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Film / Darkman

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

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 (Larry Drake) 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 not starring Liam Neeson were made, Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995) and Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996).

The film was adapted to a Licensed Game by Ocean Software in 1991, which was released on Nintendo Entertainment System, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Game Boy, ZX Spectrum and Atari ST.


In 2006, Dynamite Entertainment produced a four-part Intercontinuity Crossover miniseries Darkman vs. Army of Darkness, which sees Darkman teaming up with Ash Williams from the Evil Dead franchise.

Darkman provides examples of:

  • All Asians Know Kung Fu: For all that it helps him, Westlake's assistant Yakihito tries to fight off Durant and his goons with karate chops.
  • Anti-Hero: Darkman is a Pragmatic, frequently slipping into Unscrupulous.
  • The Apple Falls Far: 650 feet, to be precise.
  • Arch-Enemy: Darkman has Robert G. Durant, the thug who disfigured him.
  • Armed Legs: Skip has a micro Uzi concealed in his artificial leg.
  • Artificial Limbs: Skip (one of Durant's henchmen) has a fake leg... which hides a machine pistol.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Darkman can enunciate English quite clearly despite the fact that he has no lips.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • The spinothalamic tract is stated to transmit pain and vibration. It actually transmits pain and temperature.
      • Also, this tract only conveys such sensory information from the neck down. Peyton should still be in considerable agony from his burned face, which transmits its sensations to the brain via the trigeminal nerves. And we know those couldn't have been cut as well, because he can still open and close his mouth.
    • 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.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: For a Smug Snake in a suit, Strack actually puts up a pretty good fight against the superhuman Darkman in the finale. Justified in that Strack used to work construction and thus is familiar with maneuvering around skyscrapers, hence why he chose one as the place to lure Darkman to for their confrontation.
  • Bad Boss: Strack indirectly kills his own Mook in the final battle, then just shrugs indifferently and goes back to trying to kill Darkman.
    • Durant as well.
  • 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 whose heart is as big as his temper and just as sensitive. 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. Durant and Rooker make up for the sequel films respectably.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Darkman got his revenge on the criminals 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 due to surgery that cut off that sense so he wouldn't suffer constant agony from the burns covering his body. This in turn caused his brain to amplify his emotional responses to fill in the void left by that lack of external stimulus.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Durant's henchman (and possible lover) Rick carries a .25 automatic that is silvered with filigree work all over it.
  • 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:
  • Captain Ersatz: Darkman is one of The Spider, The Shadow and Batman.
  • Car Cushion: Where Pauly ends up.
  • Cardboard Box Home: Westlake takes shelter in a cardboard box after escaping from the hospital. When the box blows away during a storm, he is driven to seek out the remains of his old laboratory.
  • 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.
  • Circus of Fear:
    • The carnival that Peyton and his girlfriend attend starts developing these vibes when Peyton starts to lose it to rage, rushing to get away before his mask dissolves and some apropos overheard advertising ("A freak, gentlemen! He's a freak!").
    • The carnival also has funhouse mirrors, in which the spectators' reflection seem to be mocking Peyton. Also not helping is a carnival barker unveiling a deformed freak the moment Peyton was about to tell Julie the truth, claiming he was the result of a lab accident.
  • 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).
  • Creepy Souvenir: Durant uses his cigar cutter to cut fingers off of his victims. He keeps a collection of these fingers in a cigar box.
  • Death by Irony: Durant sets the lab to explode using a drinking bird. Later, Darkman does the same with his makeshift lab to Durant's mook Smiley. Smiley tries to stop it but it's a hologram. He keeps trying to grab it, and finds out too late that touching the hologram enough times sets off the real bomb very quickly.
  • Destination Defenestration: Durant throws Pauly out his apartment window without bothering to open it first; resulting in a fatal Car Cushion.
  • Disney Villain Death: Strack. The comic adaptation even makes it gorier with some impalement.
  • Double Take: The hooker saw Darkman-disguised-as-Pauly, she looks back at the real Pauly's dead body, and back at Darkman, and she starts screaming.
  • The Dragon: Durant is basically a hired crime lord to do all of Strack's dirty work. But with Strack's death, Durant is once again his own boss.
  • 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.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Durant is a lot more vicious than the gang leader at the beginning.
  • 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. Only the upper right part of his face survived, he has no lips thus fully revealing his teeth and part of his skull.
  • 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 and some of the fingers he's collection belonged to women.
  • 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...
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Being a scientist, Westlake has tons of beakers, flasks, test tubes and the like, most of which gets trashed. As Darkman, he salvages what he can to continue his work. Interestingly, during a Montage depicting him working, Raimi makes the interesting stylistic choice to have beakers and test tubes fly by to indicate the passage of time.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Guzman, Durant's Mexican goon, indulges in this.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Yakitito is knocked out when Durant's thugs smash a laboratory flask over his head.
  • 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. As shown when he was framed by Darkman.
