Hear ye Hear ye! Princess Pinkie is here with a new movie post!
Greetings my loyal guests and subjects! If you are a bit like me you will have watched Taken and thought “That is a pretty good action movie with Liam Neeson….. but that whole daughter being captured is kinda cliché.. it would be so much better if he threw a temper tantrum over a pink plushie!” If you are not like me, there is a chance this movie might have flown under your radar! So no matter if we are different OR alike, today we will take a look at Darkman!
Behind the mask
Darkman is a superhero movie that was released on the silver screen in august of 1990, it starred Liam Neeson as Dr Peyton Westlake, who would later take up the moniker of Darkman. The movie is directed by Sam Rami, and is co-starred by Frances McDormand, a name people might recognise despite her kind of lacking any iconic roles. A quick IMDB search gave me no real “iconic roles” but she has played in Fargo, Burn After Reading and did a lot of voice works such as the Mamma Dinosaur in The good Dinosaur. The Antagonist of the movie, and it’s sequel is played by Larry Drake… who is best known for Darkman and Darkman II, but also was the voice of Pops in Johnny Bravo! See there you go!
The movie scores a respectable 6,4 on IMDB, which I think is a really good score for a 1990’s Sam Raimi directed superhero movie (and yes it has a Bruce Campbell cameo). While Liam Neeson played the role of the titular character in the first movie, the character was played by Arnold Vosloo in the sequel, which would not be a big objection this time around since the movie is about switching faces… but for some weird reason in the sequel they replace Liam Neeson as if he was Vosloo all along. If nothing else this movie ins an interesting peek into Neesons earlier days of acting, which was .. a bit different, and with the early 90’s direction AND Raimi at the helm.. we see Neeson’s version of “Bully Maguire” or Symbiote Suit Spiderman from the Raimi trilogy… just done a lot earlier… and this time involving a pink elephant and let me tell you it is great.
Julie Hasting (played by McDormand) is ..I think… in real estate, or a real estate lawyer When she discovers a big player on the real estate market is doing some illegal things trough a document, a crimelord by the name of Robert G Durant begins looking for these papers, for he is in the real estate market as well and with this document he can put pressure on his competitors and own the city! By mistake or plot convenience this document ends up in the possesion of Dr Peyton Westlake, boyfriend of Hastings and the man who one day wishes to be her husband. He is researching a synthetic skin solution that can be printed into any face based on a few photos. However the chemical compound of his masks degrades by exposure to light! The masks are fine…in the dark but can survive about 100 minutes when exposed to light. Durant finds Peyton and kills his lab assistant, electrocutes Peyton so hard his hands char up completely then traps him in an explosion ruining his face.. in a very similar style as to how Harvey Dent lost half of his face in The Dark Knight.
With many burns over his body Westlake can no longer face the woman he has proposed to.. he lost his scientific work and his assistant, he lost his hands.. he lost everything, so now he swears revenge…which is amplified because the hospital severed all his nerves. Peyton no longer has any input of pain in his senses.. which causes everything else, including his emotions to overload! Drapped in bandages , a raincoat and a wide rimmed had.. he plans revenge.. rebuilding this face printing lab in an abandoned factory.. and using these masks to take revenge on those who wronged him… unknowing it will cause his old love Julie to become tied up in this once again.
Face *Flourish* …..Off!
So in this movie we get Liam Neeson with enhanced emotions, and all sorts of B-Grade actors having to play Liam Neeson playing them, but Liam Neeson with Soap Opera emotions! This concept is amazing… When you watch Face-Off it’s great to see two of the most over acting Hollywood stars, playing the other playing them..in all their overacting glory. This movie.. let’s a handful of Hollywood Redshirts, play Liam Neeson.. who is forced to over act. Which is great because we know him as someone who is very stoic and composed. This is mixed with a very strong Phantom of the Opera Influence throughout and supplemented by the camp that is 90’s superhero movies!…And it’s directed by Sam Raimi! How can this NOT be good! This concept is just so amazing! What makes it even better is that a lot of the technology that is used in this movie, kind of, is relevant in this day and age. Sure we don’t have skin that dissolves in the light.. but the whole 3d printing and phone apps that can extrapolate a lot of data on your face make this movie all the more delightful to watch.
In this movie Liam Neeson infiltrates the Crime Network of Durant by making himself look like the henchman and of course like the head honcho himself. Now this already is a very fun criminal organisation, with your classical bald bruiser type guy, the sunglasses wearing cool dude with long hair, and the scruffy looking guy with an artificial leg that can be detached and used as a weapon! We have seen machine gun legs in a few movies.. but the way how this movie handles it is the GREATEST weaponised limb I have seen in movies. What’s different?! Well normally we see the owner of the weaponised limp use it… but not this time the cool guy just yanks the limp from the other guy and uses it.. or the scruffy guy hands it over to him.. but than just stands there.. hopping on one leg… that’s ALL he does! He takes of his leg and gives it to someone else to shoot it .. while hopping! Hilarious.. but it also makes a lot of sense.. cause you can’t aim when hopping! It’s things like this that really show me the movie isn’t afraid to have fun with itself.
