Donnie Darko appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.
Overall sharpness seemed very good, as only an occasional sliver of softness materialized. The vast majority of the flick appeared well-defined and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, though, and I noticed no edge haloes or print flaws.
Colors appeared solid, as the movie offered a fairly natural palette that seemed clear and well-rendered. Blacks looked dark and deep, while low-light shots mainly seemed smooth. A couple of interiors appeared slightly dense, but these usually worked fine. I felt pleased with the image, as it created a nice image that just barely fell below “A” level standards.
I also liked the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Donnie Darko, as the soundfield seemed surprisingly active and engaging. The movie featured a consistently vibrant and involving mix that used all five channels well.
Most of the audio remained in the front, where music showed solid stereo imaging and effects were well placed and blended together cleanly. The surrounds added positive reinforcement of those elements plus quite a lot of useful unique audio. The movie’s occasional loud scenes - like explosions - were impressive, but it still showed good sense of atmosphere as a whole.
Audio quality also appeared strong. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was bright and vibrant with good clarity and dynamic range.
Effects were also clean and accurate, and they showed fine fidelity with excellent depth. Bass responses seemed good as a whole; low-end came across as tight and vivid. Overall, Donnie Darko provided a well-rendered auditory experience.
How did this “Limited Edition” Blu-ray compare with the prior Blu-ray release from 2011? Audio seemed identical, but visuals showed a tremendous upgrade. The 2011 BD looked soft and murky, whereas the 2017 release vastly improved clarity and accuracy, with deeper blacks and more vivid colors. The 2017 BD boasted a night and day difference.
This “Limited Edition” packs old and new extras, and we find both the film’s Theatrical Version
(1:53:14) and its Directors Cut (2:13:53). The body of my review looked at the original film, so if you’d like to read my more detailed thoughts about the Director’s Cut, please click here.
Quick summary from that review: “The movie remains impressive, but I think the DC robs of it much of its allure. It spells things out a bit too much and becomes a bit slow and tedious at times.”
The set contains the three audio commentaries that previously accompanied the various cuts, and the first two cover the theatrical version. Commentary One features writer/director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track.
On the negative side, quite a few empty gaps occur during the track, and it lacks a great deal of focus, largely due to Gyllenhaal. Kelly tries to provide details about the shoot and also explain the convoluted plot, but Gyllenhaal often interrupts him and makes the director lose his train of thought. This doesn’t happen constantly, but it causes some frustrations.
Overall, however, this becomes a fairly engaging commentary. When he doesn’t butt in, Gyllenhaal provides some decent comments about his work and the shoot.
Kelly’s remarks become the most useful, however, mainly because he tries to make sense of the story. He doesn’t succeed - if anything, I felt more confused after I screened the commentary. However, it’s terrific to get a discussion of this complicated tale, so I appreciate the food for thought.
Next we get a massive group commentary that includes Kelly, producers Sean McKittrick and Nancy Juvonen, and actors Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Jena Malone, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, James Duval, and Beth Grant. All 10 of them sit together for this running affair.
It’s a giddy little track that sets its tone at the very start when Barrymore introduces herself by character name Karen Pomeroy - the others follow suit, and the piece goes from there. Actually, a few participants don’t ever introduce themselves, so I may have missed someone, but I think I got them all.
On a few occasions, this becomes a screen-specific piece, but those instances remain rare. As a whole, the commentary acts as a roundtable discussion of the film.
At times the chat turns into too much of a lovefest, as the participants occasionally tend to do little more than dwell on how good everything/everyone was. However, we often get some fairly good information about the movie.
Kelly and Barrymore dominate, though everyone chimes in at times. We find some decent character insights as well as information about the shoot and additional attempts to interpret the story. Over, this is a fairly engaging commentary, though it could become somewhat chaotic.
For the third and final commentary, we hear from Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat alongside the Director’s Cut. Smith had nothing to do with the creation of Darko, but apparently he and Kelly are pals, and the director asked Kevin to come along to facilitate discussion and prevent dead air.
