Darkman (Peyton Westlake) is the titular fictional vigilante from the 1990 superhero film Darkman. The character originated in a short story written by the film's director, Sam Raimi, titled "The Darkman", and is based on the Universal Pictures' movie monsters. He was portrayed by Liam Neeson in the original film, and by Arnold Vosloo in the sequels.
Fictional character biography
In the third film and the unaired television pilot his biography is slightly retconned, but the character's canonical history is as such: Peyton Westlake was a mild-mannered scientist working on a synthetic "skin" capable of aiding burn victims and was in a good relationship with the district attorney Julie Hastings, who indirectly caused his injuries by telling corrupt developer Louis Strack, Jr that he could not build his "city of the future" without a permission document from Westlake's laboratory. At this, Strack hired sadistic mobster Robert G. Durant to get the document and in the process, Durant and his gang brutally disfigured Westlake, killed his assistant and destroyed his lab.
Julie believed he was dead and a funeral was held, but Westlake's hideous body was placed in a clinic that used various experiments to sever Westlake's pain receptors and enhance his strength to superhuman level. The experiments however affected Westlake's mental stability and he becomes an impulsive, bipolar, sarcastic and violent man. Westlake escapes the clinic and seeks refuge in an abandoned building in the film's city. He hides his grotesque appearance with bandages and a trenchcoat and using his synthetic skin, which only lasts 99 minutes in light, manages to rebuild a relationship with Julie, claiming he survived his "accident" and constantly has to flee so that she does not see his true face. As "Darkman", he begins ruining Durant's illegal activities by framing his gang so Durant kills his own men, including his possible implied lover. After discovering the culprit is Darkman, Durant attempts to kill him from a helicopter using a gatling gun. Darkman manages to defeat his archenemy by literally clinging to the helicopter and using his strength to pull it into a tunnel and exploding the chopper.
After this, Darkman poses as Durant in order to infiltrate Strack's new skyscraper, which was the reason the developer hired Durant in the first place. But Strack suspects Darkman will come after him and takes Julie hostage. Strack also taunts Darkman by calling him a "monster" and after a battle atop the skyscraper, Darkman nonchalantly flings Strack to his death, realizing that vengeance and rage cannot satisfy his sorrow. He also decides that he can never be with Julie because of his disfigurement and promptly abandons her, and vows to become a vigilante and bringer of justice.
After a year of crimefighting, Darkman is shocked to discover that Durant is alive and back in town and that he must again battle his archenemy and avenge a scientist named Brinkman, who he managed to partner with in order to work at perfecting his synthetic skin so he may lead a normal life. After defeating Durant, Darkman found a new enemy in drug lord Peter Rooker, who proved to be his most powerful adversary after going through a process that makes his strength equal Darkman's. Darkman managed to bring down Rooker by posing as him but felt conflicted as he fell in love with Rooker's wife and children, who he had to abandon as well to resume his life as vigilante. Beforehand, however, he finally manages to perfect his synthetic skin, but uses the only sample to heal Rooker's daughter.
Powers and abilities
Due to clinical experiments, the nerve endings connected to Darkman's skin have been severed, rendering him immune to pain, but unable to feel physical sensations. Additionally, to compensate for his loss of physical feelings, adrenaline flows unchecked through Darkman's body, enhancing his physical strength, speed, agility, and durability, but increasing his emotional output.
Using his synthetic skin, Darkman is able to pose as criminals and trick them into engineering their own downfall.
Darkman possesses the ethics of a superhero such as not harming innocents but the tenacity and impulsiveness of a psychopath, such as reveling in the suffering of criminals and a dangerous temper, as seen in Darkman when he (disguised as his former self) breaks the fingers of an obnoxious carnival worker for refusing to give Julie Hastings the prized elephant and when Julie refuses the prize, he remarks "Take the fucking elephant!" and when a cat hisses at him, he is enraged and argues with the cat and accuses it of thinking he is a "freak of nature". Despite his temper and preference for violence, Darkman also has a morbid sense of humor in sticky situations, when he breaks into a business meeting whilst attached to Durant's chopper, he remarks to the businessman "Excuse me!" before being pulled off again and when Strack begs for mercy, stating murder will haunt his conscience, Darkman, after only a slight hesitation, drops him to his death and remarks, "I'm learning to live with a lot of things".
This film documents Darkman's origins and his relationship with Julie, and systematically showing his descent into a vengeful criminal killer and his first battle with Durant and the businessman Strack.
Darkman II: The Return of Durant
Durant has survived his ordeal from the first film and plans to takeover the city using futuristic weaponry. Only Darkman can stop his archenemy and avenge one of Durant's latest victims.
Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die
Drug lord Peter Rooker has allied with a scientist who also worked on Darkman's super-strength and invulnerability, has invented a steroid that enables him to have super-strength but mental instability. To top it off, Darkman poses as Rooker and has a conflict between killing Rooker or saving the evil villain's family.