'Darko' sequel is a pale imitator

Chaney writes for the Washington Post.

The blogosphere has not been kind to "S. Darko," the sequel to the beloved, bewildering 2001 mindbend-athon that was "Donnie Darko." How unkind? Take this comment posted on a recent Cinematical item that mentioned the arrival of the straight-to-DVD flick: "Every single human being involved in the making of this movie needs to leap headfirst into a volcano."

OK, so that's a tad extreme. But it does say something about the degree of devotion fans still feel for the mad, wormhole-laden world that writer-director Richard Kelly created in the original "Darko," a thriller/sci-fi/teen comedy hybrid that launched Jake Gyllenhaal's career and developed an international cult following.

Given the fact that Kelly, who does not own the rights to "Donnie Darko," has publicly stated that he was not involved in the sequel, it's understandable that so many fanboys and girls are taking a volcano-jumping stance about "S. Darko," which arrived this month on DVD ($22.98) and Blu-ray ($29.99).

Of course, if they are anything like me, they may find it a challenge to avoid watching this continuation of the previous tangent-universe saga. Curiosity allegedly kills cats, but sometimes it also makes people buy or rent DVDs against their better judgment.

Let me deliver the good news first: "S. Darko" is not the schlocky production many may be expecting.

Visually, director Chris Fisher and cinematographer Marvin V. Rush do a lovely job of capturing the endless blue skies and mountainous landscapes of Utah, where the film was shot. They also have assembled an eclectic, interesting cast.

Now, the bad news: The story "S. Darko" tells is just as derivative and empty as all those skeptical bloggers and their commenters feared.

Fisher even flat-out imitates Kelly's camera work in certain scenes, a move the "S. Darko" director characterizes during the DVD's commentary track as a hat tip to his predecessor, but that actually comes across as petty, cult-classic thievery.

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