Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"S Darko" DVD Review ("Utah Too Much")

Released on DVD May 12, 2009, S. Darko is the continuation of Richard Kelly's cult classic Donnie Darko.

The film stars Daveigh Chase (Donnie Darko, The Ring, HBO's Big Love), Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl), Jackson Rathbone (Twilight, Dread) and Briana Evigan (Step Up 2: The Streets). The run time is 103 minutes and the special features include:

• Filmmaker Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
The Making of S. Darko
Utah Too Much

Tagline: "It's Time To Travel Forward "

This film takes place several years after Donnie's death in the original.
If you have not seen Donnie Darko, the movie is about a teenage boy (Jake Gyllenhaal) who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and has visions of "Frank", a six foot tall rabbit.
While Donnie is sleep walking one night, Frank informs him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 12 seconds and goes on to convince Donnie to commit different criminal acts. When a jet engine crashes through his bedroom, Donnie is not home and this event starts a chain reaction causing Donnie to realize that it is he alone who can save the world.

(Donnie Darko IMDB Page)

**Spoiler Alert Below: I have tried to include as few spoilers as possible, but there are some**

S Darko tells the tale of Donnie's sister, Samantha. Now 18 years old, Sam is still mourning her brother's death. Her family has fallen apart as a result of their loss and Sam has joined her friend Corey in a road trip across the country. Their car breaks down outside of Conejo Springs and while staying in the small town they meet such characters as Randy (Westwick), Jeremy (Rathbone) and Iraq Jack.

Just after the girls arrive, a meteorite strikes a local farmer's windmill and that is when the oddness begins to ensue. Sam has not been able to dream since her brother's death and she also begins to suffer from sleep walking. While she herself does not experience visions, Iraq Jack is a different story. He is very much like Donnie Darko in that he is thought to be "crazy" and his vision is of Samantha herself wearing a gown and with a large gash to her temple. Sam is an example of the manipulated dead that was also used as Frank in Donnie Darko. She, along with the town's missing boy, appear to bring messages to the "receivers" that are alive.

Like the original, S. Darko involves the idea of time travel as well as self sacrifice. Sam and Corey have an argument just before Samantha is hit by a car (I assure you, this is not a huge spoiler and happens early in the movie). Corey realizes that she would do anything to bring Sam back, which leads again to the notion that one person can save the world from ending.

Jackson's character, Jeremy Frame, is the town science nerd who purchases the fallen meteorite to study. Jeremy discovers that the meteorite contains metal that is not on the periodic table (Jeremy: "I'm going to call it Framium", Samantha: "Like your name?") and begins to develop a "rash". He meets Sam and Corey at the local diner and is immediately smitten with Samantha. Later in the movie, he is the one who purchases the gown that Sam is wearing in Iraq Jack's visions and asks her to watch the town fireworks with him at an overlook.

(pic credit: Jackson Rathbone Online)

Jackson does a great job of portraying Jeremy's timid side and later showing his anger and frustration. At the end of the movie, I was reminded of Adam in "Criminal Minds" when he was being questioned. Jeremy's character starts as hesitant yet excited. He is picked on by other teens in the town, but that does not stop him from introducing himself to Sam and Corey. He also attends a party in the hopes that Sam will be there. As his "rash" grows, as does his anger and determination and he suddenly becomes violent when he headbutts Randy, knocking him unconcious. Jackson does an excellent job making this change in Jeremy's attitude so smooth that one can actually see how the residents of the town may miss it. Jeremy, like Sam in her own family at home, tends to be overlooked and even after climactic moments in the film he is not seen as more than a science enthusiast.

The movie is not the original, nothing can be. I really enjoy that Jackson pointed out in the "Making of S. Darko" special feature that this is a "continuation". It is not trying to be what Donnie Darko was, but is telling Samantha's story. Richard Kelly's world cannot be duplicated and I enjoyed this movie as an extension of that universe.

I would recommend this movie to fans of Donnie Darko and Jackson fans alike, however, I do recommend watching the original first. These movies can both be a bit intricate and I will admit that when I first became a Donnie Darko fan I had to watch it more than once to truly grasp each idea.

Also, make sure that you catch the "Making of S. Darko" as well as "Utah Too Much" in the special features. The "Making Of..." helps to explain what is happening in the film and Jackson adds his own thoughts. "Utah Too Much" is a song that the guys in the cast including Jackson sat down and wrote and the feature includes lots of behind the scene shots.


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