There are many movies that have been released over the years where sequels make sense. That doesn’t mean they need sequels, but you can see how it’ll work. A sequel to Donnie Darko, however, never crossed my mind.
Donnie Darko, one of the most unique, intriguing, mind-bending and debate-invigorating films of the 21st century, is one of my favorite movies. The film, though it was never a box office hit, has become a cult classic, solidified Jake Gyllenhaal as a leading man and is just one damn fine film. It is also a movie with a satisfying ending… an ending where the title character dies to save the world.
So, when Donnie Darko fans heard of S. Darko, a sequel (sorry, continuation), they were understandably upset. As was I. As was Donnie Darko‘s writer/director, Richard Kelly. Why ruin something that’s perfectly good in its own right, like the Wachowskis did to the The Matrix?
In reality, S. Darko is not that bad of a movie. It has strong acting, fairly slick directing and a decent screenplay. Especially for a direct-to-DVD title, the movie is much better than expected, other than the rather dismal special effects.
The problem, however, is that the only people who will watch S. Darko are Donnie Darko fans, the exact group that would prefer if this movie didn’t exist. This explains its 4.0/10 rating on IMDB; it’s not that bad, but it is completely unnecessary.
The movie is just as confusing, if not more so, but without the payoff or originality. The writers decided to bring back Daveigh Chase, who played Samantha Darko in the original and who has gone on to play the evil dead girl in The Ring and a psychotic teenage wife in HBO’s “Big Love.” Unfortunately, Daveigh is left to play a dull, depressed teenager who sees the same thing her brother did, but doesn’t get to show off her acting chops (though no one can blame her for taking on a lead role such as this and proving that she can indeed act). Other cast members include Briana Evigan (Step Up 2), Ed Westwick (Son of Rambow) and Jackson Rathbone (Jasper in Twilight), and all turn in pretty good performances.
Unfortunately, the movie seems like a less enjoyable copy of the original. Though director Chris Fisher gives it his all, the style feels, at times, as if he’s simply trying to mimic moments from the first film. There’s even a musical montage, albeit without “Mad World.” The story is very similar, not necessarily when it comes to specific plot points but just in overall theme and goals. It’s like Fisher and writer Nathan Atkins just recreated the movie with different characters and a slightly different plot and didn’t think anyone would notice.
The movie also falls apart in the end as its low budget finally rears its ugly head and the plot and characters take a turn for the worst.
Ultimately, S. Darko isn’t a horrible film, but it is like that unwanted bastard child no one wants. The only saving grace is that S. Darko is in fact a direct-to-DVD release, so we can just ignore it. Or you can. But I know curiosity now has the better of you, and you will watch it. Damn it, 20th Century Fox.
The DVD comes with a short behind-the-scenes documentary which is actually halfway decent, a few deleted scenes and a commentary with the filmmakers.