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Film / Darkman

The answer lies within this page.

"I'm everyone - and no one. Everywhere - nowhere. Call me... Darkman."

Years before Sam Raimi brought a certain web-head to the screen, he created his own superhero in this 1990 film. It stars Liam Neeson as Peyton Westlake, a scientist who has invented synthetic skin that, at its current stage of development, will disintegrate after 99 minutes of exposure to sunlight. His girlfriend, Julie (Frances McDormand), runs afoul of gangster Robert G. Durant and his thugs, who have him nearly killed. Peyton, now horrifically burnt, uses his own invention against the crooks as his new alter-ego, Darkman.

Two sequels were made; Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995) and Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996).

Darkman also appears in the comic Darkman vs. Army of Darkness.


  • Anti-Hero: Pragmatic, frequently slipping into unscrupulous.
  • The Apple Falls Far: 650 feet, to be precise.
  • Artistic License Ė Biology: Darkman can enunciate English quite clearly despite the fact that he has no lips.
  • Artistic License Ė Medicine:
    • The spinothalamic tract is stated to transmit pain and vibration. It actually transmits pain and temperature.
    • The synthetic skin cells are stated to have a membrane potential of 122 megavolts. Human cell membrane potential is measured in millivolts, making this off by a factor of a billion.
  • As You Know: Various speeches throughout the franchise. The most apparent is the speech given to the medical students about Peyton's condition, explaining the procedure that was done to him to eliminate his capacity to feel pain and the side-effects (inhuman strength, turning the patient into an emotionally unbalanced berserker) that ensue.
  • Bad Boss: Strack indirectly kills his own Mook in the final battle, then just shrugs indifferently and goes back to trying to kill Darkman.
  • Badass Bookworm: Originally a milquetoast personality, Peyton undergoes surgeries that remove the volume control knob from his emotions, turning him into a loud, violent rageaholic. He still possesses the know-how from his days as a scientist, though.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: A doctor stabs Darkman in the thigh while he's in therapy just to prove a point to the guided tour she's directing.
  • Big Bad: Strack, in the first film. Durant and Rooker make up for the sequel films respectably.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Darkman got his revenge on the criminal scum who ruined his life but he is now a creature of the night who can never return to the normal world.
  • Blessed with Suck: The treatment which made him super-humanly strong, agile, and impervious to pain also amplified his emotions to the point that he's in a near-constant state of uncontrollable rage and despair. Also, he apparently has no sense of touch.
    • It is explained that he received surgery to cut off his sense of touch to block constant pain from the burns covering his body. This in turn caused the brain to amplify his emotional responses to fill in the void left by lack of external stimulus.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Darkman's cover during one disguise is blown this way.
  • Bond One-Liner: Durant is prone to these. As is Darkman.
  • Break the Cutie: Westlake had just proposed to marry his girlfriend. It seems like she was going to say 'yes' too.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Averted since Durant knows Westlake well enough that he assumed he finished him off.
  • The Cameo:
    • Director John Landis as a burn ward doctor.
    • Bruce Campbell as the final mask Westlake puts on at the end of the first movie.
    • Jenny Agutter as the nurse that stabs Darkman while he's in therapy.
  • Captain Ersatz: Darkman is one of The Spider, The Shadow and Batman.
  • Car Cushion: Where Pauly ends up.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Darkman can imitate anyone, provided he has a sample of their voice and a lot of time to practice.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The coffee-cup ring Peyton accidentally leaves on one of Julie's documents.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Strack. Visionary Villain (he sees his projects as a window to the future and a revival of the district), but he's also power-mad ("I built it all!") and pretty willing to kill and seduce his way to the top (with a wife he himself killed as one of his first stepping stones).
  • Circus of Fear: At least in the first movie, courtesy of Peyton starting to lose it to rage, rushing to get away before his mask dissolves and some apropos overheard advertising ("A freak, gentlemen!").
  • Crossover: Dynamite Entertainment produced a four-part mini-series seeing Darkman team-up with Ash.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Strack. He immediately deduces Peyton is the one messing with his business when Julie tells him Peyton's alive. He's also smart enough to test Durant by asking how his kids are, partly as a joke but mostly as an identity check. Bonus points as he does this even before knowing someone is deliberately impersonating his Mooks.
  • Disney Villain Death: Strack. The comic adaptation even makes it gorier with some impalement.
