Sam Raimi has designed Darkman as a comic-book film in the mean, moody and magnificent style of the then huge hit of Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Conceptually, Darkman comes out like Batman where The Joker is the hero of the piece combined with plot odds and ends from Doctor X (1932) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). To tell the story, Sam Raimi employs the techniques of comic-book storytelling. He crafts some beautiful and evocative images echoing the characters inner state that seem like perfect incarnations of the Dark Knight (1986) era Batman graphic novel covers of Liam Neeson sitting crying amid the gargoyles on a roof against a stormy sky; his entry into the factory outlined by a foregrounded flight of birds; or the figure he cuts in black fedora, cape-like coat and bandaged face.
Unfortunately, Darkman doesnt always come out with the clarity of the initial vision. Throughout the Evil Dead films, Sam Raimi developed an increasingly campier comic-book tone. He likes to run films as rollercoaster rides without too much concern for consistency and logic beyond the ride. Darkman, a film that does not easily sit with such an approach, is no exception. The campy approach intrudes into the moody and dark atmosphere that Sam Raimi is trying to create. Sometimes the way Raimi chooses to echo the characters emotions comes out absurdly over-the-top hysterically running through montages of crackling neurons or images of fairground wheels all spinning in unison. The scene where we see a burning skeleton thrown out the lab in the midst of the explosion always gets a big laugh from the audience something that does not sit easily with the films seriousness of time. The initial comic-book darkness soon gets forgotten as the action elements taken over during these scenes we see nothing of the Darkman that needs to hide in the darkness to keep his face although the film does arrive at an effective ending.
Liam Neeson employs the painedly earnest form of external anguish he brings to his roles. He almost seems to be doing too much acting for the role and consequently his Westlake is too inconsequential to hold any superheroic stature. Frances McDormand is fairly watery in the heroine role. Australian actor Colin Friels is good, however he is overshadowed by Larry Drake. At the time, Larry Drake was using the horror genre to shake typecasting from his nice-guy image as the intellectually handicapped Benny on tvs LA Law (1986-94) and with Darkman, Dr Giggles (1992) and his appearance as the psychopathic Santa Claus in the All Through the House episode in tvs Tales from the Crypt (1989-96), he was making good headway. There is a great scene where he uses a cigar clipper to chop off three of a gangland thugs fingers to make each point and then announces Ive got seven more points to make.
In the 1990s, Sam Raimis Renaissance Pictures, which became a major force in tv with series such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994-2000) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), produced two direct-to-video Darkman sequels, both of which were shot back-to-back Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995) and Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996). Here the role of Darkman was inherited by Arnold Vosloo, later the title character in The Mummy (1999). Larry Drake made a return appearance as Durant in the Darkman II. The character was also uncreditedly regurgitated as the superhero in Dark Avenger (1990), an unsold tv pilot starring Leigh Lawson. Sam Raimi later returned to comic-book superheroes with Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).
Sam Raimis other genre films as director are:- The Evil Dead (1982), Crimewave (1985), The Evil Dead II (1987), Army of Darkness (1992), The Gift (2000), Drag Me to Hell (2009) and Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013).
Sam Raimis other genre films include:- the horror film The Evil Dead (1982) and its sequels The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992); the bizarre cartoonish crime drama Crimewave (1985); the psychic thriller The Gift (2000); the trilogy of Marvel Comics adaptations Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man 3 (2007); the horror film Drag Me to Hell (2009); and Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013). Raimi also co-wrote the Coen Brothers fantasy film The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and produces the zombie film The Dead Dont Die (1989) under the pseudonym The Master Cylinder. Sam Raimi has also had some success with his Renaissance Pictures production company, who have been particularly enterprising in the field of television fantasy. Theatrically, Renaissance have produced the bizarre Lunatics: A Love Story (1991), John Woos American debut Hard Target (1993) and the Van Damme time-travelling action film Timecop (1993). On television, Renaissance have produced such genre works as the superhero series M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-6), the smalltown Deviltry show American Gothic (1995) and then had enormous hits with the dual successes of the tongue-in-cheek revisitings of Greek myth and sword and sorcery with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994-9) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001). These were followed by similar tongue-in-cheek series as Young Hercules (1998-2000), the futuristic Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2), the historical romp Jack of All Trades (2000-1) and the Evil Dead tv spinoff Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-8). Raimi has also formed the Ghost House Pictures production company and co-produced the likes of the American remake of The Grudge (2004), Boogeyman (2005), The Messengers (2007), Rise (2007), 30 Days of Night (2007), The Possession (2012), Evil Dead (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Dont Breathe (2016) and the tv series Legend of the Seeker (2008-10) and 13: Fear is Real (2009).