Even though the main explanation is consistent and ties the whole movie together there are still a few parts of the movie that are not explained and have to rely on theory. Here are some of those questions with possible explanations and some common mistakes people make.
What Creates The Tangent Universe
Why exactly does a Tangent Universe (TU) occur? Are they a natural phenomenon or are they artificially created. There is one theory that scientists in the future build a machine that somehow causes a rip in time back in the past. Another theory is it could have been caused by Alien involvement.
Quite a common thought is Frank saving Donnie in the beginning is the cause of the TU. Donnie was meant to die and by surviving he altered things which caused the corruption. This is not true though, we are already within the TU when Frank wakes Donnie up. Frank's special powers only work within the TU so he would only be able to wake Donnie after the TU had started.
The same goes for the Artifact not being the cause of the corruption. The jet engine appears several minutes after the TU had started. The Philosophy of Time Travel states that the Artifact is the first sign of evidence that a TU has occurred.
The First Jet Engine
One major question is where does the jet engine in the beginning of the movie come from originally? If it came from the future where exactly and what day did it come from?
A common answer to this question is it's the same engine Donnie sends through the portal from the plane his mother and sister were on. The engine travels through time and lands on Donnie's house. It's exactly the same event as the end of the film only the first time round Donnie survives.
This is extremely unlikely though as the portals are just a gateway between the two Universes. The first engine lands in the Tangent Universe (TU) so if it came through a portal it would have to come from the Primary Universe (PU). The engine Donnie rips of the plane at the end is from the TU and travels through a portal into the PU so there is no way it can be the same event repeating.
If it did come from a future point in the PU once the corruption is fixed by Donnie that future event won't happen now so we will never find out exactly how it occurred.
Another theory is the Tangent Universe is a copy of the Primary Universe but as it's being formed there is a glitch or copying error. This error produces a duplicate engine that is then dumped into Donnie's bedroom. This anomaly makes the TU even more unstable and it must be sent into the PU.
Roberta Sparrow: The Philosophy Of Time Travel
Roberta Sparrow writes the book "The Philosophy Of Time Travel" which helps guide Donnie but how exactly did she know all this information? There are a few plausible explanations for this. It seems like she had a similar experience herself so either she was a Living Receiver or one of the Manipulated Dead in a previous Tangent Universe.
Both options would in theory give her all the information required. If she was a Living Receiver she would obviously have known what to do and the Manipulated Dead have a large understanding of what is happening within a Tangent Universe. It's possible she may have somehow retained some of the information from her experience once the Primary Universe started up again.
Does Donnie Have To Die
This subject is one of the most debated parts of the movie. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking Donnie waking up and cheating death in the beginning is what caused the Tangent Universe (TU) to occur. The assumption is then once the Primary Universe is restored Donnie stays in bed otherwise he risks causing another TU to start and the whole cycle will repeat. This theory is not correct though, Donnie and Frank have nothing to do with the creation of the TU.
We hear about other Living Receivers in The Philosophy of Time Travel who were killed by the Artifact they returned. If we include Donnie then it seems the Living Receiver always dies once the Primary Universe is restored. The question is what would happen if Donnie got out of bed again and survived? The moment we see Donnie laughing in bed at the end the Primary Universe is already restored. If Donnie got out of bed and dodged the second engine after that then in theory nothing would change as the corruption is already fixed.
Another important point is whether Donnie chooses to die. The Donnie we see in bed at the end is not the same Donnie from the last 28 days. How much knowledge he has of what happened in the TU is very questionable and it’s quite unlikely he knows he is about to die.
The question of destiny plays quite a big part here, Donnie was meant to die but Frank saved him. It’s possible he was chosen as the Living Receiver because his life is now expendable; he is going to die anyway. Once back in the real world it's Donnie's destiny to die.
