Before the Spider-Man franchise, Sam Raimi helmed another comic book superhero film: Darkman. It is the story of many superheroes: a freak accident leaves a man as a societal outcast, struggling to come to grips with this freak that he has become. The first two-thirds of Darkman are superb, but the end of the movie betrays what came before it.
Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Peyton Westlake, a scientist who is working on developing a sort of artificial skin, but the only time the skin can last longer than 99 minutes without combusting is when it's in the dark. When Peyton's girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) stumbles upon a memorandum that proves a wealthy land developer named Strack (Colin Friels) has been making underhanded payoffs, a kingpin named Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake) and his men bust into Peyton's lab, killing his assistant and leaving Peyton brutally maimed, with only about one-fourth of his face remaining.
Julie believes that Peyton is dead when all they could find of him was an ear, but meanwhile Peyton has set up shop in an abandoned warehouse, continuing to work on his invention. He doesn't want anyone, most especially Julie, to see him in his disfigured state, and he begins using his artificial skins as disguises to go after Durant and his men and extract his revenge.
When Darkman is concentrating on Peyton's feeling as he struggle to deal with being disfigured, it is very effective. Where it falls apart for me is when Peyton magically turns into an action hero; it's hard to believe that this scientist, who was badly burned and left with no superpowers except the ability to withstand pain, is able to suddenly fight like a regular martial artist. I understand that this is a superhero movie, and that's what's supposed to happen, but in the best movies of this genre (see: Spider-Man and Hulk), there is sufficient reasoning provided. But this is probably nitpicking, and Darkman can still be considered one of the better (though not one of the best) comic book superhero films.
February 20, 2005