A SCANNER DARKLY
Reality, Through a Glass Darkly
Release Date: July 07, 2006
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey,
Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody
Harrelson, and Rory Cochrane
Genre: Science Fiction/Film Noir
Runtime: 100 minutes
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
Director: Richard Linklater
Executive Producer: George Clooney
Producer: Anne Walker-McBay, Tommy
Pallotta, Palmer West, Jonah
Smith, and Erwin Stott
Writer: Richard Linklater
Address Comments To:Mark Gill, President
Warner Independent Pictures
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
(A Time Warner company)
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
In the hard-to-follow story, which is set in Southern California, Keanu Reeves plays Fred, an undercover narcotics cop seven years in the future. Fred wears a thin, specially designed, human-looking suit that covers up his identity, even to his superior, who also wears a suit. Fred is really Bob Arctor, who, as Fred, is ordered to spy on himself and his friends, Jim Barris, Ernie Luckman, Dona Hawthorne, and Charles Freck. They all seem addicted to Substance D, a powerful illegal drug that has enticed 80 percent of the population.
Surveillance cameras are set up in Arctor, Barris and Luckman's house while Fred watches. The identities between Fred and Arctor begin to blur as Arctor and his male friends become more and more paranoid. A twist at the end reveals another reality.
Like other science fiction movies based on Philip K. Dick's stories, A SCANNER DARKLY plays like a quirky film noir. It also has some Christian themes and biblical references reflecting Dick's attraction to Christianity. The story's worldview seems mixed, however, because it only offers up its Christian elements and biblical references to help round out the story of drugs, paranoia, government surveillance, and confusion of identity. All of these themes, of course, are typical for Dick and many of his novels and stories. A SCANNER DARKLY also includes strong foul language and strong sexual elements, plus some explicit nudity, as well as brief violence.
There seems to be a much more engrossing, more powerful story underneath the silly animation, gratuitous foul language, nudity, sexual content, confusing plot, and bizarre characters. Viewers, especially more intellectually and artistically inclined ones, may come to understand why the filmmakers applied animation to the original live action scenes. If they are honest, however, they will also conclude that, ultimately, the animation just doesn't work. That's too bad, because the original novel was a very personal, redemptive one for Philip K. Dick, who had problems battling drug addiction himself. In fact, before the end credits roll, the movie borrows Dick's grieving epitaph for all the friends he lost through drug addiction, either through death or permanent brain damage. In the end, drugs cut Dick's own life short. His life should be a stern warning to all of us.
Like Philip K. Dick's other stories, A SCANNER DARKLY plays like a quirky film noir. The animation flattens out the story as well as the expressions on the actors' faces. Like the novel, the movie has some Christian themes and biblical allusions reflecting Dick's attraction to Christianity. They occur, however, in the context of a mixed pagan worldview with strong foul language, explicit nudity and strong sexual elements. There is a much more engrossing, more powerful story underneath the movie's silly animation and immoral, pagan content.