Ironically, even the chatty Smith doesn’t alleviate that concern. The commentary’s gaps aren’t enormous, but they pop up occasionally and create some dull moments.
Otherwise, this is a terrific commentary. The pair go over many of the movie’s deeper elements. There’s not a lot about filmmaking nuts and bolts, though the guys occasionally compare styles and methods.
Instead, it’s mostly a look at the Darko phenomenon, Kelly’s challenges, and his intentions for the project. We find out a fair amount about the scenes restored for the Director’s Cut along with various alterations like the rearrangement of some songs.
The self-effacing Smith plays a little dumb at times and as expected, he provides most of the track’s humor. Smith also makes sure that Kelly goes over his thoughts in a concise manner, as Kevin essentially plays the part of a movie fan who wants to know more.
Toward the end, Smith also tosses out questions culled from Darko fans. He also gives us funny queries, like when he asks Kelly if the movie got him some female fan action. (Of course, since this is Smith, he phrases this in a much cruder manner.) There’s a lot of useful material on display in this lively and engrossing discussion.
To Kelly’s credit, he never disavows the theatrical version here. Kelly consistently refers to the Darko DC as an “extended remix”. He seems to see it as an alternate version but not the definitive – or even preferred – one. Honestly, it’s never clear which cut Kelly likes the best, as he even notes that he regards the DC as self-indulgent.
On Disc One, we find the Donnie Darko Production Diary>. This lasts 52 minutes. 54 seconds and can be viewed with or without commentary from director of photography Steven Poster.
We see video footage from the set and watch a number of different sequences. The “Diary” starts with location scouts and then follows the shooting of various scenes. I enjoy this kind of “fly on the wall” perspective and think the “Diary” presents many interesting shots.
In his commentary, Poster adds nice notes. He lets us know the details and various elements about the production. His remarks help flesh out the piece and they make the “Diary” even more valuable.
Archive Interviews fill a total of 14 minutes, 19 seconds These feature director Richard Kelly, producers Sean McKittrick and Nancy Juvonen, executive producers Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, director of photography Steven Poster, and actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osbourne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross.
Given the number of participants, I expected the “Interviews” to run over an hour, so the fact they span less than 15 minutes comes as a shock. Shot on the movie’s set, we get little substance, and some of the clips barely let the speakers say anything – a few end after a mere 15 seconds! Don’t expect much from this superficial compilation.
They Made Me Do It goes for four minutes, 48 seconds and focuses on a UK exhibition of graffiti art. This required the artists to create works connected to Darko, and “Made” lets us watch them work. It’s not especially interesting.
Similarly titled but unrelated, They Made Me Do It II takes up 30 minutes, 17 seconds with info from film critic James King, Empire Magazine editor Colin Kennedy, artist Boyd, Heat Magazine film editor Charles Gant, The Cult Film Archive director Xavier Mendik, Metrodome Distribution’s Tom Grievson, Adventure Records co-owner Tom Conroy, Richard Kelly (by phone) and various unnamed fans. They chat about interpretations of the film, its audience, marketing in the UK, the film’s music, and its impact.
Don’t expect much insight into the Darko phenomenon from “Cult”. It focuses totally on the movie’s audience in the UK, where apparently every fan is quite pleased with him or herself. A few interesting elements develop such as the look at marketing the flick, but otherwise this program seems intended to pat UK film buffs on the back. We get a lot of notes about how perceptive and with it they are, and that’s about it. It’s a smug and self-congratulatory piece without much value.
After this we get #1 Fan: A Darkomentary. This lasts 13 minutes, 18 seconds as it follows a website competition to locate the movie’s biggest admirer - or at least the top fan who could create a decent featurette. We see the efforts of Darryl Donaldson in his victorious piece. It’s tongue in cheek - or at least I hope it is.
