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September 12, 2010

6

A Scanner Darkly

by Franz Patrick


Scanner Darkly, A (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, “A Scanner Darkly” was about a cop (Keanu Reeves) who was assigned to spy on his group of friends in order to capture a guy named Bob Arctor. But it turned out that the main character and the man that the cops were interested in was the same person; Bob, like many people, was addicted to a drug called Substance D which supposedly induced multiple personality disorder. Directed by Richard Linklater, “A Scanner Darkly” is one of those movies that is full of promise but it gets in the way of itself because too many questions were asked but very few (if any) were answered in a clear way so I couldn’t help but feel cheated. For instance, I was curious about the real underlying effects of the drug in question. Some addicts experienced hallucinations such as bugs taking over their bodies, others experienced drunken stupor, while some were always on the verge of euphoria. It then begs the question whether the drugs’ effects were somehow connected to our personalities. I wanted to know more about the science and the effects of the drug in the brain. There were scenes that tackled the drug’s effects on the brain (I liked how it related the whole phenomenon to split-brain patients) but they were superficial at best. Maybe it wasn’t that shocking to me because I’ve seen split-brain experiments in real life. I didn’t care much about the friends (one of which was played by Robert Downey Jr.) acting stupid and asking “insightful” questions that led nowhere. The scenes with the friends made me feel like the movie was way into itself; instead of trying to pull me in, it made me question whether the story was really going anywhere. I do have to say that the animation was enjoyable because it added an extra dimension to the project. Everyone pretty much led their lives half-awake so that lucid tone made me feel like I was one of them. I liked that the animation was there to highlight certain facial expressions and quirks to convey certain truths behind the dialogue so it didn’t feel much like a gimmick. I thought the animation worked especially well in scenes where characters experienced hallucinations. Nevertheless, I wish the movie spent more of its time in engaging us instead of teasing us with its vast ideas. It was borderline pretentious. I felt like there was a disconnect (when it should have been clearly connected) in exploring the relationship between the drug world/addicts and the very same people who wanted to eliminate the drug off the streets. The main character embodied both worlds but the way the story unfolded left me hanging, somewhat confused, and frustrated. It’s definitely a different movie experience but I think it makes a good double-feature with Linklater’s other film “Waking Life.”

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 12 2010

    I liked it, the animation was a good way to tell a highly surreal story. Keanu Reeves still makes me want to punch his face in, though.

    Reply
    • Sep 18 2010

      Haha. I know what you mean. Other than “The Matrix,” I can’t think of a performance I liked from him. He’s so wooden.

      Reply
  2. Sep 13 2010

    I agre that it did a fair amount of teasing rather then fulfilling our curiousity. Overall an inspiring film and a good review on your part.

    Reply
    • Sep 18 2010

      Thank you! I found this movie a bit more difficult to review. For some reason, coming up with reasons why I liked/did not like it didn’t come naturally. Maybe I was still thinking about it after and things in my head needed to come together.

      Reply
  3. Sep 28 2010

    Linklater never pretends that he has all the answers, but he asks the questions in such an interesting, elegant fashion that you’ll be glad you came along for the ride. Nice stuff you got here, check out my review when you can!

    Reply
    • Sep 30 2010

      All that glitters is not gold! …Okay, I just felt like using that saying. Not even sure I used it right.

      Reply

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