A Scanner Darkly – Movie Review

Tonight, I watched Richard Linklater’s adaptation of ‘A Scanner Darkly’. As advertised, it was Philip K. Dick done by Richard Linklater and supervised by David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch with a little 1984 thrown in for optimism. Independent of Linklater’s comfort food cast (everyone is great), SD is an obvious, direct descendant from Slacker – all the characters have a cool that barely covers a festering desperation.

The first Philip K. Dick story I read where I grokked his themes of identity, reality, and questionable conspiracies was Time Out of Joint (think ‘A Beautiful Mind’ as a SciFi tale).

Since then, I’ve re-watched Blade Runner innumerable times and hoped for the best from the other screen adaptations of his work like Minority Report and Total Recall. Minority Report failed for the same reason Time Out of Joint did. The conspiracy was provable. Reality could be defined. While Total Recall leaned toward definition, it didn’t. If it did, I was distracted by how much fun it was.

If the Wikipedia entry is accurate – Linklater held very true to Dick’s original work. And he kept in what I expected from a screen adaptation of Dick’s work – the ambiguity.

Maybe the conspiracy could be proved. Maybe all the clues are there – just like in The Sixth Sense. Or maybe we, including Donna, just want them to be. Maybe we’ll know in three months. Maybe we’re on the wrong side of both the hallucination and the conspiracy. It’s the lack of clarity that makes Dick’s tales creepy, troubling, and memorable.

The brilliance of A Scanner Darkly as a story lay in the anonymity provided by the scramble suit. With it, the same character can play offense and defense without the others catching on, adding to the conspiracy atmosphere (cough * suits paid for by New Path * cough). Not to mention the breakdown of their own personality.

Not only is the movie good – best I’ve seen in 90 days according to my Netflix history – it proves I will watch rotoscoping if the story is interesting.