DARKLY (WIDESCREEN EDITION) (2006)
A Scanner Darkly (Widescreen Edition) (2006)
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory
Cochrane, Winona Ryder
Director: Richard Linklater
Format: AC-3, Animated, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled,
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs: 1
- Available Subtitles:
English, Spanish, French
- Available Audio
Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
- Commentary by
writer/director Richard Linklater, Keanu Reeves, producer Tommy Pallotta,
author Jonathan Lethem, and Isa Hackett Dick (daughter of Philip K.
- "One Summer in Austin:
The Story of Filming A Scanner Darkly" featurette
- "The Weight of the
Line: Animation Tales" featurette
the late-1970s all that was left of the ‘Sixties counterculture was the
drugs and none of the ideals; the lifestyle, but not the politics.
Watergate, Vietnam, Charlie Manson and those Hell’s Angels killing that guy
at the Rolling Stones concert had taken care of that.
In 1977 as George Lucas was bringing out a Space Opera on the big screen
typical of the sort written in the 1930s, relatively obscure science fiction
writer Philip K. Dick wrote A Scanner
Darkly, a sad paean to his fellow Berkley radicals of the era.
It was a dark, funny, complex and disturbing novel about an undercover
narcotics cop who is assigned to investigate his own civilian self. The
ironic thing is that the cop’s mind is too fried on a new, highly addictive
and deadly street drug known as Substance D to realize what is happening:
because of his split personality disorder the narc never realizes that he is
spying on himself . . .
One of Dick’s most autobiographical works, A Scanner Darkly is also
one of the most underrated pieces of science fiction ever written. That it
and Star Wars appeared in the same year is
also ironic, proving again that celluloid sci-fi most of the time lags far
behind its written counterpart: it would take almost another 30 years for
Scanner to be adapted to the big screen.
A Scanner Darkly is probably the first real adaptation of Dick’s
work. In previous film adaptations of his work, single ideas would be taken
from the source material and something completely different done with those
ideas. The 1979 film Blade Runner for instance
bears little actual resemblance to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,
its supposed source novel. The same goes for other Hollywood adaptations of
Dick’s material such as Minority Report,
Paycheck and Total
Recall. (1996’s Screamers was probably
the most faithful adaptation of Dick material before Scanner Darkly.)
However, when one thinks about it, it is remarkable that Scanner Darkly
got made in the first place. An intelligent and oddball piece, it goes
against Hollywood perceptions where sci-fi is seen as being “for the kids”
which must have robots and space battles with lasers in it (on the “making
of” documentary on the DVD most of the actors playing the roles admit to
being “perplexed” by the film’s screenplay when they first read it).
by ageing Generation X’er Richard Linklater in a way similar to the
director’s previous Waking Life feature, A Scanner Darkly
takes live action footage over which traditional cell animation is added.
The effect is arty, but at times can induce motion sickness in viewers.
THE DISC: Despite a small army of commentators on the audio
commentary with anyone from star Keanu Reeves and director Linklater to one
of Dick’s own daughters and a Dick “expert”, the audio commentary is often
punctuated by silence as the participants seem unsure of what exactly to say
about onscreen events. One half hour or so long “making of” featurette
contains some interesting footage of Dick himself and is worth checking out.
Fans expecting something more in-depth would probably be disappointed.
WORTH IT? The animation technique used is most likely the best way to
have filmed the surreal material at hand, but the biggest problem is that
Dick’s novel is difficult per se to adapt to another medium, in particular
because many of its surprises depends on the very medium (i.e., the written
word) it is created in. Ultimately, while the film has many moments of
poignancy and even power, the book (as always) is better
especially when it comes to creating a sense of paranoid dread and immersion
in Dick’s fully realized world, only sketchily hinted at in the film - and
is recommended instead.
Newcomers to the science fiction of Philip K. Dick
even those who know his work from the various movie “based” on his work
will probably be nonplussed and it is recommended that they preferably check
out the novels themselves. For Philip K. Dick fans ( “Dickheads”?) the film
works as a companion piece to the original novel – a timely reminder of what
a truly great writer Philip K. Dick was . . .