Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review - A Scanner Darkly (2006 - Dir. Richard Linklater)

Having never read Philip K. Dick’s novel, I came to A Scanner Darkly somewhat cold. It’s visually stunning, with a semi-animated style that feels like you’re watching a graphic novel that has come to life. The colours are rich, the effects are impressive and the acting shines through the stylised video filters. In short it should be a great film, but this science fiction adaptation left me feeling strangely empty and unfulfilled.

There’s some big hitters on the acting team; Keanu, Woody and Robert all put in suitably quirky, edgy shifts. And Rory Cochrane’s mentally tortured character steals the show at times with a sweaty, itchy performance perfectly in keeping with the story. His insect plagued introduction is the best scene in the whole film. Lovely Winona is her usual exemplary self and so much more natural and assured than that critically acclaimed show off Natalie Portman (Winona better than Portman!? No way! - evlkeith). Even in animated form, she’s a sensual, detailed and engaging character.

So what goes wrong in this tale of near future clandestine observation and designer drug culture? In some ways it’s a triumph for style over substance. The film looks and feels so great that the story seems a tad plodding and predictable by comparison. Basically, we’ve heard it all before; totalitarian states abusing our personal liberties and freedoms and it’s done so much better in both 1984 and A Brave New World.

As a graphic novel it would work perfectly; that slow release story unfolding before your eyes. As a filmic version of a graphic novel it all happens just too fast and the plot seems weak as a result. It’s a great and unusual experience and those more familiar with the novel may have taken more from proceedings than my limited grasp of the ‘Scanner World’, however it feels like a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In so many ways a classic film, but just like Substance D it ultimately leads you nowhere.

If you like this you could also try:
Renaissance, Cypher.


  1. Hey! I just wrote a post about PKD! I think we're starting something here! Ha ha. Now... just delete this comment if it is bad form for me to post a link to my review of this film, but you made me read it again to remind myself what I though of the film and whether you'd got it right. I think you did! Yay!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. No problem at all, always good to read different reviews.

  2. I admire the animation/live action mix on display. However the film wasn't that memorable to me.

    1. At least it's not painful on the eye like Renaissance.