donnie darko (spoilers)25 Feb 2002
Amanda and I watched Donnie Darko, last night.
Some first impressions:
In general, I thought it was sortof a neat movie visually, and it was interesting. However, I thought it lacking in real substance and was a pretty cheap manipulation – the ending was a total let down.
The casting of Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore ah.. left something to be desired. I like Drew Barrymore better when she’s doing what she does best – and that is playing only characters that have no semblance of depth.
Anyways, all in all, it was an interesting and beautifully filmed movie, but the plot was tired and convoluted. I am tired of these science fiction/fantasy/whatever movies that build up these huge expectations of revelation only to wrap it up at the end with convoluted pop science babble that doesn’t make any sense (a la A.I., my candidate for most disappointing ending ever) – it’s insulting to me, the viewer, and my intelligence.
Anyways, read the full story for discussion of the plot that contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, don’t peek!
Alright. I thought I had a grasp on what this movie was about last night, but it didn’t make much sense until I re-thought it this morning, and read another interview that shed some light on the movie.
The crux of the movie is basically just one blatant reference in the movie, and if you don’t catch it, nothing really makes sense.
The double-feature they go see at the theatre is playing “Evil Dead” and “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Now, I haven’t seen the latter, but I understand the gist of it. Christ is given the opportunity to live in a world where he WASN’T crucified, to see what it’s like, and has to decide – ergo, his last temptation.
This entire movie is basically a throwback to that idea.
Donnie Darko doesn’t have the ability to travel in time. That’s what I thought, at first, and I tried to justify the whole movie in that frame – that he was learning to control this ability, or something. But he didn’t have any ability at all. He was just subject to fate.
I think it’s best explained that a wormhole opens up on Oct 31st. The jet engine on the plane gets sucked into it and then lands in his bedroom. on Oct 2nd. At this point, he is simply given the opportunity to live the days between Oct 2nd and Oct 31st as they would happen if he cheats death and avoids the jet engine, or if he doesn’t, and just dies. If he dies, nothing ever happens – he never burns down porn-daddy’s house, so he never goes to jail, so freaky jesus-lady can go on the plane, so his mother never has to, etc. His mother and his girlfriend are still alive.
The movie with all his hallucinations and angst is supposed to be him realizing the inevitability of fate.
So, at the end, he goes back to bed on the 2nd and dies, laughing, because he’s enlightened. He sacrifices himself for his girlfriend and mother, and we all cry. Or something.
I thought the whole plot device was weak. It never tied anything together with the old lady. And it never talks about how he has any idea any of this is going on or how he would have the ability to choose, or etc etc. You can hypothesize all day and night, since pretty much anything is possible in a movie with time travel as a plot device, but it was overly convoluted and not very satisfying once you figure out what is supposed to be going on.
I mentioned A.I. up there, earlier, and I’m gonna bring it up again, because this sort of thing pisses me off. I hate it when movies bring about the expectation of great revelations about what they are about (i.e., time travel, or artificial intelligence). They make you think you’re in for a seriously trippy mind-bending ride, but instead they just build it up and then wrap it all up in the end with some half-assed convoluted, pseudo-science B.S. and slap “The End” on it, like we’re supposed to just hold our head and go “Dude!! That’s fucked up!!!” and go smoke a J.
If you’re not creative enough to follow an idea through to its fruition, don’t fuckin make a movie about it.