A Scanner Darkly


The latest Philip K. Dick adaptation has the unusual distinction of being perhaps the first film ever to feature half its plot development after the climax.  By which point I’d stopped caring.

I was sucked into A Scanner Darkly’s paranoid, twitchy world quickly; in the first scene we watch a drug addict try to wash himself clean of the bugs he feels crawling all over his skin.  “They’re aphids,” he says to a friend. “I looked it up.”  Having been adequately disoriented/entertained, I sat back and waited for the story to begin.

And waited.

And waited.

I got lots of background info in that time.  The story is set seven years in the future when 20% of the population has become addicted to a drug called Substance D.  We follow a group of semi-intellectual, conspiracy-obsessed burnouts, and a drug enforcement agent who is monitoring them.  But nothing particularly interesting happens to either camp.  The burnouts (Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, and Robert Downey Jr.) have a few skewed, hilarious, go-nowhere exchanges about bike gears and car engines, but they could equally be seen as irritating depending on your tolerance for drug-addled idiots who won’t shut up.  That, along with the still-intriguing rotoscoping gimmick, was enough to keep me from yawning, but after an hour or so, I was thirsting for a story.

Who is this Bob Arctor character?  Why should I care?  Why does Keanu Reeves look so bored playing him?  Why does Winona Ryder not even get a character to play?

Of Richard Linklater’s numerous talky and aimless efforts, this is the worst since Slacker.


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