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.
(only having just seen the movie ten minutes ago for the first time) I think that maybe Donnie Darko's destiny to die is the epicenter of this film.
Donnie is immediately depicted as an extremely troubled and probably over medicated individual struggling with mental issues (weather it be depression or schizophrenia) He's also painted to be the total black sheep of his concerned but vibrant family. while Donnie was not specifically suicidal i think the events that happen in the movie and Donnie's adventure throughout the tangent universe were to show our main character that his place in the primary universe is to in fact, to die.
Before Donnie's journey he was cold to the world(the primary one), calling his mother a 'bitch', starting a nonsense altercation with his family at dinner, foul language in front of his little sister and obviously the mental instabilities he was dealing with.
that night when the jet engine was supposed to crush him in his sleep, around the time the "tangent universe" was created, he was lead away from the accident and then basically shown throughout the rest of the movie who's lives would change for the better (eventually the better) as a result of his death.
at the end of the movie he lie's in his bed smiling and laughing, Donnie is no longer this dark and disturbed teenager-unsure of his place. He now knows his death will not be in vein. I think Donnie's death is what brought him peace.
The world will know one more morbid accident and teen fatality.
The lesson here is that time will continue regardless. Destiny cannot be denied
we can only make peace with the past, make the best we can out of the present and prepare ourselves for the future.
A dark tale of shit happens.
I feel like this is movie was a fun way to look at our historical events and paint them with a scifi time travel color scheme. The pott clearly makes references to a Mayan and dark ages account, but to point out the obvious...look at the Jesus Christ story. There's a living receiver that is surrounded by manipulated people looking to destroy him...he is technically killed by a metal object and turns "water" into wine...
That's an obvious similarity. What are some other historical similarities that could be askewed by Roberts Sparrow? Any history buffs out there that could paint a cool DD story with real life events, like the Titanic disaster (big ass metal artifact that people still saught out)?
Acctually donnie knows he is going to shoot frank because it isn't the first time he has been in the tangent universe, evidence like donnie hitting the mirror with a knife over franks eye shows he has a vague recollection of previous happenings of the same events which shows that he had previously failed to return the artifact in the tangent universe and the tangent had been restarted
I disagree with a majority of this. I think its not two universes and he is actually traveling through time.
I see a lot of people on here thinking that if he went back in time he wouldn't remember what happened, but if you see the montage of all the characters after he dies, you see that they have a vague recollection of what happened.
My theory is that Donnie Darko travels back in time (at least) twice and this movie is based on the second iteration. Why else would he already know he was going to shoot Frank before he actually did.
I think his memory of Frank was manifesting itself through the meds he was on and/or Donnie's schizophrenia. I don't think the ghost of Frank has traveled in time, just Donnie's memory of him is vaguely coming back.
DD is more closely linked with biblical elements than first appears.
Frank is a demon/fallen angel manipulating lives.
Fallen aircraft engine crashes through his room where a poster of an album cover (forgot what it was LED ZEP mayb) but its a picture of satan falling from heaven (fallen angel) Satan was an angel
The destructors is being read out while Donnie is interacting with this spirit in the mirror. The woman talks about how the destructors destroy a home from the within. Bad spirits start within the home but to be able to get to the home they must get within the inner most part of people.
still formulating an opinion on the rest...
Someone also said a major catastrophic incident creates a TU.
It just so happens this film was released in 2001, the same year a MAJOR catastrophic accident occurred, 9/11, involving planes.(when I say planes, I mean the 'media' inserted planes into the live news feed. there was no planes at 9/11 jus' sayin. Youtube No planes at 9/11.
Jess: Thanks! I have to watch it again :)
and again.. and again...
3CODE and all: that was an aftershock for me, still debating...
Check out the first comment for "Notorious" at songmeanings.com... (link sold seperately in case it is regarded as spam)
Ganief: Graham Greene - "The Destructors"
Or wait, was it?
Thanks for mentioning the ordering of the book, that was what got her fired.
I thought it was something else, but you're right.
Hahaha can't belive there is still a debate about this film. An absolutely amazing film. Only watched it last year I remember it coming out in 2001 but never watched it as I was only young I wouldn't have been interested let alone understand it.
Also if the answer is "because Frank woke him up", then Frank would be the cause of all this. If he truly wanted to save Donnie he should have just left him there.
Ok, ok, ok, let me get this straight...
Frank woke Donnie up so he can follow a destined path, and save the world.
In the end of the movie, Donnie dies from the fallen engine.
In the start of the movie, why didn't Donnie just stay in bed? It would have come to the same conclusion as the end of the movie.
I've seen this scary looking rabbit on the net, then when I randomly decided to get this movie I found out the rabbit was Frank. I've always wondered where this creepy rabbit was from, I thought it was from a game.
Anyway, amazing movie. Can't believe I only saw it now at the age of 29. Glad I only saw it now though, I doubt I would've appreciated this movie at the age of 14. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Question: What book did the teacher order for the class that she wasn't allowed to distribute to them? I know she ordered loads from the bookstore but instead gave "Watership Down" to them.