I read the Graphic Novels. I thought I was prepared. I was wrong. Honestly, I don’t know what this movie even is.
To my mind the easiest comparison is to Steven Spielberg’s maligned 1941. Both films are a structural mess, but contain bursts of brilliant satire (and the odd musical number or two).
Starting with Chapter I instead of IV would’ve made for cleaner storytelling – a man wakes up in the desert – but would’ve defeated at least one of the aims of the thing. Donnie Darko entranced audiences with a whirlwind of religious, philosophical and cultural allusions within its broody sci-fi framework. Here, the symbolism is nothing less than a flood. While all functional and well-conceived signification, Kelly appears to wish to alienate the audience from reading Great Meaning in it. This is his alternate universe, where the world ends not with a whimper but with a bang, where the Book of Revelations comes true – on the same level as its adaptation, a terrible screenplay called The Power about the Second Coming’s farts. Yes, a lack of bowel movements proves a crucial linking detail, and it is hard to believe the writer/director wants us to take this all seriously. Rather, a parody of its own allusive devices, a critic seeking to coin a stupid phrase would call it ‘post-post-modernism’.
And yet, at the same time, its social and political satire is as sharp as Gilliam’s Brazil. USIdent in particular – a system whereby all internet use is monitored – has proven particularly prescient.
This… this movie defies description.