Is Donnie Darko ‘Back to the Future’ Fan Fiction?

Earlier this month, Cracked put up a video where two of their writers discuss Back to the Future. They come to the conclusion that, near the end of the movie when Marty watches Doc send his alternate self back in time, he was actually witnessing Doc send “New Marty” off to his death. The logic is that Doc would have never allowed a chance of the two Marty’s meeting (because it could apparently result in the death of the entire universe) and he would have wanted to eliminate all chance of New Marty altering the timeline again.

“No Marty, I swear. Earth was a paradise 4 billion years ago. You’ll have a great time.”

Red Orbit

Funnily enough, this isn’t really a new idea. Ryan North (creator of Dinosaur Comics) presented similar theories in his page-by-page review of the film’s bizarre original novelisation. But the Cracked guys add another interesting theory on top by suggesting that Doc may not have simply killed New Marty off in cold blood. Instead he may have, over the years, convinced him to accept his fate as a martyr who would save the entire universe. So when the time came, New Marty jumped in that DeLorean and floored it – fully prepared to be incinerated in a pit of lava on the other side of the time jump.

And if you’re anything like me, right now you’ll be thinking “Wow, that’s basically the plot of Donnie Darko”.

Or maybe it’s not very convincing when I say it. You should probably watch the video. Even though it never actually makes the link to Donnie Darko it sure as hell feels like that’s what it’s building to, and judging by the comments section I’m not the only one who made the connection.

What I find even more interesting is it seems quite plausible that Donnie Darko started life as Back to the Future fan-fiction. Richard Kelly (Darko director) is a confessed fan of the earlier film, and he even included a heavy-handed reference to it in his own movie …

So it’s hardly a stretch to imagine Kelly stumbling across the ‘Martyr Marty’ theory himself, probably while watching Doc and Marty’s adventures for the twentieth time as a stoned teenager. The plot could have then evolved over time as it stewed inside Kelly’s brain – going in all sorts of crazy directions – but at it’s core it remained the  story of a man trying to convince a teenager to go back in time and sacrifice his life, so that his family, his love interest and the entire universe could live on. Basically you just need to replace Doc with Frank the creepy bunny, Marty with Donnie, and Jennifer with Gretchen.

Bonus theory: It was Christopher Lloyd in the bunny suit (except those parts where it clearly wasn’t).

That Guy 101

Of course, if Doc wanted to avoid a rip in the space-time continuum from the two Martys meeting, he could have just straight up killed New Marty and buried him in the woods. Then again, there’s surely no cleaner way to dispose of a body than sending it back in time to when that person didn’t even exist …

“Look, kid. This stupid post has gone on long enough. There’s no need to bring me in to this. Just put the keyboard down and walk away.”

Fair enough, angry Bruce Willis with a gun. Fair enough.

Want more? Here’s something else I wrote that was loosely about Back to the Future, but not really. 

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2 Responses to Is Donnie Darko ‘Back to the Future’ Fan Fiction?

  1. This is a bit weird, because I always assumed Doc had to send “new Marty” back to the 50’s in the altered timeline, or else Old Marty never got where he was at the end of the movie. Of course BTTF took way too many liberties with the whole idea of the space time continuum and definitely over-simplified how the Butterfly Effect would have altered the future. It was fun to watch, but it always made my head hurt….

    • Yeah it’s such a great film, but it’s best not to think about it too much. At least for the first few times. Once you’re on your fourth or fifth viewing you can start over-analysing it and have fun with the possible implications, like I have.

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