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.
The one thing that really bothers me is that the element of metal is a required element. I could understand that water would be a worthy element because I could understand that a TU would not be created until the stabilization of the PU. To JUST USE Earth as our example: Until the stabilization of the planet, the PU would be a Chaotic and NATURALLY Disorderly existence - therefor, disorder is order and so a TU cannot occur. OK, so when the planet forms, water is formed as well and order becomes the norm. It is when the beings of Earth CREATE Disorder, that a TU may occur, because the PU is being given Disorder when it is in a state of Order. So, to me, that is the pre-requisite of the PU being "ripe" for a TU.
So, my issue with Metal being a required element for the artifact is this: What if a TU occurs when there is no civilization that has discovered Metalurgy? the Clovis People, for example, used Stone Tools. Even though the Clovis People could have brought Disorder to the PU (which they did, they had plague, famine, war, death,...blah de blah) how could the Clovis, or any other group of Ancient Peoples NOT HAVE CREATED a TU? On that note: Why didn't the KT Event cause a TU? Or any other Mass Extinction for that matter? Am I to believe that this schism in Space-Time is carrying a watch? It just simply ISN'T disorderly enough in the PU until society creates metallic items? It isn't disorderly enough until Humans?
If I am to accept that an outside source created the tear in Space-Time such as Aliens, Scientists, or whatever: it's awfully coincidental that these rifts ONLY occur when Metal is a known product. If one SINGLE event occurred at any time on Earth during anything besides the past 3000 or so years, the PU would be in a perpetual catatonic state while a never-ending loop of TUs occur. That's...stupid. Why is Metal a required element of the artifact? It either is, and somehow the Movie's Universe is fantastically lucky for the sake of a complicated and intelligent plot that is remarkably short-sighted, or it isn't a requirement and Grandma Death was wrong...which makes her exceptionally lucky to have written a book about the experience as a whole that coincidentally fits PERFECTLY with the experience shown in the movie.
Seriously, it's highly suspect that a Rift occurs ONLY when Metals are understood enough to have an artifact at all, and ONLY when there is a society that could produce a Living Receiver. During the Billions of years of Earth's stable existence...No issue happened, convenient. So perhaps someone made a rift in existence (maybe twice...if Grandma was a survivor, or even more if she actually cites real events in those myths.) and it just so happens to occur in a time period that has refined metals...every time. If someone knew about the rifts and purposefully kept rifts during these time periods: A: why would they make them, risking the fabric of existence itself, and B: how could they police the use of rift-making ghosty-stuff to ensure it's done only during times with Metal?
Honestly, the more I think of this, the more I dislike the movie. I thought the movie was a pretty fun experience, but I hate when time travel gets put into media because people are terrible scientists. Donnie Darko is a cool movie, but I strongly believe it's intelligent for narcissistic reasons and ultimately actually idiotic.
I'm An Avid Fan.
I've either forgotten, or never realised, how does the TU work?
I think the PU paused completely until the safe unraveling of the TU has taken place then the PU resumes as normal.
At the begging img of the TU cycle, how does Donnie survive the crash allowing him to reach his future and kill frank, so frank can travel back in time and save him. If Donnie died initially frank couldn't have gone back and woke him up because Donnie didn't survive the crash to go and continue his journey and kill frank!?!
I think Donnie chose to die because he's suicidal. After waking, having some knowledge of the last month, Donnie concludes that despite a completely Donnie-centric world, he still loses and is ultimately troubled. Its like a big joke; Donnie laughs at how pathetic and worthless he is and as a final "screw it", he faces his depressed state with a malaise confidence and lets fate take him. Its like the person that shoots themselves: the person crying wont pull the trigger, it's the person smirking that will - suicide is a "final option" that is darkly relieving.
Yes. A sequel would be awesome. It would be sooooo chilling to hear donnies voice telling gretchen to "wake up".
The other night I watched the movie and really for the first time felt 'enlightened' as to what the a significant portion of what the movie was about.
Donnie's two main issues in the PU were his denial of his feelings involving fear and love, which were the two things that held him back from realizing his full potential. Fear, being an existential fear of death, and love, which ties into the fact that he lacks intimacy with women (or another way of putting it fear of being alone).
From the onset it is clear Donnie carries himself as an intellectual, yet he battles with existential fears like everyone else, especially with the existence of a higher being, and with the concept of dying alone (tie in to love). His views on love appear to be very pragmatic and materialistic, "What's the point of living if you don't have a dick?" The same can be said on his views of fear, which he for the most part appears to deny or sublimate via his destructive tendencies/actions.
