Donnie Darko [Blu-Ray]

by Konstantin Vilenchitz

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday February 24, 2009

Since Donnie Darko's theatrical release in 2001, this unlikely sci fi film has become a cult sensation, creating an enormous fanbase that has eagerly indulged in midnight screenings, toys, and, of course, twisted bunny costumes. For the uninitiated, Donnie Darko is a troubled teenager who has a vision that convinces him that the world will end in 28 days. As the doomsday date draws nearer, Donnie is continually haunted by the image of a person in a frightening bunny costume that instructs him to commit a series of crimes. Confused between his waking and dreaming states, Donnie starts to questions the laws that govern reality as the surreal violently crashes through the walls of his suburban life.

The Blu Ray release of "Donnie Darko" features the Director's Cut of the film, originally released in 2004. Where the original film leaves some ambiguity, the Director's Cut goes out of its way to its drive points home. Chaptered by title cards and passages from Grandma Death's book on time travel, director Richard Kelly mentions in his commentary that he wanted to emphasize the comic book and sci-fi elements of his narrative. There are also numerous additional scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. While some of these scenes help flesh out the characters' relationships, at other times they feel more like padding and the lengthy runtime of this edition slightly waters down the original's impact. Thankfully, the original cut of the film is also included here, so viewers can contrast and enjoy both versions.

Both versions of the film include audio commentary tracks from the cast and director. The conversation between Richard Kelly and film director Kevin Smith during the Director's Cut is particularly enjoyable. It's entertaining to hear Kelly looking for affirmation from Kevin Smith's comic bookfanboy perspective while they discuss the under lying themes of the film and Kelly's choices to add title cards, or the large eye visuals which key off of Donnie's dream state.

The Dolby Digital audio quality for the film is outstanding. The audio cues during the film features a range from the sharp almost alien like sounds of crickets as Donnie lies in the middle of the road to the massive crushing sounds of the jet engine striking the house. The animated menus for the DVD also feature a rich sound design that keeps you immersed in the dark mood of the film as you select your next option.

The second disc of this set includes several featurettes. The production diary brings you along for the ride as the location scouts discuss their choices with director of photography, walking the viewer through the locations and describing camera movements and how the scenes will be shot. There is an option to turn off the director of photography's commentary here but the essentially raw digital video footage on its own feels a little too much like something that was for in-house use only.

"They Made Me Do It Too" is a curious mini documentary on "Donnie Darko" fandom but for some strange reason it is based on British fans exclusively. While an international appeal for a cult film can't be denied, it seems strange to exclude the rabid American fanbase for the film, which made the Director's Cut possible in the first place. This featurette includes interviews with film critics, fans and artists from England who have been influenced in one way or another by Kelly's film.

"The Darkomentary" is a short piece that features a contest winner for a "Donnie Darko" fan contest. The short films were shot by the fans and the winning fan had his short included in this edition. It's slightly charming, if not completely over the top, watching the #1 fan invent lyrics to the film's instrumental soundtrack as he's driving on his way to work or seeing his tinfoil jet engine dangling over his bed. Also included in the featurettes are a trailer for the Director's Cut and a Storyboard-to-screen Featurette which shows how closely the film's shots follows the precise story boarding.

Though some of the special features are stronger than others, there is no question that this is the definitive release of "Donnie Darko" and is an essential addition to any DVD collection.