Remember Donnie Darko? If you’re of a certain age and temperament, the answer is undoubtedly a yes. Back at the turn of the millennium, Donnie Darko—a surreal sci-fi dramedy about a teenager who has a series of strange encounters with a figure in a rabbit costume as he seeks to prevent the end of the world—arrived to take its rightful place alongside Fight Club and Memento in the Holy Trinity of Trippy Movies that teenage film buffs could pass around and have their minds blown by. Donnie Darko combines the sullen teen angst of Catcher in the Rye with inscrutable but cool-looking shit about time travel and portals, and the soundtrack kicked ass (and still does!). In short: Donnie Darko was perfect for the slightly snobbish future Film Studies majors of 2001.
Watch Jake Gyllenhaal Try to Explain His Relationship with His Imaginary Friend, “Sasquatch”
“I think there’s something much bigger and more ambitious to do in that universe. It’s big and expensive and I think there’s time to get to that. I want to make sure we’ve got the budget to do it justice and not to compromise anything. Another story in this world needs resources and we need to have that in place. I need to get my next film out of the gate and then we can go back and look at it.”
If you haven’t seen Donnie Darko since you were buying Linkin Park patches at Hot Topic, allow me to briefly recap its circuitous path from flop to hit. After screening at Sundance, Donnie Darko tanked in a limited theatrical release. But largely via word-of-mouth, it achieved an insanely loyal cult following on DVD—so much so that Newmarket insisted on a theatrical release of Kelly’s (vastly inferior) Director’s Cut just three years later, where it grossed more than the original release. Those with longer memories might also recall that Donnie Darko technically already got a sequel: 2009’s S. Darko, a direct-to-DVD piece of garbage that followed Donnie’s sister Samantha. Kelly had no involvement with that one, and disavowed it entirely before it was even released.
Can all that time-travel/parallel-dimension mumbo-jumbo justify Jake Gyllenhaal returning? Is Seth Rogen too big a star to come back and debate the sexual proclivities of Smurfs again?
It’s been eight years since Richard Kelly directed a movie, after the back-to-back flops of his passion project, Southland Tales (which is great) and The Box (which is not great). But even though a whopping 16 years has passed since the original movie’s release, this might actually be the ideal time for another Donnie Darko to arrive. The original movie was set in 1988, but it had the unfortunate timing to come out just weeks after 9/11, which only heightened its sense of apocalyptic doom—particularly in the scene where a jet engine crashes through a roof. Doesn’t it feel like an appropriate time to hear a scary rabbit tell us when the world will end again?
And then there are the simpler questions. Can all that time-travel/parallel-dimension mumbo-jumbo be used to justify Jake Gyllenhaal returning in the title role? Is Seth Rogen too big a star to come back and debate the sexual proclivities of Smurfs again? Will Gary Jules contribute another whispery, sluggish Tears for Fears cover? (Here’s hoping for “Shout.”)
With any luck, a new Donnie Darko would be enough to kick off a Richard Kelly renaissance. Personally, I’m still holding out for a Southland Tales sequel. Who doesn’t want to see Justin Timberlake do something like this again?