A Scanner Darkly

Cover Art/Menu: 5/10
The cover and menus don’t do much to show off the interesting style of the film. There is a lot of visual candy to work with, but they pretty much went the boring route. A few of the images from the movie are on the cover, not something that would catch my eye in the store or browsing online.

Features: 5/10
This one added feature on the DVD doesn’t offer much more than interviews with the cast and crew, and a little bit about how the animation was done. Well, they didn’t really explain exactly how the animation was done, just that it took a lot of artists a lot of time to draw over each frame of each scene to give it that groovy living comic book look. You do get to learn a little bit about the author of the original novel that the movie is based on, so that’s informative. I think I liked the extra feature more than the movie, if I’m being totally honest.

The Movie: 5/10
A Scanner Darkly is one of those stories that is meant to challenge your intellect, your mind, your ability to be cool enough to buy into the whole conspiracy theory some people think is around every corner. I personally don’t get it. I mean, I UNDERSTAND the concept that our government is always toying with our minds and our lives in a way that makes us into mere puppets. I understand why people would think that they are being watched, listened to, and observed all the time. It seems to me the guy who wrote this and other stories that are similar in theme, like Blade Runner, must have been under the influence of some kind of mind altering chemicals at some point in his life. I’m not judging, I’m just saying that the depth to which Scanner Darkly takes the notion that we are all being watched, scanned, observed, and controlled in one way or another, goes beyond normal paranoia.
There is a suit that makes a person look like a blur, an every changing face and body so as to never be identified. The suit is worn by our leading man who becomes confused as to his own identity. It’s also worn by someone we least expect in an effort to cover up who they really are. So, if I were to go real deep into the meaning of it all, I could think that we are all confused, all covering up, all lying about who we are, even to ourselves, therefore we are all subject to being controlled by the powers that be. Then again, it could just be a cool suit that makes you look like a big blur.

The story of Scanner Darkly I like. The cop who’s wrapped up in his own personal demons and gets lost in his job to the point of actually losing himself. The idea that some big company is conspiring to produce a drug that’s so highly addictive that people HAVE to go to rehab to get clean, and then that same company is the ONLY place to go get off the drug…clever but just a tad too paranoid for me.

I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I didn’t like this film. I enjoy the look of it, and I do like the heart of the story. I just don’t care about the characters, or the outcome for anyone involved. I didn’t connect with anyone to the point of being engaged in their lives or their choices. I guess I need to empathize with someone, anyone in a story to get into it fully. I’m not sure what would have saved it for me. I tried to get into the mind of the cop who’s being dragged down by the drug and I tried to sympathize with him as we learn he lost his family and his life has gone to shit…but I just didn’t care. I’m not a big Keanu Reeves fan, even with the animation I wasn’t hooked into his character. I might be too biased or something, but if it were just him I would have liked something else, right?

I do like Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrellson. Their characters are more interesting and dynamic, but then again, they don’t seem to have much of a role in the story other than superficial, there for a laugh or to better build the world of the drugged out cop as he spirals downward. Wynona Rider hasn’t been on my radar since Beetlejuice, so she didn’t help perk things up much. Her character might have been more interesting but she gave that flat performance with the poutiness she’s got down to a science.
I’m really not a fan of this movie, unfortunately. I wanted to be and I tried through the film to get myself interested, excited, but it never happened. I laughed a few times at Downey and Harrellson, but it was more like I was wondering how crazy it must have been on the set working with the two of them, and not so much their characters or performances. That’s how distracted I was most of the time. I was thinking of the animators, the look of the drawings, everything but the story.

Hey, I’m as interested in theories about government conspiracies and the idea that we are all pawns in some bigger game than we will ever realize. I love tales of oppression and “big brother” and society rising up against tyranny and injustice….but story doesn’t give me any of that. In fact, I’m not sure what it does offer.

Value: 5/10
Obviously, I wouldn’t add this DVD to my collection. I recommend a rental if you are interested in the film adaptation of the novel, of if you are a fan of the animated style. There’s no big bad list of reasons NOT to watch this film, but I can’t find a lot of reasons to recommend it either. I guess indifference is the worse kind of approach to a movie review, but if I went one way or the other I would be lying, so take my neutrality for what it’s worth.

Overall Score 5/10