I just recently watched Donnie Darko for the very first time and I thought it would be insightful for more experienced Darko fans to see what I, a beginner, picked up on the first watch:
Donnie Darko wakes up on October 2nd, 1988 with no recollection or memory of how he got there. He is certainly not cognizant of time travel as a viable mode of waking up on the mountain. Frank, a character who is not yet dead, but destined to be so, wakes Donnie Darko to remove him from the site of airplane crash. The tangent universe was opened at some point before or after Donnie Darko went to sleep that evening. Why was Frank there? Frank is what you could call a "pawn of time." The universe, being already constructed by God, knows with certainty that Frank will die in the tangent universe. Frank is chosen as he is already in knowledge of Donnie's personage and the surrounding "non-pawns" in his life. "Pawn" Frank (It's important to note that this is NOT real Frank or even tangent Frank), being an agent of the universe, begins advising Donnie Darko as soon as the tangent universe opens. Now why is Donnie Darko the person who must guarantee the successful collapse of the tangent universe that opened on October 2nd? The universe already knows that Donnie Darko is to be killed by the opening of the tangent universe. Why is that? A tangent universe is created when the set realities of the universe become different. The universe is supposed to be set in stone and the images that make up reality are already sequenced (shown by the clear spears from each body). When a sequence in the clear body is duplicated (sort of like human DNA), a side effect is created: the tangent universe. The tangent universe is created to compensate for duplicate sequence. The primary (original) universe stops at this time as the "pawns" and the soon-to-be-dead "Recipient" (Donnie Darko in this film - Grandma Death some other time). The universe utilizes the already set in stone future dead in the TANGENT universe to guarantee the successful balance of sequences again. Frank is the only "true" pawn as he manipulates the death of all others in the tangent universe (Gretchen f.e.) It could have been any other person in the primary universe who were pre-planned to die in the tangent universe who was also close to those around Donnie Darko (who is the Recipient). Frank sets up an elaborate plot to re-balance the sequence that was duplicated in the primary universe: wakes Donnie up so he can survive the duplicated sequence (the jet engine), manipulates Donnie to cut the water in the school, which leads him to talk to Gretchen for the first time. No other people in the tangent universe are actively cognizant of the need to balance the duplicated sequence, but Frank is able to manipulate them to make the solvency a priority in the tangent universe. Without going further into tedious details as I know this is getting long, Frank guarantees that Donnie Darko kills tangent-Frank to ensure that "pawn" Frank exists. Frank then fixes the duplicated sequence found in the primary universe by using Donnie Darko to make a portal to send the jet engine back to the primary universe. Donnie Darko is a necessity to fixing the duplicated sequence in time as he is the only one able to open the portal where the tangent universe was created (where he died). The movie ends after the jet engine is sent from the tangent universe back to the primary universe (There are now two of the engines in the primary universe and thus no longer an imbalance of sequences). The extra engine is placed where the first engine originally skipped time and the first engine still crashes into Donnie's bedroom. This kills the "recipient" and the tangent universe is collapsed.
Loose end explanations:
-The "extra engine being placed back on the plane" is supported through the notion of Donnie's mom and sister being alright at the end of the movie.
-The know-how seen within Grandma Death's book was implemented by Frank, an agent of the universe, if you buy my theory. She was not a previous recipient as tangent universe creation go hand in hand with the death of something in the primary universe.
-Tangent universes are created when a sequence in time is "duplicated" which is a bit like skipping time to get to a place it isn't supposed to be. Because they are in a place where they aren't supposed to be, the death of a recipient (the person or thing whose spot has been taken) dies.
-Donnie Darko may or may not be in the know of his status as a "recipient." It doesn't matter either way as the agent of the universe makes certain that the sequence is fixed. So let's say Donnie Darko knew he was going to die in the primary universe as recipients are the only people who can translate into the tangent universe (as they die due to its creation). This is supported by his laughing at the end of the movie. Regardless of if he knew he was a recipient or not, Frank made it so that he must fix the sequence to save the person he loved.
Keep in mind, fellow Darko-fans, that this is only my first time watching the film and is a superficial analysis of the events I saw at best. I certainly hope this will enlightening or refreshing for those looking for some fresh perspective on the film. I would really enjoy comparing ideas and talking about the film more with anybody who would be interested.
Skype ID: onabull
Thanks for bearing with me,
I just thought of a reason why Seth Rogan and his friend were in Grandmother Death's cellar: remember, who was it, Donnie's father?, that said kids used to go up there all the time to steal from her gem collection? Or jewels? Whichever, but anyways....Donnie said to Gretchen when he walked her home to watch out for those two characters because they like to steal. I mean that would explain why they were there I guess!
