A Scanner Darkly

I haven't ever read anything written by Philip K. Dick. As a result, I think this put me at a disadvantage right at the start -- I probably wasn't ever going to get this movie, certainly not on the first try. That being said, I think the film had interesting elements to it, it's just perhaps not my cup of tea. Keanu, of course, was an ideal fit for the main character with his very particular voice and, as always, Robert Downey Jr. was great and Woody Harrelson was also quite entertaining.
This selection is from the NY Times article, which you can also find here.
Identities shift and melt like shadows in Richard Linklater's animated adaptation of "A Scanner Darkly," a look at a future that looks an awful lot like today. Based on a 1977 novel by the science fiction visionary Philip K. Dick, the semispeculative story involves a cop (call him Officer Fred) who, by assuming an undercover identity (call him Bob Arctor), is inching his way up toward a big drug bust, score by score. But there's a little problem: Fred is starting to forget he's Bob, or maybe vice versa.
Given that Fred/Bob has been regularly dropping Substance D, as in Death, tab by tab, it's no wonder he's feeling a bit off; no wonder, too, given that this is the world Philip K. Dick made. Like the writer's other worlds, that of "A Scanner Darkly" is one in which drugs predominate and reality tends to be a big question mark, hovering like an electro-colored thought bubble above characters who are more everyday normal than super-this or -that. Ordinary guys who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances like Fred/Bob, who in Mr. Linklater's film has been given seductive voice and corporeal outline by Keanu Reeves, an actor whose penchant for otherworldly types and excellent adventures make him well suited for vision quests like this one.
Even having never read Philip K. Dick, I'm well aware that he took incredible amounts of drugs. Dick went straight (well, he went into rehab and helped to counsel others) and at the end of the film, there's a long list of friends that he lost or that suffered as a result of drugs, and yet there isn't an entirely repentant tone to everything. Yes, a ridiculous amount of drugs is a bad idea, but are all drugs a bad idea? The NY Times summarizes: "Drugs are generally a bad idea in 'A Scanner Darkly,' in the book and film both, though in the novel it's the real world or what we perceive the real world to be that makes for the more obviously bad trip, not scary little pills. 'So-called "reality,"' as Mr. Dick once said, 'is a mass delusion that we've all been required to believe for reasons totally obscure.'"
One couldn't help but wonder what the experience would be like of watching this film on some kind of drug as a result of the technique used: rotoscoping. Linklater used this for an earlier film, Waking Life, and it essentially means that animators trace over live-action film. (Check out this other NY Times article that discusses animation.) While it was an intriguing thing at first, I found myself getting sick of it. "So what?" I asked myself. I'd rather see the subtleties of Robert Downey Jr.'s actual performance than this traced version of it.

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