Scanner Darkly

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Scanner is in its simplest form a darkly comedic, caustic and in some ways fucking trippy. Director Richard Linklater’s take on Philip K. Dick’s classic novel (this was classic, movie doesn’t show it) which is about his own experienced as a drug educed junkie. Linklater however, has made this movie, grasp our attention and keep us engrossed with his live action photography overlaid with his idea of ‘interpolated rotoscoping’. Does not sound, what it actually is....

But in all seriousness is this what made the movie watchable, likeable, endurable? Or is it Linklaters storyline and character development (or both but you need search hard for that nowadays)

Keanu Reeves (God marry me) plays a undercover cop name Bob Archter, who at first glance seems pretty laid back, almost no emotion at times. He is hired to infiltrate his own group of friends, who include Jim Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder ) yes I have now grasped the attention of the male audience, and lastly Charles Freck played by Rory Cochrane. At this point, the cast for me looked, quite interesting considering at least 2 of these actors have been addicted to illegal substances earlier in their career, gave the impression that they could fit into their character and show what these substances inflict upon us.

Now, Reeves at this point, working as an undercover cop ,sets up surveillance in his home, hangout(really can’t guess) for the fact that they are always in and out, not really getting the sense that anyone lives there, but I’m going to say hangout, as it gives a more ‘junkie’ feel. Since his identidy is unknown to his co-workers (due to scramble suit which I will get on to) he is then asked to perform surveillance upon himself. This leads to a journey of paranoia and not knowing what reality is and what is imagined.

Now to the Scramble Suit, which I feel is the most Interesting idea in sci-fi movie history. The suit is optical camouflage which projects fragments of people at any given time (e.g. head, arm, leg) it’s something that’s never been done before and therefore opens a new door for new animators who want to show the unique and interesting feel in their movies.

The fact that it is so unique makes it so better to watch, as the audience is constantly thinking, will they find out its him, do they already know it’s him.


Personally, this is the one of my favourite features of the movie.


Interpolated rotoscoping is a huge breakthrough in cinema and a big change for audiences around the world. It lets film makers with particularly smaller budgets tackle scenarios which would cost in the 100 million ranges in live action. However, rotoscoping is often distracting and can distract viewers from important dialogue. Also at first it seems really weird, almost hard to watch and doesn’t feel right. Though rotoscoping has indeed provided a landmark for the history of animation, and almost definitely will be used more. I particularly liked how the rotoscoping gave an edgy feel, almost trippy, giving us viewers the impression that we are on drugs ourselves, and this is what you see.


Lastly, the scenarios in this film are brilliantly played and its dialogue fast and almost hard to keep up with at times. But once you get into the feel of the film, you find the screenplay sharp, witty and unique.

The film didn’t perform well at the box office, I can see why, but wish it hadn’t. In this case Scanners all over the place dialogue and storyline can be quite misleading to viewers. But however in the film it shows the real effect of living under a constant addiction. Also a big plus for Scanner, the rotoscoping makes the audience feel we are in a hazy fever dream which is triggered when substance D is taken. A real powerful movie which really captures the harsh influences of the modern world. We watch Archter spiral into a Schizophrenic frenzy to ending up on a farm where the main component for Substance D in produced, depressed and at his lowest point. This film has most definitely captured the drug addiction very clear.





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