Have you ever wondered how the phantom of the Opera just happened to find one of those half masks .. and also the right half for his face?! Well in this movie Neeson tries to print his own face.. but because his lab exploded the one photo he had of himself is damaged in the exact same spot as his real face! He tries to make his mask.. but he can’t he has to extrapolate.. and because he only has an old junky computer which was old in the 90’s.. turning that into a 3d model takes hundreds of days. Which sounds legit but nowadays it sounds hilarious! However it also shows us a bit in what timeframe this movie takes place it helps us feel the alienation, Peyton Westlake must go trough and it offers interesting challenges.
Every mission he does..which later in the movie includes dating his former girlfriend again.. has to be done in 100 minutes or his new face will melt! So when a Carny refuses him a price he won..with only a few minutes left on the clock… with his enhanced emotion Peyton just loses it, with over the top rage eye effects added in and mind snapping animations to boot.. it’s just the flavour of bonkers I am looking for! Honestly this movie makes Face/Off seem like a nuanced movie. Take the damned Elephant.. is something I never expected Liam Neeson to say in such a threatening voice, and it gets even better when we get into the classic, Shoot Him.. No Shoot him I am your real boss moments when a character is forced to shoot at one of the two similar looking characters. I normally find that something for a Cartoon but there are little moments and motions that really sell this for me. For example Peyton is super afraid the masks comes off so he is constantly tucking in his neck, it’s so weird to see a real actor.. straighten their own face.. but it really helps sell the illusion, it makes everything silly at the same time but I really love it.
Not so Dark….Man
This movie feels quite different from other Superhero movies as well, as Peyton does not really have much super powers, other than not being able to feel pain. He has to outsmart the villains, has to stake them out and thus he doesn’t patrol the streets at night, no he constantly stakes things out and goes for the slow burn. He learns routines, practices their voices, their quirks, and since Raimi wants to make the timer element much more of a thing, almost the entire movie , except for the grande finale, takes place during daytime. It’s the light that adds the suspense rather than the dark, and while I would not call the movie suspenseful, it really does add something that all fights take place during the day and we can see the doppelgangers in full colour rather than in a dim lit room to polish out some bad effects. While some effects clearly do not hold up.. the movie really commits to it’s style!
You can see the movie was released at the back-end of the 80’s as a lot of the criminal stuff kind of reminded me of miami vice, the bright coloured suits the gangsters wear, the over the top.. cutting your finger off with a cigar cutter thing, the fact the movie has to have a helicopter chase. It feels really dated….but in a good way. Sure lady in this movie is a pretty helpless damsel in distress, their is not as much representation in this movie and the technology this movie was based on now almost is a joke, but that’s also what’s so likable about this. It is not something that could exist in this form in this day and age, in almost any perspective. There is no real development for Peyton, the name Darkman is way to on the nose, the damsel is way too helpless and durants gang ALMOST look like Jojo’s characters, fashion wise. Even the way chinese restaurants look feel dated.. which made me feel like I was watching something that has gone extinct.. like the Buddy Cop genre. .. It had a lot with that genre in common in the cinematographic style as well.
There is something about the way this movie is shot, not a lot of fancy tricks, not a lot of dark broody hero poses making the hero look cool, no! He gets the job done and is nervous, keeping checking on his watch, At the ending we are shown there is another guy besides Durant who is all part of this whole construction situation scheme and he jumps around those metal girders of a construction site with ease, he has been on so many he developed a feeling for it, while Neeson’s character wrapped in a heavy coat and bandages has trouble. Never does he feel cool, or all that hero like..the camera really shows this as well. Feeling very VERY basic for a Superhero movie, the action doesn’t feel “cool” or stylised. We really get the sensation that this is just a guy out for revenge..with a lot of enhanced emotions.
Only those emotions are stylised which is neat because that fits the silly tone of this movie so well but also never makes the hero seem immortal. He does not feel physical pain..but he can be ashamed..he can be so nervous he is forced to run away and that’s just such a neat take on the genre.
I LOVED this movie! I still love it, even though I know the IMDB score of 6.4 is probably fair, to me it is so much more than that. Yes the acting is hokey at times and McDormand really isn’t good in this movie but for some reason it blends so well. Because the movie wants Liam Neeson and the “duplicates” to lean so much into soap opera acting, the hammy acting of the rest of the cast really works as well, they fit in the same universe. Darkman somehow is extremely cliché YET has this “pragmatic” style of film making to it that really sells it for me. The big bad doesn’t get taken down in a big epic satisfying way, it’s more like as if an opportunity arises and our hero takes it. That goes for all the takedowns. It goes for the movie making as well. It doesn’t come on screen as spectacular as you might want, sometimes even a bit clunky..but it feels very much intentional.
In the end I’d have to compare the movie with the a pink elephant plushie. Sure it’s not a giant bear , it also is made with some cheap looking plastic eyes and some overly bright fur and it’s not an iconic toy such as Pikachu plushie or whatever is on your Dakimakura and in many way it’s just a generic plushie.. but once you hold it and hug it, you can really appreciate how soft it is, how good it is to hug! It might not be something you display with pride.. but whenever you are feeling blue you can pull it out of wherever you hide it and have a great time and let it and all of it’s flaws and camp cheer you up! Great entertainment even if it’s nothing else.
Have you seen this movie?! Did you like it?! What is your favourite cheesy Superhero movie?! Let me know in the comments! The Princess would like to know the thought of her subjects! If you liked this post please consider supporting me on Kofi! I am currently working on tiny projects to bring more content to the blog!