Anyway, it shows a strong affection for the flick while it also takes the piss out of the cult. It straddles the line between clever and stupid but mostly is pretty amusing, especially during Donaldson’s climactic encounter with a clearly weirded-out Kelly.
In Storyboard Comparisons, we get exactly what one would expect: a collection of storyboard-to-movie comparisons. The art resides in the top half of the screen, while the final flick shows up on the bottom.
This seven-minute, 48-second feature looks at four scenes, most of which come toward the film’s end. It’s a nice way to look at the planning that went into the movie.
B Roll Footage lasts four minutes, 37 seconds. It shows raw footage from the set, much of which becomes interesting. The brevity of the reel makes it less exciting, but it’s still a fun glimpse behind the scenes.
We get a whopping 20 deleted/extended scenes; this splits to 13 deleted and seven extended. The clips run for a total of 31 minutes, 54 seconds of material.
With so many scenes from which to choose, the quality varies, but as a whole, most of them seem quite interesting. I can see why many of them didn’t make the final film, but they still help flesh out the piece and add to it.
All of the segments can be viewed with or without commentary from director Kelly, and he provides some good remarks about the material. He doesn’t always let us know specifically why the footage didn’t make the final cut, but he usually tells us this. Otherwise, he gives us solid information about the shots and how they’d fit into the movie, so the commentary snippets definitely merit a listen.
Some interesting footage appears in the Cunning Visions area, where we see some of the material prepared for the Jim Cunningham self-help program segments. “Infomercials” lasts five minutes and 42 seconds. We see snippets of these during the movie, so it’s fun to get a full look at them on their own.
In addition, you can watch all four ads with commentary from “Cunning Visions CEO Linda Connie and Director Fabian Van Patten”. I don’t know who plays these characters, but it’s an amusing alternate reality that definitely merits a listen.
New to this package, Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko lasts one hour, 25 minutes, 23 seconds and features Kelly, McKittrick, Poster, Duval, editor Sam Bauer, composer Michael Edwards, costume designer April Ferry, producer designer Alex Hammond, and Blumhouse.com senior editor Rob Galuzzo. They cover the Kelly/McKittrick partnership and the development of Darko, casting, cinematography and costumes, sets and locations, editing and music, effects, the movie’s release, and the Director’s Cut.
My only minor complaint about “Machina” stems from the limited roster of participants, as it’d be nice to hear from additional cast and crew. Nonetheless, the documentary offers a strong overview of the production and touches on areas not much explored elsewhere. These turn it into a satisfying show.
With The Goodbye Place, we get a Richard Kelly short film from 1996. It lasts eight minutes, 43 seconds and shows an abused little boy who may or may not see visions. Some clear connections to Darko exist, and those help make the short intriguing, if not all that satisfying.
As we continue, we find the film’s theatrical trailer and a Director’s Cut Trailer plus five TV spots. We also get a music video for Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”. The three-minute, 21-second clip just shows snippets of the movie and some moody lip-synch shots of Jules. It’s a pretty dull affair.
The Image Galley offers 48 screens of material. It mixes shots from the set with movie elements and publicity stills to create a mediocre collection.
Discs Three and Four of the package provide DVD copies of both the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film. They present the same extras as the Blu-rays.
Some paper materials finish the package. We find a fold-out poster for the movie’s theatrical ad on one side and the Blu-ray art on the other. We also get seven cards with more art in the same vein,
Finally, we locate an exclusive collector’s book. It presents a foreword from Jake Gyllenhaal, and interview with Richard Kelly, and essays by Nathan Rabin, Jamie Graham and Anton Bitel. It’s a quality way to conclude the package.
Despite some inconsistencies, Donnie Darko offers a compelling experience. The movie maintains a high level of intrigue along with a deep, provocative tale. This “Limited Edition” Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio as well as an exhaustive collection of bonus materials. Without question, this becomes the best version of Darko on the market.
To rate this film, visit the original review of DONNIE DARKO