Today’s feature is the first sequel to Sam Raimi’s twisted superhero tale, Darkman: Darkman II: The Return of Durant.
The screenplay for Darkman II was written by Steven McKay, who also penned Diggstown and Hard To Kill. The story credit, meanwhile, was given to the duo of Robert Eisele (The Great Debaters) and Larry Hertzog (Hardcastle & McCormick, La Femme Nikita).
Darkman II was directed and shot by Bradford May, an experienced television director who worked on shows like Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, JAG, Smallville, and Supernatural, and went on to helm the third Darkman movie, Die Darkman Die.
The editor for Darkman II was Daniel T. Cahn, who has done extensive editing on he small screen for shows like The Young and The Restless, Cheers, and 7th Heaven, and also cut the high-tech creature feature How To Make A Monster.
The producers for the film included original Darkman writer/director Sam Raimi, David Roessell (Inspector Gadget 2, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD), Rob Tapert (The Evil Dead, Timecop, Army of Darkness), Bernadette Joyce (Airwolf, Knight Rider), and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica).
The effects team on Darkman II included Greg Nicotero (Intruder, The People Under The Stairs, Maniac Cop 3, Vampires, The Faculty, From Dusk Till Dawn 2), Patricia Keighran (Pacific Rim, Chicago), Jordan Samuel (Crimson Peak), Howard Berger (976-EVIL, Intruder, New Nightmare, In The Mouth of Madness, Scream, Boogie Nights, From Dusk Till Dawn 3), Karrie Aubuchon (Wishmaster, Pumpkinhead II), Evan Campbell (The Faculty, Spawn, Elves), Janna Crawford (Torque, Suburban Commando), Gino Crognale (Troll, From Beyond, DeepStar Six, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Erin Haggerty (Pulp Fiction, New Nightmare), Tom Turnbull (Hannibal, Slither), Jon Campfens (Saw III, Stuck, Mimic), Robert Kurtzman (It Follows, DeepStar Six, From Beyond), and Brock Jolliffe (The Firm, La Femme Nikita).
The cast for Darkman II includes Arnold Vosloo (Blood Diamond, The Mummy, 24), Larry Drake (L.A. Law, Bean), Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue, Army Wives), Renée O’Connor (Alien Apocalypse), and Lawrence Dane (Scanners, Happy Birthday To Me).
The plot for Darkman II: The Return of Durant is summarized on IMDb as follows:
Darkman and Durant return and they hate each other as much as ever. This time, Durant has plans to take over the city’s drug trade using high-tech weaponry. Darkman must step in and try to stop Durant once and for all.
Darkman II was interestingly filmed simultaneously with its sequel, Darkman III, and sat on the shelf for a couple of years before it was released straight to video.
I wasn’t able to dig up an estimate of the production budget on Darkman II, but the low-rent cast would certainly indicate a low budget. However, the lack of a theatrical release still makes its profitability questionable.
On top of that, the reception to Darkman II was overwhelmingly negative: it currently holds a 5.0 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 29% from critics and 20% from audiences.
First off, Arnold Vosloo is by all accounts a big step down from Liam Neeson in the lead role. Neeson’s portrayal really seemed cracked and generally unhinged in Darkman, and he wasn’t afraid to look visibly dis-shelved or frantic. Vosloo, on the other hand, is way too calm and collected for what his character is supposed to be. Outside of a couple of outbursts, he seems to be functioning just fine. There is an argument to be made that this is because the story takes place some time after the first movie, but it is far less entertaining at the end of the day regardless of the rationale.
The supporting cast is also a bit shallow in Darkman II, in both portrayals and in their writing. Pretty much every character outside of Darkman and Durant with any kind of characterization winds up dead within half an hour of their introduction, which makes it really hard to get invested in the story as a whole. The villains are a little bit stronger than the allies, but not by a whole lot. The only really bright spot is Lawrence Dane, who plays a mad weapons developer who hams up his woefully limited screen time.
Overall, Darkman II isn’t all that bad for a direct to video action flick, but it is such a dramatic knockoff from Darkman that it was pretty much doomed out of the gate. Comparisons to that first film are unavoidable, and it is totally incapable of stacking up on any level. Still, this is hardly an unwatchable movie, but it is disappointing as a follow up to Sam Raimi’s cult classic.
For fans of Darkman, I think Darkman II is certainly worth checking out at least once, with the knowledge going in that it is in no way on the same footing with its predecessor.