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The Infamous Jedger Hoover and Harbinger Plug Into A SCANNER DARKLY!!

Merrick thinks whoever thought of the name “Nintendo Wii” should be drawn & quartered…

The Infamous Jedger Hoover and Harbinger sent in these reviews from a recent screening of A SCANNER DARKLY, at Brandeis University.

I’ve been curious to see where this film would fall on the Phillip K. Dick Adapt-O –Meter; previous ports of Dick’s material-to-film have been all over the place.

Took me a long time to see the warm heart buried inside of BLADE RUNNER’s cold exterior; I respect the film now more than ever (where’s that damned super-mega-DVD with 900 trillion different edits of the film on it? WB has been promising it for years! At least now it’ll be in HD, I guess…).

I thought TOTAL RECALL was a blast (although it’s a bit repetitive…run…shoot…fight… and Goldsmith kinda ripped off Basil Poledouris’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN theme). I really miss that Paul Verhoven.

Some of MINORITY REPORT was rather well done, but the gimmick dried up for me pretty quickly.

PAYCHECK came from an apparently lobotomized John Woo, whose unaired pilot for the LOST IN SPACE redux series wasn’t the disaster I expected it to be - although I understand why it didn’t get picked up. His name has been attached to a new MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE movie. That’s…either insanity, or genius.

Anyone remember SCREAMERS with Peter Weller?

All things being equal, that’s a lot of Dick to compete with (ahem). If early indications are correct, sounds like Richard Linklater met the challenge quite nicely.

Here is The Infamous Jedger Hoover…

I just came from the "world premiere" of Richard Linklater's newest flick, A Scanner Darkly, here at Brandeis University.

Since they were only letting in the first 200 people, my friends and I made sure that we were in line in advance, and were some of the first people into the theater, and luckily so... the entire place filled up in a matter of minutes, leaving a huge crowd disappointed outside. Before screening the movie, they introduced the producer of the movie, Erwin Stoff (producer of movies such as The Matrix, Constantine, and the upcoming I Am Legend), who would be available for questions after the screening. Finally, they dimmed the lights and began the movie.

The first thing that struck me about the movie wasn't anything at all to do with the movie... it's that before the movie actually started, they ran about 3 different warnings for people who were thinking of taping and pirating the film. The irony of a movie about government control and manipulation opening with the (attempted) exertion of government control made several people in the audience laugh.

As for the movie itself, it's going to be tough to sell to audiences as it seems to tell the same story through a few different methods. At a basic plot level, it is the story of a man (Keanu) who both works for the government as a specialized undercover cop by the generic name of "Fred," and is an addict named Bob Arctor who mingles daily with a group of friends and other addicts. As the movie unfolds, Bob delves deeper into the subconscious that his addiction creates.

The opening images of the movie are of Rory Cochrane (Lucas from Empire Records, or Ron Slater from Linklater's Dazed and Confused) undergoing a severe hallucination, where aphids just appear everywhere he can scratch. It is both funny and disturbing to see him freaking out as he imagines bugs crawling off of his dog, to which he responds by bringing the dog into the shower with him. Here Linklater gives us the ideal addict- a man who is so caught up in his addiction that he tries to collect the aphids in a jar to show his friend Barris (Robert Downy, Jr., obviously having fun playing the condescending sleaze of the group). After this scene, the first hour and 15 mins. or so of the movie is established entirely with dialogue, and very little in the way of exposition or explanation as to what is happening, or as to the world that these characters live in.

We are given that it is set in Orange County in the near future, and that there is a drug that has 20% of the population addicted. We are shown how as a scanner, Bob must wear a suit that not only disguises his voice but completely disidentifies him as a single person (in an amazing use of rotoscoping the suits are designed so that there is a stream of partial body parts being projected in a constantly-shifting jumble of appearance). And we are shown how when he goes home, what Bob does is sit around with his friends (the already mentioned Cochrane and Downy Jr., as well as Woody Harrelson playing stoned and energetic with gusto, and Winona Ryder, who deals to them all). Every conversation that Bob has, whether it is with his friends or the co-worker who he shares an office with, establishes a new element to the story. In short, Bob discovers that because of his addiction, his brain is deteriorating and fighting itself for control. For a while this unfolds, and Bob and company go about taking drugs, being watched ("scanned") by the police, and generally attempting to distinguish the real from the fake.