  • 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: his chopper is dragged by a truck and rammed right onto an overpass (and probably dragged a few feet into the tunnel as well).
    Darkman: Burn in Hell, Durant!
  • 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.
  • 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: Played with in this exchange:
    Rick: I told you everything!
    Darkman: I know, Rick, I know you did. But let's pretend you didn't!
  • Impaled Palm: Darkman gets a rivet shot into his hand during the climax, pinning him to the beam behind him.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • Implied to be the fate of the Mook who falls down the building in the 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.
  • 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 an 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.
  • 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 turning into Bruce Campbell.
  • Loves Only Gold: Strack in the novelization. In a subplot ultimately removed from the film and existing only in this book, Strack is obsessed with investing in South African krugerrands. When his father disagrees, insisting the Stracks are in construction and real estate, not gold, Strack has him killed. Near the end of the book, Strack takes the "Love" part of the trope to a literal level when he has a literal mountain of gold krugerrand coins piled onto his bed and has sex with it.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Darkman can get hurt, but since he can't feel pain and has lost all sense of touch, tends to ignore it. It's 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 burns 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-Word Title: Protagonist Title.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Darkman wants to be the one to kill Durant. And he did, more than once.
    ”Keep back! Keep back! He’s MINE!”
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: We get a double dose of this. The first instance happens when Westlake confronts the Big Bad. Naturally, the villain erupts into a Villainous Breakdown, cursing his enemy for all the destruction that was done to his organization, right? Wrong. This is a slick, savvy corrupt businessman who only used Durant and his cronies as hired muscle and knows full well how useful a Badass Abnormal with shapeshifting techniques could be to him. Unfortunately for him, the borderline psychotic vigilante who has already personally disposed of his underlings still has a bit of an issue with him since he was the one ultimately responsible for everything that had happened thus far.
  • 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 is shown to be killed in a copter crash. But in the second film, it merely left him comatose.
    • In the third film, a character named Dr. Bridget Thorne is introduced and is stated to be one of the doctors who treated Westlake's burned body.
  • Roadside Wave: In a 'blink and you'll miss it' moment, Westlake gets soaked by a car driving through a puddle as he is trying to cross the road after escaping the hospital.
  • 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 me—worse! Haha, you can’t. I know you too well. Dropping me—it’s not really an option for you. It’s not something you could live with.
    <<Westlake closes his eyes, drops him>>
    Darkman: I’m learning to live with a lot of things.
  • Say My Name:
  • Screaming Woman: A hooker screams as Pauly fell to his death on a car in front of her. She screams again when she saw Pauly (Darkman in disguise) sitting at a bench behind her.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: Durant kills four gangsters during the opening by shooting two car drivers, who crash their cars, killing their friends riding shotgun.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Played with. Strack actually chooses his ground against Peyton quite well, 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."
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: A non-villainous example. One of the random citizens Julie mistaken for Peyton looks back at her. He may or may not truly be Peyton. His narration at the end (which is the page-top quote) makes it even more ambiguous.
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Strack has a glass model of his planned "City of the Future" in his office that he fawns over.
  • 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.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film reads like a Deconstruction of the '90s Anti-Hero, despite being made when the trope was just starting to take hold. Darkman himself embodies many of the trope's characteristics in that he's Covered in Scars, brooding and psychotic, uses lethal force, has a one word, gritty name, and has few heroic qualities; but also subverts it in that he's a scientist of average build instead of a macho guy, has no actual fighting skills, relies on ambushing and deceiving his enemies instead of weapons and brute force, and is generally more like a classic movie monster than a Super Hero. In addition, the film portrays him as a tragic figure instead of an awesome badass: The attack that scarred him also left him homeless and in deep despair, the treatment that gave him his powers made things worse by taking away his sense of touch and leaving him emotionally unstable, his quest for vengeance weighs on him greatly due to how morally compromising it is, and his one Hope Spot for getting Julie and his old life back fails because he has succumbed to He Who Fights Monsters, which he acknowledges to her at the end of the 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 Westlake 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.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Julie was disturbed seeing Peyton's face mask dissolve. Then she calls out to him (who's hiding) that he should have told her the truth sooner and that she would have understood.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To RoboCop (1987), even down to the locations.
  • Win Her a Prize: While the main character Peyton and his girlfriend visit a carnival, he plays a game to try and win a pink elephant doll for her. However he argues with an employee over whether he rightly won the prize or not, which results in Peyton gruesomely twisting the carnie's fingers.
  • 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...


Video Example(s):



Strack assumes this trope will prevent Darkman from killing him. Well ...

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / IfYouKillHimYouWillBeJustLikeHim

Media sources:

Main / IfYouKillHimYouWillBeJustLikeHim