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.

December 31st 2011 | 13:47:39

So if we were to rank this movie on the Fear and Love scale, where would it fit? ;) ;)

December 30th 2011 | 23:59:08

The two engines existing simultaneously in the TU seem to have some correlation to the two Frank's existing simultaneously as well. Let me see if I can work this out. The first engine came from the PU (simply falling from the plane would make more sense than the duplicate idea) into the TU. That same engine already existed in the TU so now there were two. At the end of the movie, when the other engine is sent back, it is the same plane engine but from the TU, however I don't think it matters as they are identical(there just can't be two). Remember now in the PU no time has gone by, so when the engine goes from the TU into the PU(thereby ending the TU entirely) time starts back up again immediately where the TU began. So Donnie made the conscious decision to kill himself. As far as the Franks existing in the TU together I think that was his decision as well. He had to kill himself(or more appropriately have Donnie kill him) in the TU in order to stay alive in the PU. AAAHHH my brain hurts, I'm gonna go watch the movie again.

December 13th 2011 | 5:46:19

@ Jake:
But now at the end of the movie, there is an extra jet engine in the primary universe. It would have made more sense to obliterate the extra jet engine in the TU than to transfer the engine from the TU to the PU, because the surplus of 1 jet engine has not been eliminated, it has simply been transferred between universes.

Also, the first jet engine did not come from the PU - it was an extra copy created by accident when creating the TU - so it does not make sense to send it to the PU, which it had not come from in the first place.

December 8th 2011 | 14:52:48

Basically, at the end of film that jet engine that hit's Donnie's house for the second time that is the one that is sent from TU to PU. So when Donnie wakes up at the end of film and laughs and then goes back to sleep and killed by the falling Jet engine, that is the one he sent from the TU to the PU. At the start of the film we are already in the TU, that jet engine was created along with the TU, it didn't come from any over Universe, it just appeared. Which means there was 2 of something in one Universe and this made it all dangerous and unstable and that's why it had to be sent to the PU at the end of film. This is why people get confused about the first jet engine, it's just duplicate copy of something which is made in the TU, which was the artifact which needed to be sent back, it's all apart of the Donnie's quest. There is no actual place the first engine came from, it just appeared out of know where but this happened for a reason, for Donnie's quest. I hope this all makes sense

November 23rd 2011 | 6:10:46

To the comment below

Actually, if you read the full explanation, rather than just this page, it makes perfect sense (assuming the info we get from this website is correct).

Though it happens at the same time and same place, the jet engines ARE NOT the same.

Some things you need to know in order to understand;

1) Portal needs metal and water. In this case, the artifact is the metal.

2) The reason (I assume) why TU is so dangerous is because of the artifact that is abnormally present in TU. It needs to be sent back (Donnie's task).

3) There are no simultaneous Parallel Universe in Donnie Darko. It's just PU and TU.

4) When the first jet engine falls through, the world is already in Tangent Universe. So when TU was created (which was before Donnie wakes up), the Artifact somehow is created and falls through the portal FROM Primary Universe.

In short, the first jet engine is from PU, into TU. The engine is already in TU.

5) When Donnie rips the jet engine whilst he is inside the Tangent Universe, he sends it into the Primary universe via telekinesis. In PU, Donnie dies because of the jet engine he sent from TU.

In short, the 2nd jet engine is from TU, into PU.

6) Because there's only TU and PU , not parallel universe, the 2nd engine Donnie sends back into PU, cannot be the 1st engine that fell AFTER TU was created.

7) When the 2nd engine falls, Donnie is in already back in PU, so there is no way the first engine of TU be the same.

8) This is why the origin of the first engine is questionable. But they AREN'T the same.

jet engine doubter
November 9th 2011 | 4:14:37

that jet engone theory makes no sense; the jet engine to fall on the house is the same one. It happens at the EXACT same time in the EXACT same way, in the SAME place as well as looking exactly the same; it's the same one. Or, at least, the film makers wanted us to see it as the same one, the one sent back by donnie. Also, if the artifact is an act of god but the artifact duplication is the thing threatning the universe in h first does that makes sense?

November 6th 2011 | 5:46:51

Not sure if this helps for those that can't understand the outline of it, or if this is spot on what Dan says but:

1. PU has the instance of TU.

2. PU and TU are two separate realities. Anything that is done unto the TU does not affect the PU. In other words, because one thing happens in one, it doesn't mean it happens in the other; like a mirror image moving with the person. They are entirely separate of themselves, and only through that vortex was there any sort of link.

3. In the event of a TU, PU becomes frozen in time, i.e., nothing happens in the PU. Time assigned itself to the TU.


[My approaches and attempts to resolve any other questions]

Main Approach:
Target: The Philosophy of Time Travel

1. There would be more than two universes in order for MDF to appear in the way that he did, which would create an infinite loop of contradictions due to each universe requiring an MDF's existence (not for the resolving of the TU, but for MDF's existence to begin with). MDF stopped TU Donnie from being killed by the TU's Artifact (specifically, the jet engine), and in order for that to have happened, Frank would have had to have been killed in a different reality. Because PU is timeless at the instance, and the TU cannot have a universe within itself, there must have been a third universe, and another to that, and another to that, thus creating a clear contradiction. In these instances, there cannot be loops, it must stop somewhere in order for anything else to resolve. Therefore:

1a. Nothing happened, and all of this is junk.
1b. The loop exists, and nothing ever resolves.
1c. TU never existed, and in "PU", Donnie just dies in a lucid dream (happens quite often while on psych meds, which would also explain if he ever sleep-walked).
1d. Maybe something else, but I can probably keep on going.


