Entertainment Magazine

Movie of the Day – A Scanner Darkly

Posted on the 26 January 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

Oh Phillip K. Dick, if there is one thing you have contributed to society, other than a fantastic body of work, is a fantastic body of work in which Hollywood fucks up most of your writings into shitty adaptations.  Sometimes thought, sometimes, there is a gem that is created out of his work.  Listen, we can all agree that Blade Runner is a master piece in filmmaking.  The adaptation of Dick’s story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”  to the Scott inspired cityscape of Blade Runner was just awe-inspiring, but I am going to save the praise for that movie for another day entirely.  I want to talk about the film that was inspired by the novel of the same name, A Scanner Darkly.  The rotoscoped film that features a strong cast of actors and seems to blur the line between what is real and what is a drug induced haze of paranoia.

Movie of the Day – A Scanner Darkly

With stratospheric concern over national security prompting paranoid government officials to begin spying on citizens, trust is a luxury and everyone is a suspected criminal until proven otherwise. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics officer who is issued an order to spy on his friends and report back to headquarters. In addition to being a cop, though, Arctor is also an addict. His drug of choice is a ubiquitous street drug called Substance D, a drug known well for producing split personalities in its users. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

A Scanner Darkly is a strangely hypnotic film to view.  The art direction and rotoscoping (taking actual live film and digitally coloring it) helps enhance the story and detailed visuals of Dick’s novel come to life.  If you have never read the novel, I would strongly suggest reading it since there are some things in the film that might not be clear upon first viewing or just read the Wikipedia entry for both the novel and film.  The film is a bit of a mind trip, one dealing with the effects of a drug called Substance D, effecting the brain and the personality of the user.  The visual look of the film ultimately enhance the film with portraying the mind trip that the user goes through, but also because it was necessary to use this technique for the scramble suit which distorts the users appearance.

Movie of the Day – A Scanner Darkly

While the rotoscoping is used for  a technical flair, it has a purpose in the film since the story begins to split along with the users and Arctor, played by Keanu Reeves.  The story of A Scanner Darkly is based in deceit and paranoia, a slow decent into the troubled and dangerous job that Arctor has and not knowing what is the truth and what is fake.  It’s an engrossing story, one that plays amongst the mindset of drug users and undercover agents who all lie and fake what they say, either because of the drugs or the job itself.  The unraveling of the story is slow, but the way that it happens adds to the intrigue of the movie.  It’s about who to trust an sacrifices made to the greater good, but also a sad story in the end.

It really is a solid movie, although there are a few things different with the movie and novel, but that is just me being nitpicky.  The cast is really, with the standouts being Robert Downey Jr. and Keanu Reeves.  Each bring something different to the roles, one an undercover agent having to struggle with the the effects of Substance D and maintain his mission and then one who is a drug user pontificating on paranoia and the use of Substance D.  All are solid actors fitting into this dreamlike film.  Visually, it’s a stunning film, one to sure raise an eyebrow to and also kind of draw you into this world of uncertainty.

*images via

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog