Another Phillip K Dick novel to make it's way to the silver screen. Phillip K Dick is a master when it comes to sci-fi. "A Scanner Darkly" strays from the typical sci-fi action-packed flick we are used to from Phillip K Dick, but is able to push us to another level of thinking and still bring us some of the things we truly love and remember this author for.
Set in the near future of Suburbia, "A Scanner Darkly" takes us into a world hooked on the drug Substance D. A highly addicting drug, literally explained as, "If you aren't addicted, you haven't tried it." A group of Substance D addicts (Woody Harrelson, Robert Downy Jr., Winona Ryder & Rory Cochrane) are joined by an undercover cop (Keanu Reeves) who has been sent by the government to dive into the world of Substance D. As Substance D takes over their lives they become more paranoid of the government...spies...and worse, themselves.
"A Scanner Darkly" is a twisted tale that dives deep into the heart and mind of Dick. Dick takes aspects of his own life and makes us question the world of drugs and how far a government will go to "protect" their citizens. "A Scanner Darkly" must be watched with the audience's complete attention because of all the twists and turns. It is also disturbingly to the point and addresses the real world issue of drugs. It even brings aspects of Dick's own life and struggle with drugs into the film. Add some dark witty humor, mix in some classic sci-fi-esque Phillip K Dick, and throw in some cops...we get an intriguing and compelling storyline.
Visually, "A Scanner Darkly" is astonishing. With bright vibrant colors that are stylized into an almost cartoon-looking picture, there is still a strong resemblance of each actor. First they shot the film with live actors, then digitized and rotoscoped, which means that animators drew almost every frame to take this film and bring it to life in a very unique way. "A Scanner Darkly" is visually one of the best films of the year. If you have ever seen "Waking Life" you will definitely recognize the style. "A Scanner Darkly" does everything "Waking Life" does, but then perfects it.
"A Scanner Darkly" is deeply intriguing and calls for a definite second look. I can honestly say that the first time I watched "A Scanner Darkly" I was very confused and didn't really understand it at all. After a second viewing, I fell in love.
One word...Outstanding! Simply put, the best video quality to hit Blu-Ray to date. Each and every color is strong, vibrant, and astonishing. Flesh tones are perfect, blacks are pure black, and there is Zero grain. Now, the one thing you have to remember is that "A Scanner Darkly" is stylized and some people might say that because it is "Computer Generated" it can't be considered one of the most stunning video qualities yet. I disagree, it most definitely can be given a 5 out of 5 because it is absolutely incredible, and with actors that have just been "stylized" it deserves every prop that I can give it.
Unfortunately this is the only thing holding back "A Scanner Darkly" back and getting a perfect score. 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, we are given a fairly even surround sound track that is dialogue heavy. There is nothing going on other than dialogue, and we really don't get a lot of use in the surround department. Yes, the dialogue is even, but that is about it.
Commentary: By Director/ Screenwriter Richard Linklater, Keanu Reeves, Isa Dick Hackett, Producer Tommy Palloton and Phillip K Dick historian Jonathan Lethem. This track starts off very slow, but ends up picking up some speed with some nice insight in the life of Phillip K Dick. We learn of his writings, life, struggles, drugs, and "A Scanner Darkly." It is a pleasure having his daughter Isa there to let us know inside details about her father and aspects of "A Scanner Darkly" that relate to his life. This track is very heavy in the field of Dick and his life, with some nice insights to the film itself.
One Summer in Austin: The Story of Filming A Scanner Darkly: This is a fairly short feature about Richard Linklater keeping true to "A Scanner Darkly." It includes some interviews & even archival footage of Phillip K Dick himself. There are also some nice behind-the-scenes footage to be seen here.
The Weight of the Line: Animation Tales: This feature goes through the entire process of the animation used in the film...the style, detail, colors, and drawing. There are interviews with animators, cast, and crew that dive into some nice details of creating a piece as stylized as "A Scanner Darkly."
"A Scanner Darkly" is awesome--the movie itself is mind numbing and probably in need of a couple runs before all the details and meaning have a chance to set in. Visually it is perfect with absolutely beautiful colors and a wonderful style. The audio department could have been better, but that definitely doesn't stop me from Highly Recommending this one.