Liam Neeson Looks Back on the ‘Cheesy’ ‘90s Cult Superhero Movie He Made with ‘Spider-Man’ Director Sam Raimi

These days, Marvel and DC jointly dominate the superhero genre. The two comic book titans may be routinely duking it out on the big screen. But back in the 1990s, Hollywood was already taking advantage of the success of 1989’s Batman. Even Spider-Man director Sam Raimi got in on the action with Liam Neeson starring in the 1990 movie Darkman.

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson | Franziska Krug/Getty Images

‘Spider-Man’ director Sam Raimi made a superhero movie in 1990

The film plays like a B-movie cross between Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nearly a decade before joining the Star Wars saga, Neeson played scientist Peyton Westlake. After a vicious attack leaves him horribly burned and disfigured, he develops a plan to use his technology to seek revenge.

For Neeson, Darkman proved he had the action hero chops he’d later become known for in Taken. And for Raimi, the movie serves as the missing link between the visceral horror of the Evil Dead series and the superheroics of his Spider-Man trilogy. As a result, Darkman has maintained a cult following over the years.

Liam Neeson recently looked back on the cult classic that is ‘Darkman’

Since Darkman’s release, Neeson’s career has grown so much. Just a few years later, he was Oscar-nominated for Schindler’s List. And of course, he went on to become an A-list Hollywood star. But in a recent interview with Collider, Neeson revealed he looks back fondly on making Darkman.

“I loved it. I remember being incredibly tired because there was make-up in the morning, especially when I was not wearing the bondages and you saw the scars and stuff. That started off as five hours in the make-up chair and we got it down to three. …

I loved Sam and I loved working with Frances McDormand. It was a cool movie. It’s become a cult-y thing now. The way cinema has progressed, CGI-wise and all the rest of it over 30 years now, it’s remarkable what they can do now but in those days, some of the effects were a little bit cheesy looking but that adds to the charm of it.”

Indeed, the visual effects of Darkman — some of which rely on stop-motion and other practical effects — befit the kind of grindhouse tone Raimi brings. It’s the same sensibility that the director brought to his earlier movies. And it’s likely a relief to longtime fans that Neeson still holds Darkman in high esteem.


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Both men went on to work on comic book movies years later

Of course, both Raimi and Neeson would return to the world of superheroes years later. Raimi directed three Spider-Man movies from 2002 to 2007. And Neeson played Ra’s al Ghul in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises.

Raimi is even returning to the genre in the near future. The director will helm Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This being his return to Marvel, fans speculate Raimi might be involved in the MCU’s long-term Spider-Man plan.