As Donnie Darko fans sit in anticipation, many wonder how Richard Kelly will pull off his second major film. So far the reviews and comments by critics have been pretty poor. Adjectives such as confusing, complex, disappointing, dense, too ambitious, have been used to describe the movie. One question that no one seems to be asking (probably due to being ill informed) is “what are the disadvantages of releasing three comic books as the prequel to a film”? Yes, although Southland Tales won’t be released till November 14th, the first half of its story has been available in graphic novel form for quite some time. It’s unsurprising a film would appear incoherent if you unaware the first half of its story.
I admit that I love what I’ve read so far. Staying true to form, Richard Kelly uses the themes of time travel, parrallel dimensions, and meta-realities to create an experience you may actually have to think about. Characters in the graphic novels are playing the roles of actors as a the comic turns into a screen-play and back. The comic book even alludes to the fact that one the characters is actually writing the plot of the movie. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles anybody? It took me several readings to get a grasp on what is actually going on. Add social-political critique and conspiracy theories into the mix and you’ve got yourself quite the story. Try to fit the continuation of such a plot in the time span of a single film and have it appeal to the average viewer, that’s a challenge.
The film is ambitious indeed and it seemed to have an aggressive marketing plan that might have not come to fruition. Many of the characters from Southland Tales have myspace profiles and websites such as Krysta Now . Even one of the main corporations in the story have a promotional flash video for their car. The site for the Donnie Darko film featured an interactive game where more information about the plot was revealed. It looks like Richard Kelly was intending to do the same with Southland Tales, but to my knowledge the sites haven’t been updated since their creation.
If this wasn’t confusing enough, the film is a dark comedy and satire which is almost kitsch in its presentation. Not until I reflected on the trailers did I realize what was going on. Perhaps this will sound like a bad excuse to some, but the incredible cheesiness in the film may actually be intentional. An amnesiac action movie star is trying to save the world and a porn star is assisting him on his mission. Doesn’t exactly sound like the plot of the most serious film.
It wasn’t the critics that made Donnie Darko a cult classic, but the fans. So, I would encourage people to give the movie a chance. And if you want the full experience, read the Southland Tales prequal to get an idea of what’s going on.
And finally… a trailer: