From the Director's cut features we learn that:

Much of the film takes place in an unstable Tangent Universe that is connected to the Primary Universe and a duplicate of it, except for an extra metal vessel known as an Artifact - the plane engine.

In other words the engine falling at the beginning of the movie doesn't belong to the Tangent Universe. But what is its origin in the Primary Universe? Where did it come from when it kills Donnie at the end of the movie?

There is an explanation assuming that is the very engine detached from the plane (flight 2806) which we can see at the end of the movie. When it passes through the vortex, it comes to the Primary Universe (28 days earlier) and falls on the Darko's house.

But this supposed to mean that the engine's origin is in the Tangent Universe. And therefore it should be considered as an Artifact to the Primary Universe. Isn't it?


Nice question. It troubles me too.

ref : Donnie Darko Explained

When a Tangent Universe occurs, those living nearest to the Vortex will find themselves at the epicenter of a dangerous new world. Artifacts provide the first sign that a Tangent Universe has occurred. If an Artifact occurs, the Living will retrieve it with great interest and curiosity. Artifacts are formed from metal, such as an Arrowhead from an ancient Mayan civilization, or a Metal Sword from Medieval Europe. Artifacts returned to the Primary Universe are often linked in religious iconography, as their appearance on Earth seems to defy logical explanation. Divine Intervention is deemed to be the only logical conclusion for the appearance of the artifact.

The whole Tangent Universe thing is happening because of a problem that has occurred with the 4th dimension. The details of it we are never told. It is the purpose of the Living Receiver to send the artifact to the Primary Universe to restore balance. Donnie does not send the artifact which landed in his home back to the Primary Universe. That stays in the Tangent Universe. He sends the duplicate copy from the Tangent Universe back to the Primary Universe.

So where does the artifact come from to the Tangent Universe? Well that is the text mentioned in Roberta Sparrow's text - Divine Intervention. There is no logical explanation. A copy of the artifact will exist seemingly from nowhere. Roberta doesn't understand how either. It is caused by the tear in the fabric of 4th dimension.

As far as the Primary Universe is concerned, they will always continue to wonder where that Jet Engine came from. They will get no answer. But for the Primary Universe, there is no Receiver or Artifact. Spacetime has corrected itself and life goes on.

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Basically you can imagine it like this:

    A        Before the engine falls down
   / \
  B   |      Donnie gets out of bed
  |   C      Donnie doesn't get out of bed
  x   x      The engine crashes into Donnie's room
  |   x      Donnie is dead.
  |   x      Whether the plane still crashes (without his
  |   x      mother aboard) or not is not revealed
  x          Donnie survives, the main part of the movie
  x          happens, and in the end, the crashing plane's
  x          engine is flung back in time to A, _before_ the
  x          timelines split. But Donnie also somehow manages
  x          to not get out of bed back then (maybe because he
  x          killed Frank)
  A          Time rewinds, but this time takes branch C

The movie ends before the crashing flight starts, so it might be that it still crashes (without Donnie's mother aboard), and the engine is flung back in time again. And, but this is really only speculation, since in this timeline Frank wasn't shot by Donnie, he may be responsible for his appearance at B.

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  • But we can say the same about the Tangent Universe: the engine may come into the past of the same (Tangent) Universe. Then the only difference between universes is Donnie (alive) and therefore he is an Artifact in the Tangent Universe himself. – hindmost Jun 14 '15 at 19:10
  • Good point. Though that might imply those two universes are rather completely independent, but Donnie's laughing when he's "back" in his room suggests they aren't. Personally, I prefer to think each respective engine crossed into the other universe's past - for no particular reason though :-7 – Zommuter Jun 15 '15 at 6:45

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