin masks, some of them actually do. That was missing entirely from the last film. And because an emotional side has been exposed, it's possible to actually care for Darkman in a way that hasn't been available to us since his name was Peyton Westlake, and he was the victim of tragedy. It makes everything that happens feel a bit more like it matters, and that's something the series has missed.
The main reason that Darkman III works as well as it does is because of Jeff Fahey, taking on the over-the-top villain role with gusto. He's so much fun, and it's clear that he's enjoying himself, that you want to watch him intently whenever he's on-screen. Arnold Vosloo still doesn't seem to be enjoying himself in the Darkman role, but he's given a bit more time to show us his acting chops, as Darkman puts on Vosloo's face more often this time around. All other roles are not worthy of mention; this is a film centered on the fight between these two people.
Darkman III: Die Darkman Die is perhaps the most enjoyable of the Darkman trilogy. Sure, it's still missing the style of Sam Raimi's original, but this one explored the emotional side of the character, provided us with a fantastic villain, and actually had a sense of suspense for much of its running time. Jeff Fahey is the main reason that the film works and is as enjoyable as it is, and if you want to see more of Darkman's story after watching the original, this is the one to go after. Skip Darkman II and go straight to this one.