Theological Approach:
Target: God

Whatever God you want to believe in does exist. This is His test unto Donnie. Donnie is given the choice of what should happen. God saves Donnie from the Artifact by proposing the image of MDF, thus causing TU Donnie to move. All events happen, and PU Donnie dies, while TU Donnie watches his universe collapse.

This all, however, presents many problems to begin with:

Given: God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and omniwhateverthehellelseyouwanttosay.

1. God is not omniscient, because he does not know what TU Donnie will do.
2. God is not omnibenevolent because he allowed the death of Frank, and Gretchen for some game of chance, and the erasure of an entire existence, which would imply the question "Why was an alternate universe needed to begin with?".
3. God is not omnipotent, because he would not have been able to undo their deaths or erasure.
4. Maybe something else, but I don't need to keep going.
5. Because God is none of those things, he can no longer withhold the title of God, and is no longer viable of existence in this supposition of reality.
6. Because God does not exist in this reality, it leaves the explanation to other hands.


Paranormal Approach:
Target: Supernatural powers, and paranormal activity

1. Assuming TU Donnie has quasi-ESP among his other supernatural powers, Manipulated Dead Frank would be his vision. MDF is sort of a reminder from Vision Donnie that he killed in events undisclosed to us. It's like someone contemplating the events, but they forget those were just thoughts, and have an unconscious reminder in the back of their mind (MDF).

1a. In order for MDF to even exist as a vision, TU Donnie must have survived to begin with. This leaves this approach null and void.

2. TU Donnie was visited by a time-travelling ghost, Manipulated Dead Frank, and was moved to those events simply because it refuses to die.

2a. Refer to 1a.

3. There may be more things to say, but regardless, it may all point back to 1a.

4. Donnie has ESP, and was dreaming a vision. Refer to Coincidental Approach.


Coincidental Approach:
Target: Free will, and coincidence

1. The TU was never dependent on predetermined events, and was the exact opposite of the PU, hence the supernatural powers, the anomaly of TU's existence to begin with, the TU's possibility for collapse along with existence's possibility for destruction through the Black Hole. This is all free will, and MDF was just a nightmarish hallucination that seemed coincidentally similar to Frank's costume. Evidence of this is the drawing on Donnie's poster, which seemed quite different from the actual costume. Donnie woke up, and sleepwalked into survival. This may hold as a viable answer.

1a. Around the beginning, Donnie seems to pass by Frank in his red car. He could subconsciously remember Frank's face, and for some reason, apply it to the not-so-similar bunny costume, along with having one eye punched in with a bullet.

2. Schizophrenia allowed for events similar to 1.

3. Practically anything you want to say. E.g., a fly with a virus exclusive only to the TU bit Donnie in the head, and caused the hallucinations, caused him to get out of his house; refer to 1.

4. Donnie is dreaming all of this after seeing Frank. Because it's all just a dream, the theory of time-travel may not be 100% viable.

4a. This could lead to Donnie physically killing Frank due to schizophrenic episodes, and ending with Donnie arrested, but unaware of it.

4b. This could also lead to the TU being real, and still, Donnie dreams of Frank, wakes up, kills him, and the entire story works out by mere chance. Refer as similar to 3, 2, and 1.

4c. Referring to 4b, it could compose a contradiction for the purpose of every being, such as the Manipulated Dead, and Manipulated Living. All of the contradictions can be based purely on your own opinion; e.g., why Gretchen would be a Manipulated Dead in this supposition, et cetera.

* This is where practically anything is possible, which semi-renders this approach rather useless and open to anything. I highly doubt this is what the creator intended.


Now, obviously, there's probably a bit I've missed, but my intents were to clarify anything, and then push in some of my suggestions.

September 4th 2011 | 22:53:25

Just because Frank gets Donnie out of bed doesn't exactly emply that the tangent universe already started. I mean there's a freakin vortex spiraling over his bedroom. Would it be that far out of line to think that bad things had already been set into motion because the fall of the jet engine was emminent, and things were leaking through the time space divide. Its as if the vortex is just there to drop engines through and the real problem started who knows where.

September 1st 2011 | 10:18:12

Ok, I have an explanation about the Jet Engine:
Second engine (when Donnie dies):

First engine (at the beginning of movie):

So maybe in future the scientist opened a time warm hole and that plane crashed in the process of creating the warm hole so the engine falls thru the hole (you can see the first engine has holes from posible explosion so is not the second one but still a duplicate from the same plane), so when the TU is created it is going to collapse because of:
1. A duplicate object in TU
2. The object (engine) doesn't have a timeline explication because of time corruption. (maybe incorrect use of timetravel created by scientist)

So Donnie understood that eliminating the duplicate from the TU and also making a logical time link between the falling engine (over his house) will fix the collapse.

Now to answer why did he choice to die:
Is because hi saw that the event path is prewritten (you saw the movement vectors that you can't resist). So by staying alive the events could lead to the same time corruption. By death he created a butterfly effect that will lead to a different path.

September 1st 2011 | 9:42:09

In explanation future livings are trying to prepare Donnie for death (his girlfriend death, psychological help...) but Donnie wasn't necessarily to die for the fix. So why did they combat his fear of death?

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Eddie Darko - Manipulated Living
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