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"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.
This film provides examples of:
Anti-Hero: Pragmatic, frequently slipping into unscrupulous. (Formerly types III and IV).
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.
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.
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.
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 adaption 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.
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 confront 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..."
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.
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!"
Not So Different: The first 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.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: Durant's crew in the first movie. 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.
For that matter, he could be wearing synthetic skin under his clothes, where it'd be protected from light and will last longer. He leaves his face and hands uncovered between disguises because the former would have to be exposed to light if he's to be able to see, and the latter would wear through as he handles objects.
Westlake also seems to be the worlds greatest vocal impersonator.
Also a talented ventriloquist as he somehow manages to speak coherently without lips.
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.
In Darkman II when Darkman finds the murdered Brinkman: DUUUUUURAAAAANNNNT!!!
Stealing from the Till: After waking up from coma, Durant in the second film soon finds out that one of his men, Rollo, has used his absence to take a piece of his organization's earnings for himself, and has him killed by putting him in a golf cart that drives off from a building.
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.
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.
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.