Quick-Thoughts: Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990)

Peyton literally invented in-person catfishing.

Coming in the midst between the releases of his final two Evil Dead pictures, Darkman is Sam Raimi’s initiation into the blockbuster action scene that, alongside Tim Burton’s Batmans, is hard not to look back at today as nothing short of a precursor to the melodramatic storytelling of early 2000s comic-book movies. There’s a blender of an origin story to it as well that sort of heightens my claim: it feels less so guided by your justice-determined “anti-hero” venture and more so by a rather temperamental romantic “anti-monster” venture; the discombobulated choice makes sense all too well knowing Raimi’s demeanor for unhinged campy horror execution, which is performed here to rightfully convey this character’s evolving state of mind through the director’s usual visually creative intensity that, however, comes off as quite self-serious this time around, introducing us to the kind of narratives he’d put together later on. With no nervous system attached to this physically compromised lover — our main character —, the distraction of revenge and hope is something that guides this metaphorical emotional bomb into feeling like he used to while furthermore numbing to terms with the functionality of his new complexion and the state of reality that it has to offer. 

Yet, it’s sort of a shame to see a genre pairing and therefore inventive film use dated black-and-white extremes to distinguish realized heroes with mindlessly villainy (but at least enjoyably quirky) villains, where essentially Darkman, like a lightened-down version of Norman Osborn / Otto Octavius becoming Green Goblin / Doc Ock, is able to stand morally higher next to corporate power which is of course the bigger evil — a dominant cliché of the 80s action blockbuster now idly carried into its subsequent decade. This may all be in the name of cheese, but it isn’t particularly memorable next to the weightier scheme of what the Darkman character himself has to offer despite them both giving into familiarities; one at least delectably mixes them in the spirit of a mad-scientist’s rage. In hindsight of the future of Raimi’s filmography though, it is nice to see the inceptions for what he would later carry on or even improve upon in the future: the doppelgänging seems like preparation for enlivening Evil Ash from Army of Darkness (1992). Also, boyishly toying around with villains, saving a damsel in distress who’s falling down a fifty-story building, not to mention swinging from a helicopter on a rope around a city crashing into buildings and dodging cars has “Spider-Man (2002) audition tape” written all over it.

Verdict: B-

Sam Raimi Ranked

“Darkman” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

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