...is Richard Kelly's ultra-ambitious follow-up to DONNIE DARKO. The film premiered at Cannes in an 160 minute version with the special effects unfinished, and was generally savaged by critics. Those few who enjoyed it related it to Lynch's ouvre, whatever one is to make of that. Even the majority of French critics, who generally like anything that paints the US in a bad light, especially if it's incomprehensible, didn't like it. "Incoherent mess" was the average comment. Kelly said his film was a puzzle and needed to be watched at least twice...to which one reviewer responded, "I don't want to watch your shitty picture twice." Humbled by almost unanimous distaste for his baby, Kelly cut about a half hour from the two and a half hour film and made a deal with Sony to fund the special effects. Here's some of what you'lll see:
The movie opens with nuclear terrorist attacks in Texas over the 2005 Fourth of July holiday. During the film's three sections, labeled IV and V and VI respectively (more about this later), we discover that the US has placed all law enforcement activity under the control of the federal government. An agency (US Ident) performs random surveillance of the citizenry and cities are ruled by UPU's (Urban Pacification Units).
A mad scientist (Wallace Shawn) and his nutso cohorts (John Larroquette, Bai Ling and Zelda Rubinstein) have created an alternative fuel source ("fluid karma" ) that is produced by a huge tidal generator that they distribute to military technology by means of cellular microwaves.
An action-movie star (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is pushing a film called "The Power" that he has co-written with porno actress Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who wants her own reality show. Their screenplay envisions a future in which a mad scientist creates an experimental hydro-electric energy source that creates a wormhole in the space-time continuum.
Jon Lovitz shows up as a psychopathic cop who murders husband-and-wife performance-artists. I believe there are five ex-SNL performers in the cast. Nora Dunn tasers John Larroquette's genitals. It's narrated by Justin Timberlake, a mutilated Iraqi War vet, who performs a "hot" video tune entitled "All These Things That I've Done." A little baby's constipation may be saving the planet from a world-ending fart. There's a giant zeppelin on its maiden voyage. There's a group of losers in a magic ice cream truck that's fueled by the collapse of the fourth dimension and who turn out to be the last of the Democratic Party who're trying to overthrow the government.
And oh yeah. Did I mention it's a musical...about time travel and the end of days and a whole bunch of other stuff?
I'll be reviewing this one for F&SF. But what do I review? The reason the chapters are labeled 1V, V, and VI, is that chapters 1, 11, and 111 have come out in a graphic novel that will be collected in a single volume this October.
I have all three but haven't read them. I also have a copy of the film as it was shown at Cannes, but have decided to wait to watch it until I've seen the theatrical release. I'll probably wait to read the graphic novel, too, because I think I should experience the film as most people experience it.
Is it valid for a director to make a film that requires the reading of a 360 page graphic novel to be comprehended? If it doesn't require that, why write it? Pure commercialism? A parody of the Star Wars prequels? Anyway, I really liked DONNIE DARKO, but didn't see much point to the director's cut. I sure hope Kelly doesn't blow this.