So I have seen Donnie darko several times over many years and have been amazed and dumbfounded by this vast imaginative story. This was the first complicated movie I never could understand and it is frustrating. So after watching both Donnie darko and s. Darko I understand it's about time travel. If you love the original Donnie darko do not watch s. Darko it was Intresting but it sucked. My Theory is Donnie has already lived further then the movie has lead on and Donnie being a time traveler creats this tangent universe by accident and ends up creating this black hole. That's why he woke up on October 1st on that mountain top laughing because he has already known or lived through what is about to occure . But my theory is confused because how could he have lived passed what happened if he dies in the end. I feel that frank though has time traveled further then his part in the movie because he looked much older in the scene when there in the theater and younger in the scene when he gets shot. Why was frank chosen to show Donnie all those things? I feel as though there where some characters reliving there past in this movie. Like there changing it so as though the universe won't be destroyed so Donnie does really die in the end but his future self has to make the ultimate decision to kill his past self in order to save the universe. That is one crazy theory. Another is, this object that has ripped threw time and created this tangent universe is actually originally from the plane Donnie's mom and sister was on from the future. I feel like Roberta sparrow and frank have traveled through time and already knew about this strange ocurence that is about to happen to Donnie. So Roberta wrote the book as a guide kinda like how gaundi came up with theory's about things that have occurred before they had occurred. Frank was being like this all mighty powerful figure kinda like god telling Donnie what to do to stop the universe from being destroyed. But then all the other people involved being the manipulaters to guide Donnie to his destiny. The people around him are there to show him everything happens for a reason but u can change the things that happen by ultimately making the right decision. It's kinda like Donnie was this reflection of things to come when he didn't die the first time the jet engine crashed into his bedroom cause as u can see those 28 days travel toward in Time it seems with Donnie's new bedroom set and the talent show and the party and the whole night of deadly occurrences only for you to realize those 28 days where marking the day October 2 in the past when he is in his old bedroom before all those occurrences happen when the jet engine crashes Into his bedroom and kills him. So my questions would be is Roberta sparrows book really was what was occurring with Donnie darko or is it something bigger then that is there a more Indepth complex story going on between the past and the future and time travel and who in this movie was really visitors from the future and who where the present manipulaters all part of this scheme to save the universe and why Donnie why was he choosen? So many unanswered questions so many theory's I wish the creator of this film would just tell us what exactly was going through his head so I could make sense of this finally. But those are all my wierd jumbled theory's if any one can clarify or justify what I am saying help please! But hands down one of the most complicated, confusing, open ended, and profound movies I have ever seen.
I do agree that Donnie opened the portal and killed himself with the jet engine. In the end you do see Donnie laughing and what I think is that using his power he might have been able to change the past or even go back though time, and like someone in the movie said I can't remember "what if you could go back in time and take all those hours of pain and darkness and replace them with something sweet". I do also think that the loop theory could play in here somewhere where he remembered a little more each time he went back, but other then that if I not somewhere close then I am fricken lost.
NO. Here it is. Its a fucking loop, it keeps happening, he keeps remembering Frank, but all the pieces aren't there. He remembers slowly, eventually he figures it out. I'm not sure how many times it has had to loop but if you kept reliving the same things over again eventually you would want it to end. That's why he stays in bed at the end, he's laughing because its finally over. If you'll notice, everyone else remembers too. The mother isn't crying, Frank touches his eye to make sure its there, and the pervert is crying because he remembers getting raped by men in prison after the cops find his child porn. Frank doesn't save donnie, donnie saves himself. What i can't explain is why Seth rogans character and the douche guy are at grandma deaths. Or how the groundhog day repetition began. Great movie though.
This is to @simon I don't know if anyone answered your question but in the movie it shows that Donnie goes to a private Catholic school. I have a cousin that has gone to a catholic private school for all of her education and it depends on which institution if students have to go on Saturdays or not, since they don't have to follow the rules of regular public schools. As for the doctor visits, it could just be the most convenient times for him to go for the doctor and the family?
Well, i believe in all of these explanations. We dont know what created the TU universe, but we know that wasn't the artefact.
About the psychologist, it looks like she struggles with her self about what to do, and how to do it. But you cant forget that, after all, she is a Manipulated Living, so she must do everything to let Darko achieve his destiny.
