Darkman II: The Return Of Durant

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Darkman Trailer (1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Darkman II Trailer (1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Darkman III Trailer (1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0)
DVD-ROM Web Links
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1994
Running Time 88:51 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (58:25)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Bradford May
Universal.gif (3614 bytes)
Universal Home Video
Starring Arnold Vosloo
Larry Drake
Kim Delaney
Reneé O'Connor
Lawrence Dane
Jesse Collins
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Randy Miller
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    With Hollywood being what it is today, it must have made quite a lot of sense to some Hollywood executives that two sequels to Sam Raimi's surprise comic book adaptation hit Darkman should be filmed. Of course, director Sam Raimi and top-billed star Liam Neeson both opted out of these new episodes, with Bradford May and Arnold Vosloo taking their respective spots. Larry Drake, however, was not quite so wise, and reprised his role as Robert Durant for this sequel, which currently enjoys an even five out of ten rating on the Internet Movie Database. I heartily concur with that rating, as Bradford May's direction lacks the comic style that made the original Darkman film such a hit. While Arnold Vosloo is credible in the role of Darkman, he lacks the sensitivity that Liam Neeson brought to the equally important alter-ego, Doctor Peyton Westlake. Still, if you don't mind a slight dip in quality when watching a sequel, then Darkman II: The Return Of Durant is worth checking out.

    After a quick introductory sequence in which Doctor Peyton Westlake/Darkman (Arnold Vosloo) explains who he was and why he is the way he is now, we are soon thrown into the main story. While Darkman continues his research into breaking the ninety-nine minute barrier for his synthetic skin, crime boss Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake) recovers from an eight-hundred-plus day coma. I don't know which doctors he was in the care of for that time, but coming out of a helicopter crash with perfect skin and surviving for that long without having to spend another few years rebuilding his muscles is a mighty impressive feat. In any case, Durant sets about rebuilding his criminal empire, and decides to go back into the business of selling weaponry. Rather than sell the conventional weapons that everyone else is selling, Durant sets about rescuing Doctor Alfred Hathaway (Lawrence Dane) from the lock-up unit of a mental hospital, and enlisting his aid to build more space-age weapons. The problem is that Durant and Hathaway need a large power supply to make their weapons project work, and the only derelict building in the city with enough power to meet their needs is owned by Doctor David Brinkman (Jesse Collins). Darkman discovers that Brinkman is working on a synthetic skin of his own, using a different method that has so far extended the practical life-span of his product by about eighty minutes. When they are introduced, Darkman and Brinkman form a partnership with the aim of creating a synthetic skin that can be used indefinitely, but Durant has other plans. When Brinkman refuses to sell his building to Durant, Durant responds by killing Brinkman, although this time he demonstrates the good sense to make sure he does the job right.

    Of course, Darkman is very upset about this, and decides to upset Durant's plans for domination of the underworld before making sure the man stays dead for good. To this end, he employs his synthetic skins to once again imitate his enemies and turn them against one another, while investigative reporter Jill Randall (Kim Delaney) is determined to get herself a story about the criminal activity in the city, and Laurie Brinkman (Reneé O'Connor) is unknowingly determined to sell her brother's building to the men who killed him. What happens from there is where I will stop the synopsis, as the film at least justifies the once-over in spite of the flaws. However, I strongly recommend renting the film before buying it, as it is rather mediocre in comparison to the original Darkman, especially where comedic and dramatic value is concerned.

Transfer Quality


    One thing you will have noticed in the technical information above is that, in contrast to the original Darkman, this episode is distributed by Universal Pictures Home Video rather than by Columbia Tristar Home Video. Given that Universal Film Studios titles were something of a hit-and-miss affair when distributed by Columbia Tristar, I was hoping that this change would be a good one, and so far I am not disappointed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is impeccably sharp, with a lifelike quality that defies the straight-to-video heritage of the film. Indeed, this is a much cleaner and more vivid transfer than the original Darkman, which was plagued by colour saturation problems and film grain, although it appears they were carried over from the source material. The only disappointment in the transfer of this sequel compared to the original is the shadow detail, with blacks often containing little discernible detail, and a couple of shots not quite making sense as a result. There is no low-level noise in these wide patches of black, however.

    The colour saturation in this transfer remains consistent with that of the previous episode in one respect, with all colours having a faded and muted look, albeit without the variations in the brightness during daylight sequences that occurred in the original Darkman. I guess the best way to summarize the colour saturation of this film would be to call it a darker version of Batman without the clever use of discreet lighting, and the transfer reflects this.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem with this transfer, which appears to have been taken from a very clean and recent interpositive, and it has also been given a very high bitrate. Film-to-video artefacts were not a specific problem with this transfer, either, with no major instances of shimmer or telecine wobble. Indeed, this is a very film-like and natural-looking image, with neither the conversion to home video nor the compression taking away from the general ugliness of the picture. Film artefacts consisted of a handful of small and unobtrusive flecks on the picture, most of them going by unnoticed. Overall, this is one transfer that makes me very happy Universal now have their own local distributor.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 58:25. This is in between two segments of dialogue within the same sequence, so the placement can be described as good.


    It appears that the distribution of Universal Studios titles by their own in-house branch has resulted in another case of the packaging error bug springing up. In this instance, the packaging for Darkman II states that there are five soundtracks on this DVD, all of them in Dolby Stereo. In fact, there are five soundtracks on this DVD, and they are all in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding: the original English dialogue, and dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I listened to the default English soundtrack, without bothering to compare any of the dubs in this case.

    The dialogue in this film is clear and easy to understand for the most part, although some lines were on the border of becoming hard to make out because of Arnold Vosloo's accent. There were no audio sync problems with most of the feature, but the footage edited from the original Darkman had some problems as Vosloo's voice was less than perfectly dubbed over that of Liam Neeson. There were no problems that could be blamed upon the transfer, however, at least not subjectively.

    The score music in this film is credited to Randy Miller, with some themes being credited to Danny Elfman. It is hard to tell exactly whether Elfman's themes were re-recorded or merely recycled from the previous film, but when you take this score as a whole, it does a perfectly adequate job of enhancing the story and feel of the film. Overall, this is the best kind of film score that one can hope for without it being too distinct.

    The surround channels were used to support the music and some special effects, but there were no split surround effects or any discrete sound placements. This is a real pity, although the original film didn't receive the benefits of a 5.1 remix, either. The mix can be described as being somewhat front-heavy, with most of the sounds coming from the stereo channels. Still, the surrounds did a more than adequate job of supporting the sound effects that called for redirection. The subwoofer was used frequently to support the lower end of the soundtrack, with the music, explosions, and other such effects being given plenty of bass. Overall, a perfectly adequate matrix-encoded soundtrack, although it isn't the best you're ever likely to hear.



    The menu is static and themed around the cover artwork, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. Navigation is relatively straightforward, and the nonsensical icons that usually clutter Universal menus are noticeably absent.

Darkman Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this 105-second trailer is identical to the one included with the original Darkman.

Darkman II Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this ninety-six second trailer is similarly styled to the Darkman trailer.

Darkman III Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this sixty-six second trailer is also similarly styled to the Darkman trailer.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Theatrical trailers I can live without. And while I may be able to live without RSDL formatting for an eighty-five minute film, I wouldn't bet money on the single-layer disc having the same video quality. The local version is the version of choice.


    Darkman II is a sequel that doesn't really live up to the underrated original, presented on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is excellent, save for a lack of shadow detail.

    The audio quality is good, but let down by ordinary surround usage.

    The extras are basic, but sufficient.

Ratings (out of 5)

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Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)

 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
November 22, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm),  using S-video input, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer