A Scanner Darkly [based on book] by Philip K. Dick
dir. by Richard Linklater
Genre: animation, sff
Script: Richard Linklater
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson
Rated : 7 Stars
I have come to conclusion that I dislike this new animation style of digital-rotoscoping. That is where actors are filmed and then converted into animation using some computer aided magic. (As you can see I am all up on the technical terms) The previous film in this style I saw was Renaissance, which suffered from a boring plot, but also just left me a bit cold, despite looking great on occasion.
And here, in A Scanner Darkly, it does look interesting. The opening scene of drug induced visions of bugs crawling all over one’s body. That was great. And a few other scenes alsi caught my attention. But overall this style just doesn’t work for me. It is almost as though this mixture of animation and acting erradicates the best of both. Perhaps this is because it is a relatively new technique? I’m just not sure.
Anyways, apart from the medium, the film itself is very watchable. Plenty of drug paranoia, not to mention drugged out conversations. The plot revolves around Keanu Reeves character, Bob Arctor, or possibly Fred. Fred is his codename, what he goes by when reporting to his police department. Arctor is his undercover alias, a drug taking, small time crook. But he is so deep undercover that he is actually ordered to spy on himself. No one in the police really know what he looks like as he wears a suit that disguises him constantly by shifting what he looks like. Flickering through different appearances, and parts of appearances so that he may have half the face of a blonde woman, the arm of a man, and the feet of someone else entirely.
But to be honest, the plot didn’t really engage me all that much. Possibly because I don’t have a real feel for this animation, which makes it hard to get into the story. But also because there is a constant sense that nothing is what it seems, and you shouldn’t take anything at face value.
Overall though, it is worth going to see purely for the dialogue and humour, which although dark and sombre is also occasionally hilarious. The discussion regarding the bicycle and the orphaned gears is not one to be missed.
There is of course also the deeper meaning behind this film; the damage drugs are doing to people, the surveillance culture, the erosion of civil liberties. All quite depressing subjects, but handled well. There is even a possibility of hope in the final scene, although that is really up to the viewer to decide.
All in all there is plenty to entertain, but I wouldn’t be in a rush to see this above anything else.