  • The Dragon: Durant is basically a hired crime lord to do all of Strack's dirty work.
  • Driven to Madness:
    • Westlake's rebirth as a Super Hero is born from a massive trauma induced mental breakdown.
    • The fate of Rick in the Novelization and Comic Book Adaptation, after seeing Darkman's face and being interrogated by him. Possibly also his fate in the original story concept, as novelizations tend to be based on such things.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Darkman's hideout-slash-lab that appears on the Direct-to-Video films, built on an abandoned part of the subway and including a computer-assisted mini-train for him to drive.
  • Establishing Character Moment: For Durant when using the cigar cutter.
    Durant: Now, let's consider my points one by one. (snips off a finger) One: I try not to let my anger get the better of me. (snips off a finger) Two: I don't always succeed. (snips off a finger) Three: I've got seven more points.
  • Evil Laugh: Darkman tends to emit a villainous cackle whenever he kills gangsters, threatens to kill gangsters or contemplates killing gangsters. It could be because Raimi originally intended to make an adaptation of The Shadow, or it could simply be because Westlake hasn't really managed to hold on to all of his marbles, since his trauma.
  • Exact Time to Failure: 99 minutes of sunlight exposure until the synthetic skin breaks down. This is extended in the second movie by further research and development, but restored in the third film when Darkman loses some of his research.
  • Expanded Universe: There are two decent sequels, a very nice Novelization, which started a short-lived series by the same author, a somewhat lame Comic Book Adaptation, a really great Comic Book miniseries by Kurt Busiek, a television pilot, a crappy video game, and a comic book crossover with Evil Dead, also co-written by Busiek.
  • Eyes Are Unbreakable: With all the severe facial damage Westlake gets, including being on the point-blank range of an explosion and being dipped head-first in a big vat of acid, it's impressive that he didn't got any ocular damage.
  • Facial Horror: Peyton's severely burnt face.
  • Fingore:
    • Durant has sliced off a lot of fingers. And keeps them from rotting and decaying.
    • Also, Peyton vs. jerkass carnie. Ouch.
    • During Peyton's mutilation, we get to actually see the skin stripped from his fingers when he's forced onto the electrodes by Durant's men.
  • Gayngster: Possibly. There's a hint in the deli scene that Durant may have a thing for Rick, plus he has no kids.
  • Get It Over With: Strack while Darkman is dangling him, combined with You Wouldn't Shoot Me via Evil Gloating. Unfortunately for him, he picked a wrong moment to think Peyton is The Cape...
  • Hair-Trigger Temper:
    • The side effect of the surgeries Darkman undergoes to allow him to do anything without feeling crippling amounts of pain.
    • Durant has one too, once he loses his shit though.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Amusingly subverted: Stack confronts Julie in his office about her stumbling on his evil scheme...and explains that she doesn't actually have enough information to justify him killing her, prompting this response:
    • "Well, if you're not going to kill me, I have things to do..."
  • Hellish Copter: How Durant meets his fate on the first film: having his chopper dragged by a truck and rammed right onto an overpass (and probably dragged a few feet into the tunnel as well).
  • Hour of Power: Darkman's masks last exactly 99 minutes from the moment of first exposure to any kind of bright light. Peyton's quest for them lasting longer for so much as a minute is a constant sub-plot throughout the entire franchise.
  • Kick the Dog: Peyton and Julie both get several swift ones. Peyton is obvious, but consider that Julie thought she'd lost the love of her life, and was finally piecing her emotional self back together... and then her rebound guy turns out to be a emotionless psychopath, her former lover turns out to be insane and heavily injured, and at the end, dumps her because he's become a monster. Oh, and all of this got started because of an accounting discrepancy she was looking into as part of her day job. Ouch.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Subverted; Strack tries to save himself by invoking this trope. Guess how Darkman responds.
    • The villains in the sequels are under the assumptions that Darkman doesn't kill. Darkman himself also seems to be under that delusion that he doesn't kill bad-guys, even though he lethally disposes of every villain he comes across.
  • I Lied: Used by both Durant and Darkman in the first movie.
    • Played with in the first movie:
    Rick: "I told you everything!"
    Darkman: "I know you did, Rick. But let's pretend you didn't!"
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Implied to be the fate of the Mook who falls down the building in the first film's climax. The movie made a point of setting up those rebars at the bottom.
    • Also the fate of Strack in the comic adaptation, with pretty gory results.
  • Latex Perfection: Darkman's masks. Justified in that they are made of synthetic human skin and Westlake's devices to create them, even if looking hodgepodge, are state of the art.