About Roberta Sparrow, the only explanation that i think it was viably is the fact that she was a nun. Darko was agnostic, so when he wakes up (and we knowing that he was already in psychologist sessions) he doesn't give a them to the dream, he just laughs about it, what a crazy dream!
Now Roberta Sparrow is devoted to God, she is devoted as Nun level, so when she haves such a dream, when she awakes, she "knows" that it was a message from GOD, so she avoid the artefact that could kill her.
Now im at the starting point that the LR is always the one that dies (or supposedly) with the artifact, because it would be the best candidate to save the PU, because any MD would save him and they would believe on them either they were a nun, an atheist or an agnostic, and would follow their "orders".
That's my point of view of the great movie!
Ok already started watching it again now for the 3rd time, and this time i am paying great attention too detail as now i know that every single thing in this movie has some meaning not to say i know each things meaning but come on it has too.
So lets start at the very beginning he wakes up on the side of the road with his bike there apparently its just mooring and he has a sleepwalking or sleep bike riding problem we know this because he goes home, oh and guess what on the way home bet no one ever saw this we see the red trans am pass him on the street thats franks trans am the same one we see in the end off the movie as well the next car we see in the begging is his fathers black porchea that we all so see at the very end.....hmmmm
so we know donnie already has a pre existing issue with being out at night unexpeleaided by him or anyone because he enters the house and we see on the refrigerator "where is donnie ?" duh, plus his mother says where do you go at night? when she enters his room to find out why he's not taking his meds....
Now the very next night he wakes by frank blah blah blah wait don't forget this time he takes the marker of the refrigerator and wakes up on the golf course still holding the marker now he wrote the time to the endo of the universe on his arm....
whats so weird is now the engine falls on the house on his room and the family has no idea if donnie is in the room or not why are they not crying like the are in the end off the movie because when they see donnie there all in relieve OMG theres donnie and embrace him makes no sense...
then lets all figure out why there is a man in a HASMATE suit and why he is spraying the engine and why does the camera focus in on the turbine with the red circle.. whats that all about
ok let me get back to the movie....
I frist saw this movie and didn't get it at all, i really don't think i was paying attention, then just saw it again because i like the actors 2nd time round i got it or thought i got it, and was left with many unanswered questions, came here imedatly was not surprised to see a movie made many many years ago still getting questions, Hey and did everyone see seth green in the movie.... just caught that... anyway mind bender and i read all the explanations and most off the of the comments as there are just too many, i rather watch the movie again and re-evlaute,
Question, Jake Jellhall hmmm in another tirme travel movie that has multiple questions and thereorys remember the one he did on the train when he was a solider that was used to stop crime, what was the name of that oh yeah "Source Code" you think this one is a mind bender, all you check that one out and watch it 5 times and then read the explanation...
anyway, Donnie is troubled and dark why is it ok for him to do all the things that society deems wrong to expose the eviel and why does the fat girl that he sticks up for have a crush on him and he wears her ear muffs, does he really have to shoot the boy in the "eye" meaning he already did it because in the movie theater when frank takes off his mask he is shot in the eye meaning donnie areaddy did it, and why does he tell the other boy go home and tell them everything will be alright, and does anyone get why the boys are at the old latdys house in the cellar door with knifes waiting to kill them Hello lots of quire questions unanswered, plus why does the phycologist know that donnie burned down the house and then wait to call his parents at midnight ? hello she should have called the cops weird stupid unexplained not making any sense plus the mother called the phycolgiest saposealey to tell her she had to leave town and the husband was gone and donnie would be all alone, and what mother consorende about her son, that is clearly troubled leaves him alone on halloween with his teenage sister in a time of crisis MAKES NO SENCE she would never leave him after all the events that just passed she would not go or take him or have another adult be there.
there is so much more, i will be back need to watch i again. they keep saying where does the engine come from and what there on the plan the engine falls again and there back at home the loop makes no sense.
so here's a thought (and excuse me if someone has suggested it before, I haven't read through all 20 or so pages of comments):
what if Donnie created the TU himself? I mean, we've already said he sees the universe collapsing over himself and opens a portal to send through the plane engine. he opened the portal.
maybe it's not important, but i just thought i'd suggest it.