Donnie Darko: The Directors Cut
After watching the directors cut of Donnie Darko, it makes
you wonder what imbecile gave the original version the greenlight.
The theatrical version of the film, now a cult classic, was a
well-written, stylish, and entertaining film that didnt make a lick of
sense. The ending left a whole bunch of unanswered questions and didnt
seem to wrap things up at all.
A few years later, writer/director Richard Kelly was given a
budget and the opportunity to create his true vision, adding nearly 20 minutes
of footage and altering certain scenes drastically.
Youll probably be pleased to know that this new version ties
up all the loose ends and now believe it or not it actually makes
almost perfect sense.
The main addition, and the aspect that helps the most, is that the
directors cut features excerpts from Roberta Sparrows book
The Philosophy of Time Travel. With these excerpts, we learn a
great deal about why certain things are happening, why characters are doing the
things theyre doing, and more importantly, why Donnie is doing the things
hes doing. Without these bits, were left to figure these things out
for ourselves, but since the book is fictional and only created for the film,
theres no possible way for us to know what is written inside. Who allowed
this movie to be produced without the excerpts???
Pacing is improved by a few scenes being stripped of dialogue and
instead having really intense 80s tunes playing really loudly. Before the
change, the scenes were merely endless bouts of talking that were necessary to
propel the story forward. But we still get the gist of whats happening,
even if we cant hear what theyre saying. The new method may not be
as practical as a filmmaking technique, but it adds to the overall mood and
doesnt seem to take nearly as long.
Most of the added minutes seem to appear closer to the end of the
film. While not essential to the story, many of them enhance Donnies
relationship with his family, and assist in making us feel for him. Originally,
the entire family came across as a bunch of bickering Bickersons, but now they
seem much more like a normal family with normal conflicts between their
members. And we can tell that Donnie, despite the many problems as he may have
in his life, loves them dearly and is just at the stage in his life where he
doesnt like to admit it.
There are a few other additions and changes, most notably the
inclusion of close-ups of Donnies eye during his visions, and
some changes to the musical score.
Perhaps its the fact that people can gain a lot of knowledge
in three years and can therefore decipher clues more effectively, but all in
all, Donnie Darko works much better in its true form. The pacing is better, the
characters more solid, and hey, the movie finally makes sense. It still
isnt for everybody, but those intrigued by the films originality
and style (and confused by its lack of sensibility) should be pleased with the
directors cut, which finally gives us the Donnie Darko that Donnie Darko
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, but
doesnt look very good. Detail is pretty bland and there is plenty of
grain all over the place, and certain scenes look almost as though they were
shot with a consumer grade camera. Now, in all fairness, the movie is set in
1988 so perhaps its a choice of the filmmakers to make it look authentic,
but it doesnt work; it just looks like bad picture quality.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very impressive, however. The voice
of the bunny uses the rear speakers primarily, a very nice touch that could
creep the heck out of you if you were by yourself. The 80s tunes are
boisterous, filling the room from every direction, and are so loud theyd
probably overstay their welcome were they not so effective at setting the mood.
Most other elements are pretty standard, with dialogue and score coming from
the front channels, while the sound effects are spread fairly evenly.
Richard Kelly teams up with Kevin Smith (yes, of the Jay and
Silent Bob movies) for an audio commentary. Kelly spends plenty of time
discussing the differences between the two versions, the mythology behind the
film, and so on and so forth. Smith (who had nothing to do with the movie, but
is a friend of Kellys and a fan of the film) keeps things going smoothly,
often asking Kelly questions from fans and whatnot.
Disc two begins with 50+ minutes of behind-the-scenes footage shot
during production. Its interesting enough to see the trials of such a
film, but its some of the more boring BTS footage weve seen.
Its probably only for really hardcore fans, but it does feature alternate
audio commentary by Director of Photography Steven Poster. They Made Me
Do it Too is a half hour feature on the cult following of Donnie Darko.
It features mostly British folk talking about why they love the movie so much,
but they also go on about how Europeans are smarter than Americans and
therefore were able to understand the movie a lot better.
Or maybe they just like to think that
In the summer of 2004, there was a contest held to see who could
make the best short feature relating to Donnie Darko, and the winner was to be
featured on the Directors Cut DVD. The winner was Darryl Donaldson, a man
who really, really, really, really needs to get a life. He seems to devote
every waking moment of his existence to paying homage to his favorite movie,
and (this may be an unfair thing to say) comes across as a psychotic stalker
kind of person (just check out those pictures he drew). We can only hope he got
some money for being featured on the DVD.
Finally, we get a storyboard-to-screen featurette and a theatrical
trailer for the Directors cut.
Donnie Darko: The Directors Cut, from 20th Century Fox Home
132 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced,
Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore,
Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle
Produced by Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Adam
Written and directed by Richard Kelly
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