Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Oohhh... Linklater's A SCANNER DARKLY screens in Houston! How'd it go?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of our own Austin boy's next flick A SCANNER DARKLY, adapted by Richard Linklater from Philip K. Dick's book of the same name. I'm psyched to see this. I got two reviews for ya', one that loves it and one that really, really likes it. Enjoy 'em!


I just attended a screening for A SCANNER DARKLY, and the PR squad claimed it was the first ever audience screening of the movie in progress. Linklater was there in the crowd. Portions of animation were unfinished, the music was temp, but there were opening credits and it looked mostly completed.

This will be a nonspoiler review.

A SCANNER DARKLY represents not only the best Philip K Dick adaptation to date, which we all could expect given Linklater's reverence for the subject in the past. But it's also Linklater's most challenging and accomplished film, in an already impressive career.

The suits who will be challenged to market this film may fail to bring an audience, because the single most compelling thing about the film is the fact that it challenges the audience. The audience is not pandered to in any way. Complicated story ideas are rendered faithfully, directly, and without obvious techniques to clarify Dick's convoluted story. Can't exactly put that as a tag-line on a poster, can you? "Trusts your intelligence more than most films" doesn't quite have the must-see factor does it? But it should.

Among the many things to admire about the film is the animation technique. Unlike Waking Life, where the art went abstract early and often, the art style in A Scanner Darkly first provides a layer of realism and solid ground, a place where the laws of physics are mostly normal. This allows the more "trippy" visions to have full impact. But the relatively increased realistic animation isn't dry or boring, it's a very effective impressionist style. Backgrounds are allowed to drift and sway in just subtle enough ways to bring the viewing experience into the subjectivity of a protagonist whose mind has been altered by substances. Performances are freed from the confines of starkly rendered reality. Moods and emotions flow in an original and fresh way.

I expected all of that, quite frankly, from the trailer. What I didn't expect was the excellent supporting performances and the amount of humor in the film. Robert Downey Jr's performance is fascinating. As with Andy Serkis's groundbreaking work as Gollum, Downey's performance proves that performance capture is just as expressive as "true acting" and deserves recognition. Perhaps this is another angle Warner can target to bring people to this film that demands attention, and that's by highlighting the fact that in an age of entertainment glut, here is something that truly makes you say I Haven't Seen That Before. A collaboration between thespians and visual animators, something you quite haven't seen in this way before.

Every performer gives us a memorable character, which is especially challenging for Keanu Reeves. His buddha-like enlightened, serene, and somewhat stoic Neo style is in full effect, however instead of enlightenment we get disillusion. Instead of bliss we get despair. The damn guy can be like a Rorsharch test sometimes, and if any role in all of geekdom calls for it, Bob Arctor aka Fred is certainly it.

One minor spoiler in this paragraph involves a cameo appearance. Skip this paragraph if you don't want to know. But, for followers of Linklater's work and the Austin scene in general, there is a jaw-hurtingly funny cameo from The Screaming Hellfire Master Himself, Alex "Infowars" Jones.

The only negative aspect of the current state of the film is the music. I'm assuming what we saw was temporary. Portions of the second act felt like they dragged a bit, but that was probably more to do with the lack of a true vision for the music. This film needs a soundtrack that matches the innovation and surprise of the visuals, the storytelling and the performing.

So, Philip K Dick geeks, all I can say is SUCKS FOR YOU that you haven't seen the flick yet. You will not be disappointed, and it will be worth the wait. The conclusion of the movie does not pull any punches, it does not sell out, and, quite honeslty, the end is Motherfizzing Transcendent; the pink laser of Philip K Dick's divine presence will shoot right through you.

I think my official AiCN call sign should be:


For those of you who can't read a positive review without thinking of gardening, here's one that has some more bones to pick with the movie, even if they ultimately rank it high:

Hey Harry,

There was a screening here in Houston tonight for A Scanner Darkly, the new Linklater film, so I thought I would tell you about it.

Im really interested in how they are going to promote this film, as it takes on the same style as Waking Life, only it seemed a bit more cell shaded. It looks amazing, although some parts werent quite done. But with such big actors (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson), I just dont see it playing strictly in art-house cinemas, and I also dont see it being embraced by the mainstream.

Aside from that, not that it would really hinder my opinion, I thought it was a pretty good movie. It kind of integrated the awesome dialogue that Linklater uses in Slacker and Waking Life into a structured story. It is kind of hard to explain, but basically, its the standard undercover cop getting too deep in his cover. Now throw in some sci-fi identity shields, and hemisphere deteriorating drugs and you have A Scanner Darkly.

The acting was really good aside from Keanu Reeves, they couldve picked anyone else and this movie would be so fucking amazing, but I dont know, I just seem to be so fixed on making sure this guy messes up every role he gets. I mean, it helps that hes in a drug induced state throughout most of the movie, but Jesus Christ I just dont see why you would pick him over any great actor that I'm sure Linklater could get. ANYWAYS, my favorite character in this movie, hands down is Freck played by Rory Cochrane, whom I really havent seen in anything, but does such an awesome job as a strung out drug fiend. Its kind of similar to Almost Famous boy in Spun, only good and stuff. The movie opens up with him hallucinating over bugs crawling on his skin, then taking a shower, then seeing bugs crawling all over his dog and then showering with him. Every scene with him is so funny and so entertaining. Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr play well off of each other, though alot of their scenes really kind of slow down the movie. I mean it was enjoyable, but irrelevant. Winona Ryder does a good job too, theres not too much, but you her animated

The animation and score wasnt complete, but the animation from what I saw was pretty good, a little different from Waking Life. There are some parts that I couldve sworn were real, I dont know if that will change, but it was cool. And dear god I hope they change the score, I'm scared the temporary might be what theyre going for, but every time Keanu Reeves has a little speech when talking to himself, they played this overdramtic shit that just killed the good artistic mood and made into something its just gives me a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall I would give it a very strong 7, and could be an 8 with some better editing and score. Hope this is of interest.

-Francis Buxton

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus