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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Live Action > Science Fiction > Drama > Police State > Drugs > Literature > A Scanner Darkly (HD-DVD)

A Scanner Darkly (HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Feature: B-



Now that adapting Philip K. Dick works is not as uncommon as it used to be, the likelihood of the results not working (like Spielberg’s Minority Report) are increasing and some of his books have dated more than others.  Richard Linklater takes the same simple, effective animation technique he used on the underrated Waking Life (reviewed elsewhere on this site) of animating over live-action footage and brings Dick’s A Scanner Darkly (2006) to life as a smart tale of the near future.


At issue is the future of the individual and a hot new drug called Substance D, which everybody who uses it loves and slowly turns them into vegetables that disconnect them from human interaction and makes them more susceptible to a government increasingly hell bent on rolling back their rights among other things.  It turns out the drug is even worse than that and does not help Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) when he is a spy for the government on other users, while using it himself.


His girlfriend Donna (Winona Ryder) is a heavy user and has her circle of not-so-great friends to perpetuate her use.  As everyone around him becomes gutted out, the drug begin to cause Bob to have a split personality, a sort of artificially induced schizophrenia, though it is not that simple and his double life is about to run into some serious troubles.


This is an anti-drug work up there with Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream, though that fell into unintentional self-satire towards the end despite its welcome, graphic honesty.  Here, the material is more imaginative and challenging, but Linklater goes into a direction that is either purposely confused, accidentally so, purposely ambiguous and sadly even possibly where he is saying things only he understands.  I will need to revisit this again as a result, but this still works often enough to keep you watching and it is always nice to watch anything that gets you thinking and talking about it afterwards.  You’ll want all your friends to see it too.


Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane also supply voices.



The 1080p digital High Definition image is pretty good and shows some improvements over the same variation of rotoscoping Linklater used on Waking Life, though the HD Also shows limits which are natural to the nature of the production.  This still looks better than it would on standard DVD.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is also a little better than the regular Dolby from that DVD, but is not sonically spectacular, though effective with character many more ambitious and louder mixes lack.


Extras include an interesting feature length audio commentary by writer/director Richard Linklater, Keanu Reeves, producer Tommy Pallotta, author Jonathan Lethem, and Isa Hackett Dick (daughter of Philip K. Dick), One Summer In Austin: The Story Of Filming A Scanner Darkly featurette, The Weight Of The Line: Animation Tales featurette and the original theatrical trailer.  They are all worth your time after seeing the main feature.


In all this, Linklater is on a role (give or take The Bad News Bears remake) and we can only hope this continues.  We need all the consistent directors we can get!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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