Movie Review: Donnie Darko(2001), Hero or Anti-hero?

Spoiler Alert!

Written by: Spoiled Brat

tl;dr: Donnie Darko saves the world, and yet he can’t save himself from himself.

I wanted to have a relaxing weekend, I mean don’t we all? Instead I’m stuck with more food for thought than I can chew. Haha, ladies and gentlemen Donie Darko is a tough one to wrap your mind around. Fortunately, I happened to have watched Mr. Nobody and Interstellar before I chose to watch this movie and I believe the experience will come in handy.

First off, as far as I can tell, the main story is based on pseudoscience. Its also got layered story telling. If you just think ‘the boy is schizophrenic, it’s all an illusion’, you’re not wrong, but I can’t say that you’re right. In the world of the movie, while Donie our titular main character is indeed a paranoid schizophrenic or so it seems, there’s more to his hallucinations than meets the eye.

In fact if you watch attentively until the very bitter end, you’ll have noticed that his doctor Mrs. Thurman tells him that his medication is merely a placebo. This led me to the conclusion that the “real” Darko is not schizophrenic but rather a sleep walker being manipulated.

Before I go into detail, I must warn you that the movie is based on a theory and it’s really not my job as a casual viewer to prove or disprove it with mathematical equations and what not. If you want to watch a movie about a schizophrenic Nobel laureate who had a significant contribution in game theory go watch ‘beautiful mind’ which is about the man behind the Nash Equilibrium.  Think you can keep that in mind? Good.

One of the most noticeable themes happen to be the complexity of human emotion. Darko’s argument against the gym teacher kitty is a good example.

According to the teacher, it would be possible to simplify every action and classify it as either an act of love or fear.

Look at what Darko had to say about this.

I can debunk ms. kitty’s opinion by giving an example.

In the movie ghost of girl friends past Connor Mead is too afraid to lose the woman he loves, as a result he severs his ties with her and tries to forget her.

Love and fear can be a simultaneous sensation.

In the example Darko was given in class, a girl named Ling Ling found a wallet and chose to pocket the money. If she was “afraid” or feared being suspected and apprehended she wouldn’t have done it. And if she was a “loving” person with empathy towards strangers, she wouldn’t have done it. Neither love nor fear factor into this action.

Creative destruction is discussed through Graham Greene’s ‘The Destructors”

85% of the film is set in an alternative timeline or secondary universe which opens up because a space time portal breached the primary universe and caused a plane’s engine to move through a wormhole and appear in the alternative universe. This caused an alternate timeline. The alternate timeline threatens to collapse since two iterations of the jet engine are present in the same universe. And by collapse I mean turn into a black hole and wipe out all of existence as we know it.

Our man Darko here (total super villain name), is tasked with preventing this catastrophic event.

After Darko’s success, the alternate timeline ceases to exist, effectively being destroyed. Through its destruction the primary universe is kept alive creating another chance for it to survive.

Fear and love both play a role in the movie. Donnie’s fear of being alone is what seemingly causes the manifestation of Frank to form. Frank a.k.a scary rabbit is a red herring. In fact the whole schizophrenic main character theory is a red herring. The director and script writer intentionally made it look as though it was that way. In truth, Frank is the ghost of Darko’s elder sister’s boyfriend who got inebriated and ran over his girlfriend Gretchen. Yep, it’s complicated.

Frank makes Darko do crazy things like trash the school mascot ‘mongrel’, damage the water mains, burn down houses and more. Elaborately the script makes it remarkably easy for us to attribute this reckless abandon to the detrimental effect a short story such as ‘The Destructors” might have on an impressionable mind. However, all these actions were prompted and masterminded by the entity known to us as Frank. (Bleach fans will compare Frank to Aizen)

Frank timed the school flooding so Darko could meet Gretchen his future girlfriend.

