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Darko’ director’s cut looks great, lacks extras

Jonathan Retartha | Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Since its release in 2001, “Donnie Darko,” the tale of a boy, an alternate universe and a giant bunny rabbit, has become a cult classic. Although it is difficult to explain, it’s an incredibly insightful film nonetheless that tackles problems with adolescence, God and everything in between.For those that have seen it – once or a hundred times as is often the case – fans of “Donnie Darko” now have the opportunity to see the film in a drastically altered “Director’s Cut” DVD. After making the rounds in movie houses in Los Angeles and New York over the summer, the Director’s Cut is available now on DVD. It offers both a new experience of the film and a much-deserved new DVD treatment.Director Richard Kelly is capitalizing on the newfound popularity by releasing the film the way he wanted it released, yet was unable to afford. The Director’s Cut has 20 minutes of extra footage added and has many added songs from the 1980s by popular artists like INXS – artists Kelly wanted in the picture but didn’t have the finances for during its initial production.The additional footage is composed primarily of devices that add clarity to the plot, which can be interpreted a different way by everyone who sees it. Significant additions include pages from “The Philosophy of Time Travel,” a scene involving the novel “Watership Down” and a drastically altered end sequence. While most of these scenes were included as extras in the original DVD, Kelly has taken the time to do much more than simply chop them in. New transitions featuring images of Donnie’s eye make the scenes blend perfectly together, while also furthering the theme of “Deus Ex Machina” that pervades the film.The picture and sound quality have been remastered and are far superior to the original DVD. Digital graphics and audio effects, such as the liquid portals and auditorium scenes, have all been improved.The highlight of the original DVD was the entertaining commentary by Kelley and the cast. Because of this popularity, Kelly has added an all-new commentary to the Director’s Cut, this time featuring himself and acclaimed cult director Kevin Smith, director of the “Jay and Silent Bob” films.While the new scenes, commentary and exquisite transfer are all reasons enough for any “Darko” fan to pick up the new discs, the extras are once again sadly lacking. Most of them are the same as the extras from the UK edition of the Director’s Cut, released months ago due to the increased mainstream popularity in Great Britain. There is a featurette on the film’s No. 1 fan, which borders on creepy and stalkerish and several other vignettes, which mostly focus on how the film didn’t succeed in the United States because of how “stupid” Americans are.In addition to the poor extras, the fact that the Director’s Cut offers a clearer picture to the meaning of the film will undoubtedly polarize die-hard fans – many of whom love the film primarily because of its ambiguity. The new cut is definitely not an appropriate substitute for the original version of the film, but it offers a beautiful-looking and in-depth experience for those who are either uninterested in spending hours deciphering the meaning or those who have seen it so many times they welcome the visual improvements alone.