Donnie Darko
Franks Eye

Unanswered Questions

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

Time PortalWhy 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

The ArtifactOne 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 (Grandma Death)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

Donnie DarkoThis 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.

March 29th 2014 | 5:47:40

The thing it says, and I think, is that TU's are very rare, and don't just happen over and over. So I'm kind of more on the PoTT theory then the loop theory. If anyone can answer, I'm confused about how Frank is Elizabeth's boyfriend, but does he go, right after the jet engine crashes, to Donnie, kills Gretchen, and then gets killed by Donnie but he has the bunny suit on? I was confused about that. AWESOME MOVIE!!

March 26th 2014 | 9:32:24

Why grandma Death looks for letters every day ?

March 21st 2014 | 1:58:43

I think the man in the red jumpsuit was...maybe his subconscious not a part of the time travel main concept but perhaps it was a quick dip into his insanity and maybe his girlfriend didn't actually see it he just imagined that because we saw how upset he was then

March 16th 2014 | 21:38:20

Can anyone explain the importance of the man in the red jumpsuit??

March 14th 2014 | 10:24:58

What if grandma death is the current living receiver and Donnie is just one of the manipulated dead...

1st-timer Perspective
March 12th 2014 | 0:30:43

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,


March 5th 2014 | 20:42:57

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!

Jessica smith
March 4th 2014 | 4:48:35

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.

March 3rd 2014 | 4:33:07

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.

February 25th 2014 | 10:21:46

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.

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Karen Pomeroy - Manipulated Living
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