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The Philodoxer
Thoughts on writing and publishing, and the various sources of entertainment...
A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 10/22/2006
Trick Or Treat: "Call Me Darkman"

Director Sam Raimi's made a name for himself in the last few years helming the new Spider-Man movies, and many movie lovers have probably also caught at least one of his Evil Dead flicks. But before he tackled the webslinger and crushed an army of darkness, Raimi made one of the best superhero films to date: Darkman.

Darkman

Darkman follows the time-tested formula of a good man who loses everything in a freak accident. The hero, played by Liam Neeson, is Peyton Westlake: a scientist that discovers the ability to replicate human tissue. The stuff only lasts so long in sunlight, though--about 99 minutes. When thugs break into Westlake's lab, he is left deformed, demented, and for dead. But lo ... the freak lives! Yet with nothing to live for, Peyton becomes Darkman, using his breakthrough research to become a master of disguise and instrument of vengeance.

The film borrows significantly from DC Comics' Unknown Soldier, down to the character's cool mummy look and chameleon abilities. Only instead of an uber-World War II-era warrior, Raimi made Darkman a vulnerable egghead and dropped him in a metropolis. Nonetheless, Raimi's stamp is unique. A wizard of mixing dark subject matter with just the right amount of cheese, in the same way that only Sylvester Stallone's inherent soft-hearted-bully personality could successfully bend David Morrell's nihilistic book First Blood into a movie of hope, only Raimi could pull off the split personality fusion that makes Darkman the moody-campy classic that it is. The special effects are slightly dated but perfect for a B-movie of any age, and Neeson's acting is superb, effortlessly vacillating between sentimental fool and total psychopath.

Raimi produced two lame sequels to Darkman, but the original is still a diamond in the rough. Along with Unbreakable and Robocop, Darkman stands out not only as one of the finest superhero movies, but exceptionally a superhero born in cinema rather than comics.

Until next week, folks!

- Abel

<< 10/15/2006 | 10/22/2006 | 10/29/2006 >>

Discuss this column with me in World Famous Comics' General Forum and at Pop Culture Bored.
Also, visit my website at www.abelgpena.com.


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