There is one scene that I will begrudgingly call the twist in the plot that changes the direction of the movie entirely. Without giving any spoilers away, I will say that what was an hour and fifteen or so minutes of drug-induced dialogue and reality-bending images that seemed to simply show Bob going about his life is suddenly revealed to have much more depth and connection to the plot than I would have guessed; all the talk about the drug and the massive addiction that has so many people in its grasp takes an ominous turn, and Linklater takes full advantage of the fear that such an addiction creates in people. In the end, I realized that what was advertised was a science-fiction type of movie that would deliver on cool effects, but was very pleasantly surprised to see a movie that details the effects of complete governmental authority exerted in subversive ways against people who not only realize they're being watched but more than often do the watching themselves.

To sum it up, Linklater has made a great film here.... it certainly wont appeal to everyone, and a number of people are going to walk out not quite sure what they just watched. But if nothing else, audiences can rest assured that A Scanner Darkly is a faithful and captivating adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's novel (in fact, the movie closes with a list of people close to Dick that succumbed to addiction, which adds a very personal touch to the film as a whole).

Also, this review came in from Harbinger…

I saw a preview screening tonight of Richard Linklater's new film, A Scanner Darkly, based on the novel of same name by Philip K. Dick.

It was through my university just outside of Boston and was billed as a world premiere; I'm not sure if that's true or not, but given that I haven't heard any buzz about other screenings, it might very well be. According to one of the producers of the film, Erwin Stoff, who was on hand, the film we saw was about "95% complete".

There was some definite spots where the dialogue and sound mixes were a little clunky, odd Foley noises, etcetera. Also, mouth movements weren't always synched with the audio, and there was some other minor animation flubs. The print we saw was a DVD projected on to a large projection screen, so some of the colors were a little muted and the picture was not as sharp as it might have been. For the most part, however, it seemed to be the film as it will be shown in theaters in a few months.

And what a film it was!

Linklater and Keanu Reeves are reportedly both Philip K. Dick fanatics, but even so, I was surprised at how faithful the story was to the novel. All of the other film adaptations of Dick works (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report), while good films in their own right, have never captured the tone of the man's writing, sacrificing much of what made his work unique in favor of action sequences.

A Scanner Darkly bucks that trend entirely, preserving the plot and even most of the dialogue practically verbatim from the original text, perfectly creating the air of paranoia and psychological breakdown that suffuses every page of the novel. The rotoscope animation also helped greatly in this regard, with the constantly moving visual landscape complementing and supporting the slow dissolution of Bob Arctor's (Reeves) world. The film also conveys the message and themes of Dick's novel very effectively, from the destructive effects of drugs to the consequences of living in a world where government surveillance is a constant. It was amazing to see this story on screen and realize that Dick wrote the novel over thirty years ago; the man's prescience was remarkable.

Any discussion of the film, however, would not be complete without mentioning the ensemble cast arrayed in support of Reeves' protagonist. Robert Downey, Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane and Winona Ryder turn in bravura performances as Arctor's drugged-out housemates and friends. Harrelson and Downey in particular steal virtually every scene in which they appear.

As far as faults, there weren't a great many. As I mentioned, some of the animation and sound was a little wonky in places. Also, the pacing seemed off at a few points; I found my attention drifting once or twice during the middle section of the film, but it was nothing that couldn't be corrected with some minor and judicious edits.

Some friends of mine that were with me and are unfamiliar with Dick's work were a little confused by the plotline, but seemed to get a handle on it after some brief discussion. Overall, however a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right and a magnificent adaptation that it sure to please fans of the novel.

A SCANNER DARKLY should arrive in theaters sometime this Summer, I believe.

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