  • Lighter and Softer:
  • Lost in a Crowd: Peyton vanishes from Julie in this manner at the end. By turning into Bruce Campbell.
  • Made of Iron: Darkman can get hurt, but since he's lost all sense of touch, tends to ignore it.
    • Driven home at one point when he accidentally lights his hand on fire while working... and doesn't notice for several seconds.
    • The Mooks that were hooked on the Psycho Serum that Rooker had created in Die Darkman Die, because they have "Darkman's superhuman DNA".
  • Match Cut: One of the more brilliant: Julie watching the explosion match cuts to her at Peyton's funeral.
  • Nail 'Em: Strack wields a rivet gun in the construction site battle that concludes the original film.
  • Nightmare Face: Darkman's real face, after Durant's goons are done with him. Only one part of his skin remains without some buns and it's deadly pale, and on a couple of spots the burns are bad enough that you can see bone.
  • Not So Different: The movie makes it pretty clear that the only thing separating Westlake and his nemeses is that he's bumping off "bad" people. The That Man Is Dead speech in the finale underlines the point.
  • One-Episode Wonder: The abandoned TV pilot is one of finest and most accurate examples of superheroics on live-action television.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Darkman wants to be the one to kill Durant. And he did, more than once.
  • Pet Rat: Durant is one.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Take the fucking elephant!"
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punctuated Pounding: Darkman beating the snot out of Smiley.
    • Replace each hyphen with a punch in the face.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Durant's crew. To a lesser extent, his replacement crew in the sequel.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Since Darkman is missing roughly 40% of his skin, he pretty much needs a Healing Factor, or he'd keel over from various horrible diseases and the injuries he sustains in battle.
  • Retcon: Durant was killed in the copter crash in the first film. But in the second film, it merely left him comatose. In the final film, a villain named Dr. Bridget Thorne was one of the doctors who treated Westlake's burned body in the first film.
  • Same Language Dub: Bruce Campbell dubbed Liam Neeson in some scenes. Especially when he meets Julie on the street and says "JUUUUUUUULLLLIIEEEEE! IT'S MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
  • Save the Day, Turn Away: Dr. Westlake won the Pink Elephant, defeated the villains, and saved the girl. But due to his transformation into a hideous berserker of faceless justice, Peyton must abandon his desire of a life with Julie. He must walk the path of the hero alone, in the darkness.
    • He performs one in each sequel as well, always followed by an heroic monologue.
  • Save the Villain: Awesomely subverted as Darkman holds Strack by the ankle over the edge of the rooftop.
    Strack: Go ahead, do it, do it, Westlake. But think of this: you let me die, and you become as bad as meóworse! Haha, you canít. I know you too well. Dropping meóitís not really an option for you. Itís not something you could live with.
    <<Westlake closes his eyes, drops him>>
    Darkman: Iím learning to live with a lot of things.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Played with. Strack actually chooses his ground against Peyton quite well in the first movie, as he has experience in skyscraper construction.
  • Super Hero: a rare example that is native to the film medium.
  • Take That: In the Evil Dead comic crossover, the main villain refers to Strack as not being worth bringing back.
  • That Man Is Dead: "Peyton is gone."
  • Those Two Bad Guys:
    • Skip and Rudy in the first movie.
    • Eddie Scully and Roy in the second movie.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Not only does it show exactly what is going to happen to the helicopter that chases after Darkman, it also clearly depicts Strack as the Man Behind the Man, which is treated as a twist in the actual film.
  • Villain Has a Point: The monologue during the ending confrontation has Stracks giving a Hannibal Lecture defending his reputation as a Visionary Villain, and it seems to hold up. A critical viewer might realize that even though he tried to brutally kill the antagonist and essentially fights gang wars, he's also done a *lot* to benefit his surroundings - and, megalomania aside, is much more civilized than Peyton/Darkman, who thrives on a personal, bestial kind of revenge.
  • Visionary Villain: Strack's desire to build the "City of the Future" and revitalize the city's economy, and in particular (as he sees it) save the grungy waterfront district from crime and decay. He just happens to be willing to bribe, cheat and murder to get the necessary building permits.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Skip disappears after Durant's death. There was a scene of Darkman killing him with his own prosthetic leg. With the scene cut, Skip avoids any retribution.
  • Whole Plot Reference: RoboCop (1987), even down to the locations.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Strack is a bit too quick to assume Westlake is The Cape and therefore can't kill him. Not in this superhero movie, smartass...