This fact is seen when Donnie is faced with the fear---love line from Mrs. Gardener (manipulated living), and he gets extremely angry at what seemingly appears to be the fact that love/hate don't capture all human emotions. However, the fact is that these are the two emotions that have severely dominated Donnie all his life, and which Frank realizes Donnie needs to accept and reconcile to become the savior Donnie Darko (Christ figure Donnie).
We accompany Donnie on his journey to finally becoming self-actualized, which is the thing he craved the most. His entire life he felt like he was crazy, due to the emotions that dominated his life and triggered actions that caused him suffering, and by the end of the movie he is euphoric for finally being able to accept and see through his emotions. Donnie Darko for the first time was capable of seeing the beauty of the world, and experiencing the beauty of the world, which for him became even better knowing that his doom was likely approaching (savoring the last glimpses of light in the dying twilight).
To add to this, I also believe that Donnie was subconsciously aware of most events leading up to Gretchen being hit by the car, and is why he questioned Professor Monnittoff about seeing his path. Donnie at any moment was capable of stepping away from the plan, and living like as a mindless breeding rabbit until the 28th day hit. However, Donnie chooses to follow God's channel until the end, further displaying his acceptance of the possibility of a higher power (until the end where he explicitly acknowledges deus ex machine, and all his encounters with it).
The tragedy in the movie for me is the fact that in the PU Donnie would likely never have been able to find this acceptance and reconciliation, thus the TU in a sense benefitted Donnie, while designating him as the living receiver via deus ex machine (saving him initially from the falling engine). It was only through the actions of the manipulated dead and living that Donnie made it to the end of his journey, and to accepting himself, even though it was at the cost of his life.
I found the ending to be fairly profound, because for Donnie the ending really was when he saved the world from utter destruction, while ensuring the safety of the only girl he loved, as well as being able to accept the fact that he loved his family (I think the beginning made it clear he had troubled relationships with his family). From my viewpoint it was the path leading to his death that gave him salvation. It was only by Donnie eventually being destroyed (in the PU) that he was able to create the change (in the TU) needed to become the person he always wanted to be.
Not only this, but the impact that Donnie's journey had on the lives of those around him, especially those that remembered, will continue to impact and change the world long after he is gone. “Donnie Darko, what kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.” Donnie simply replies, “What makes you think I’m not?”
Side note, I'm really banking on the rumored sequel to Donnie Darko focusing on Gretchen, would be pretty cool if Donnie became the new Frank.
I find myself watching this film every few months. Each time noticing something new. It's a constant reminder of my own experiences and what's still to come.
Newcomer to D Darko. Wow I watch it everyday trying to figure it out. I love the idea of time travel. Somewhere in time was my previous favorite t.t. movie. Darko is better but I still recommend Somewhere in time.great, great info on this site. Thank you!!
I love this film because its so open to interpretation,plus its so trippy ,turn and face the strange.
As Donnie kills Frank, Frank then becomes the manipulated dead... explained below...
The Manipulated Dead
The Manipulated Dead are more powerful than the Living Receiver. If a person dies within the Tangent Dimension, they are able to contact the Living Receiver through the Fourth Dimensional Construct.
The Fourth Dimensional Construct is made of Water.
The Manipulated Dead will manipulate the Living Receiver using the Fourth Dimensional Construct (see Appendix A and B).
The Manipulated Dead will often set an Ensurance Trap for the Living Receiver to ensure that the Artifact is returned safely to the Primary Universe.
If the Ensurance Trap is successful, the Living Receiver is left with no choice but to use his Fourth Dimensional Power to send the Artifact back in time into the Primary Universe before the Black hole collapses upon itself.
now the way I see it..
..... So Frank has special abilities like Time Travel and telekinesis etc. which teaches Donnie to use. One being telekinesis to bring down the plane at the end.. returning the artifact and the primary Universe..
... Frank was only trying to save his own life, as he knew he died in the tangent Universe... he was killed by Donnie... and became the manipulated dead....
Remembering that the Tangent Universe was created 28 days before the PU Frank knew he was going to be killed by Donnie.
Frank must save Donnie's life in the beginning to help guide the artifact...
Donnie must die for Frank to live within the Primary universe, but TU Frank knows he must first guide Donnie to place the artifact and Donnie must live for this to happen.. After Donnie has successfully moved the artifact back into position, the Universe stabilizers...
Now Donnie can die... and there is no TU Frank...
First off, Great site, it's amazing to think that after 15/nearly 16/years after this film, that the questions rage on as if the film were released last week.
While I haven't read through every post and every question on the site, I'd like to ask if the alleged "sequel" is worth watching in any way whatsoever?
My other question is this, how does "Frank" become the "guide" of the TU? Why out of all people is it him?