Not only that but also Frank sets Darko on his way to burn down the house of a motivational speaker so Kitty who being a big fan of the speaker would go to his defense hearing. Consequently, this forced Darko’s mother to volunteer as a chaperone and get on the plane Donnie would have to teleport the Jet Engine from in order to save the metaverse.

There was a girl from China who had been subjected to much bullying by Darko’s friends throughout the story. Nearing the end of the movie Darko walks up to her and promises things will get better. As this timeline is destroyed it ends the girls suffering although that doesn’t change a thing in the real world.

Lady death being 101 years old is the epitome of death. She could have practically signed up for the tv show walking dead as a zombie without the need for an audition. Darko fears that he will become isolated like her and treated disrespectfully by society in the years to come.

While Darko has his family, Gretchen, and yes even Frank, no one truly understands him. His thoughts remain his own and no amount of sharing can cause someone else to comprehend his predicament.

one aspect that is almost always overlooked is that Darko called his mother a “bitch”after he insisted that she leave his room. He never got a chance to apologize as he died moments later from a freak accident. He is presumably reading ‘The Destructors” as his reading assignment. Love being another important emotion alongside fear does play an important role. His love for Gretchen is palpable while his parents try to support him in what way they can.

^ this mirth is brought on by the ending of ‘The Destructors” which sees a man similarly laughing uncontrollably at the destruction of a building which was a relic from the past. This seems especially fitting as at the end of the movie Darko’s success in the alternate timeline brings about its demise which was a necessary cost to pay in order to keep the primary universe alive.

Many have speculated that Darko knew that he was going to die and found the idea to be absurd because after saving the universe he could not even save himself.

Others have claimed that Darko believed that it would be better if he died since he was more trouble than he was worth to his siblings, his classmates, and even Gretchen.

Me? I believe Darko had enough excitement for a lifetime and decided that he’d rather retire early  at his prime than completely lose his mind to schizophrenia or whatever was tormenting him.

Darko’s agnosticism curiously has a part to play in this film. No matter how many theories have cropped up on the net, it is to be noted that no theory is perfect and that our knowledge is not absolute. The cause of the wormhole which transported the jet engine from the primary universe to the secondary universe remains unknown.

On the plus side, as long as things remain unknown, change is possible and nothing is predetermined.

Rating: Must watch for those who like making guesses about the ending of a movie.

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10 thoughts on “Movie Review: Donnie Darko(2001), Hero or Anti-hero?

      1. It’s on the list for good reason! I paid close attention to the details though and discovered the book he reads, “The philosophy of time travel” authored by Mr.s Sparrow is vital to the plot. It’s basically what clarifies various details of the movie.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Maybe its just me but it kind of felt like you used too many gifs. Anyway, it was a good review, loved reading your interesting take on the movie. Although probably would have been better if you’d put some input on the acting part too. Just my 2 cents.

    What’s funny is that I have read so many reviews of this movie yet I haven’t watched it. Maybe I should give it a try since I find Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting skills quite impressive. He is so underrated though 😦

    Also, I see someone mentioned Primer here. I don’t know if you have already watched it or not but if you haven’t, give it a try. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly I agree with you about the excess gifs… it slows the page down and is frankly distracting. Well, at the time I wrote this I was rather in love with gifs :p hence you can see I’m over enthusiastic about them. I’ll look into the acting skills as well next time I do a movie review, valuable input by you on this regard thanks 🙂 oh and please do give Mr. Nobody a try! Meanwhile I’ll look into Primer ^_^

      Like

  2. Maybe its just me but it kind of felt like you used too many gifs. Anyway, it was a good review, loved reading your interesting take on the movie. Although probably would have been better if you’d put some input on the acting part too. Just my 2 cents.

    What’s funny is that I have read so many reviews of this movie yet I haven’t watched it. Maybe I should give it a try since I find Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting skills quite impressive. He is so underrated though 😦

    Also, I see someone mentioned Primer here. I don’t know if you have already watched it or not but if you haven’t, give it a try. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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