"A Scanner, Darkly" movie adaptation: What do the Dopers think so far?

I’ve read A Scanner, Darkly and I’m now in the process of re-reading it. I have seen previews and reviews of the film version so I assume it’s out (at least in some markets). Now I’m curious about what the Dopers in Café Society think of this film.

My impression is very mixed. Keanu Reeves is the main character, something that is almost-but-not-quite a dealbreaker for me at this point. It’s filmed in the same rotoscope style Linklater used in “Waking Life”, a film I rented but couldn’t sit through. It’s not a technology I really enjoy but, again, not a dealbreaker. I’m not especially a fan of Linklater’s work but, hell, at least Verhoeven or Boll isn’t involved. Finally, I’m not sure it’s a novel that translates well to film. Dick used an ‘interior’ style and focused on Arctor’s feelings and thoughts and other things unsaid. On the other hand, I’d like to see how the scramble suits were animated.

I thought it stunk. The scramble suits looked cheesy, and I didn’t like looking at them.

It wasn’t so much a story as just a portrayal of a guy getting hooked on drugs. And as far as that went, it couldn’t even sniff a movie like Goodfellas (obviously) or even a lower-rent movie like Rush.

The overriding theme of the movie seemed to have to do with the perils of drug addiction, but a shoehorned-in speech by Winona, and an “in memorium” section don’t really make for an interesting discussion.

If the actual “investigation” aspect of the story made sense – IF – then it wasn’t well-told enough.

I did like Robert Downey Jr. I still like to think of him as more “fresh faced” than he actually looks nowadays so I really enjoyed seeing him.

I don’t think a movie like this plays into Linklater’s strengths.

“Let’s hear it for the vague blur!” :wink:

Then Linklater didn’t understand the source material. The novel, like so many of Dick’s stories, is about identity and, ultimately, what it means to be human.

In the book, it makes sense in the context of Arctor losing his identity and eventually his personhood. When Fred starts talking about Bob as this other guy, the wires are seriously beginning to short out.

Which is something I was afraid of.

Well, if you’re more familiar with the source, and with Phillip Dick, in general, you might get more out of it than I did.

See, I’m sure I could be told I missed the point of a lot of things in this movie – the interplay between Arctor the cop, Arctor the user, Arctor the investigator, Arctor the investigatee, etc. but that’s just too much for a first time viewing of the movie.

See, for most of the movie, there was a big logical hole for me:

So, he’s investigating himself. As an audience member, we know “well, he has to say nothing is going on.”

But, there’s no tension there. Either they know that Fred is Arctor in which case there’s no point to the investigation (because they won’t believe his conclusions and why did they assign him), or they DON’T know that Fred is Arctor in which case there’s no point to the investigation (because they WILL believe his conclusions).

But, that doesn’t make a difference anyway. Because, it turns out that he’s an undercover cop, planted there to make Downey suspcious that he’s an undercover cop so that Downey will turn himself in. OK, thanks for just coming out and telling me that, but that sounds like a storyline that – oh, I don’t know – I might actually have enjoyed FOLLOWING, instead of being given a storyline that didn’t make any sense.

If you’re a fan of themes of identity and what makes a person human, it’s done much better in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or countless other movies.

A Scanner Darkly is my favourite Philip K. Dick novel, and I’ve been waiting for this movie through nine years of development hell.

It was well worth the wait.

It was about as faithful an adaptation as anyone could possibly hope for. Little bit of character compositing and a few omissions, of course – but nothing that hurt the narrative in any way.

I did miss the paranoia about whatever happened to Arctor’s sabotaged electronic unit and the analogy between its short circuits and those in his head. I also missed the dogshit leitmotif. …but you gotta get the thing down under four hours somehow.

I wouldn’t jam it into such a shoebox. If anything, it’s one of the novels in which Dick lets go of the “What is human?” thing a little – and it makes it stand out as a little more relevant and human than his more baroque work. It’s a roman à clef about his experiences in the speed scene in the late sixties and early seventies, when everything turned to shit around and inside him. The confusion about whether the government was out to get him or whether he was working with them to Save America was his own confusion. He broke into his own house, sabotaged his stuff and destroyed his files, and then spent weeks freaking out about who was after him.

I knew that I would know whether the movie was going to work for me within the first few minutes – depending on how the opening line (“Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair”) translated to the screen. It was perfect.

I’m glad it was there. Like I said a couple years ago:

I would agree with that. I wish that it had somehow made it into the movie in a more straigthforward manner.

I’m looking at the movie without ever having read a single thing by Dick, or being familiar with his life at all.

In order of importance to me, I went to see. . .

  1. A Linklater movie

  2. A movie with a unique look

  3. A movie with Downey, Jr. in it

  4. A movie with other actors I’m marginally interested in: Harrelson, Ryder.

I hoped for all those things with a cool plot, but it just left me behind.

If this functions best as a roman à clef it probably helps to have some familiarity with his life.

I’m not trashing this movie. It didn’t grab me, but some of it was pretty cool. There were some genuinely funny parts which I liked. For Derleth, I suspect Larry’s impression is more useful to you.

For people with no knowledge of the source, I can’t really see this being a big fave.

I saw it and really enjoyed it.

I liked the scanner suits and I liked all the characters. Keanu even did a good job (he can generally do a good job at the clueless, confused character).

The rotoscoping was novel and made for a unique experience. Granted it might have seemed too gimmicky, but I think a pure live action version of the same movie would have been too ordinary.

I placed a spoiler box around part of your post, Trunk, because I’ve been told what was written is a pretty big spoiler. (I’ve neither read the book nor seen the movie, so I dunno. I’m going on faith for this one.)

Have not read the book (but have read other Dick), but just saw the movie yesterday.

First off, the rotoscope, though it takes getting used to, worked a LOT better than “Waking Life” (which I could not handle, and I have yet to make it all the way through). So no worries there.

Keanu, though I can think of others who could have done a better job (I was thinking someone like Edward Norton would have been ideal) did a servicable job (something about a continually “confused” expression fits the character).

I am not a big fan, but Downey did steal the show (aside from the sheer irony of him playing the role). Harrellson (again, not a big fan) was pretty much in there for comic relief. The guy who played Freck, though, did a really good job. A good mix of comic and psycho. Ryder, for some reason, just seemed to be along for the ride, and didn’t really add that much.

I think knowing the story and twists ahead of time might ruin it for you. But I thought it was a pretty good flick. When things all came together at the end, I kind of half guessed at most of the twists (perhaps being too familiar with Dick’s work), but it still had me re-thinking the movie after I left. Since it does require thought, I can see why this movie won’t do well for the masses :wink:

Larry Mudd: Thanks for the comments. I knew there were fellow Dickheads around here, and I’m lucky one of them has seen the movie. :slight_smile:

OK, I missed that aspect of the novel because I didn’t know that much about his life. My reread will be accordingly enriched with this key piece of information.

Additionally, of course, your post makes me a lot more optimistic than anything Trunk has posted so far. In particular:

I thought for sure this would get cut.

I liked that a lot and I wished that more of the movie used the rotoscoping as creatively.

It seems like that’s the kind of thing that the rotoscoping is perfect for. Otherwise, you’re just coloring over a movie.

Sorry about the spoiler.