Darkman 2: The Return of Durant
Darkman 2: The Return of Durant 1995
Darkman is a movie that I’ve actually seen a surprising number of times considering that I’m someone who rarely re-watches movies unless it’s for a reason. In the past five years writing for this site, I’ve watched it four times. Once for the initial review, once for an episode of Filmwhys, once because someone was doing a group livetweet of it, and I rewatched it again because I borrowed the entire Darkman trilogy from the library so why not? I never knew much about the sequels other than they are obviously not as good as the Raimi original and they brought in Arnold Vosloo to replace Liam Neeson. The first sequel was ok, but nothing really stood out to keep my attention. Just a lackluster pseudo-revenge tale where the revenge wasn’t even that important and had a hard time keeping my interest.
One of the first things that’s a little difficult to accept is how they changed the actor while still saying that Vosloo’s regular looks are how the pre-deformed Peyton Westlake looked. And while this is often done in sequels and TV seasons, it was a little more difficult to accept here when the first film gave them a perfect out when Westlake left looking like Bruce Campbell. Why not bring in Arnold Vosloo to play Westlake’s default disguise, but just say that it’s not his original face? There’s no real reason for Westlake to continue using his old face, in fact it would actually be better for his character to adopt a different face, especially when he starts investigating the return of Durant who somehow managed to survive being inside a helicopter that exploded.
Anyway for the actual story, we have Durant who has awakened from a multi-year or at least multi-month coma and sets his sights on acquiring more destructive weapons to gain an extra edge on the underworld. To do that he recruits a mad scientist who knows how to build laser weapons. Meanwhile, Westlake hasn’t made any progress on his synthetic skin but finds another scientist who happens to be working on the same thing. Unfortunately, that scientist owns an old electric plant that just happens to be a perfect lab for Durant’s mad scientist to make his laser weapons. Long story short, scientist dies, Westlake goes for revenge (and proof that Durant is actually alive), and the scientist’s sister and a reporter fall into the mix as well. It’s basically all an excuse to essentially have a rematch between Durant and Westlake, especially now that they both know each other’s tricks.
As far as Vosloo’s turn as Peyton Westlake, he does a decent enough job. He spends most of the movie in investigation and scientist mode with a handful of vigilante-ism to add a bit of exposition to where he gets his money from. There are fewer bouts of rage with the accompanying double exposure overlay montage but they’re also not handled as well as they were in the first movie. And even in the first movie, that was one of the worst bits. It was great to have Larry Drake return as Durant to add a little bit of continuity to the first movie and he brings the same amount of menace to the role. He also gets to be an intelligent villain without going the extra mile to be the overconfident genius either. He realizes that Westlake is behind things within the correct amount of time and does a fair job at outsmarting him from time to time, especially when Westlake tries to poison him.
As for the other major roles, we have a couple new women to add to the mix, and for the most part, neither one of them are trying to be the love interest of the story. The scientist’s sister, who is probably most well known for playing Gabrielle in Xena, plays a major part as she is the one who inherits the building in question and needs to sign it over to Durant. She’s just never really given that much to do other than initially be distrustful of Westlake, then become a hostage for a bit. There’s also the hard nosed reporter who Westlake convinces Durant is still alive. Unfortunately she meets the wrong end of a car bomb before she can really make much of an impact, even though Westlake significantly mourns her death. It’s also worth mentioning the mad scientist himself, who feels like a mix between Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future and Gerard Depardieu circa 2011.
The special effects themselves feel like a step back from the original, again that’s not too surprising considering this would be a significantly scaled back budget for direct-to-video compared to a theatrical release. Darkman’s scarred facial makeup was significantly worse and the whole laser subplot never really made much sense and also felt like it was actually quite similar to the Shaq film Steel. There were a handful of fun moments when Darkman finally started trying to infiltrate Durant’s gang via several different synthetic skin masks, but it took way too long to get to that point, and it was done much better in the original. There just wasn’t anything in this movie that made it stand out from the original, it just felt pointless. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.