Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ani-MAY-tion Month: A Scanner Darkly (2006)

There have been many movies adapted from the works of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, and a number of those movies have been fantastic (yes, I'm thinking mainly of Total Recall and Blade Runner). Most of the movie adaptations, however, have failed to translate some of his more interesting ideas from page to screen. Screamers may have had some identity crises and paranoia in the mix, but it still didn't delve deep enough into the territory that Dick returned to on numerous occasions.

Keanu Reeves stars as Bob Arctor, an undercover operative who is fraying at the edges. He's supposed to be investigating sources of a drug named Substance D, but instead seems to spend too much time addicted to the damn thing and hanging out with fellow addicts, Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane), James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), as well as his sorta-girlfriend, Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder). Things get stranger for him when he is tasked with surveilling . . . . . . . himself, although the superiors assigning him to keep a closer eye on Bob Arctor don't know that he actually IS Bob Arctor (all agents work in disguise as an added safety measure).

Directed, and adapted into movie form, by Richard Linklater, A Scanner Darkly is a strange, smart, and unique experience. The plot may wind towards a bleak third act, but there's plenty of humour in the first hour or so, and the characters/cast all do well at holding your attention while often talking about things that seem meaningless. Although "seem" is the key word there.

Everyone involved gives a great performance, with Downey Jr. on top form, but, because of the rotoscoping technique used, praise must also go to the animators who worked on the film. Yes, all of the stars are pretty recognisable, but they're all slightly hidden under a layer of animation. This may seem like an odd choice, but makes perfect sense when you see Arctor working in his scramble suit - a suit that constantly changes to make identification of the wearer impossible. It also helps with the overall tone of the movie, and the more hallucinatory aspects.

Science fiction that treads scarily close to science fact, A Scanner Darkly isn't guaranteed to please everyone (I know, I know, no movie does that, but you know what I mean). I hope, however, that people at least give it a try and help to build its small, but loyal, fanbase.


Don't forget, every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself).

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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