A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Jr., Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder

Directed by Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)

From IMDB: "An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result." Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick.

First, I cannot imagine how this film would have been created without animation. The scanning suits just wouldn't have worked. I'm curious as to how much of this idea -- if not the ultimate appearance and fully-animated result -- may be used in other comic book adaptations such as the upcoming Watchmen film.

Second, animation aside, this whole project reeked of dullness. I was entirely too bored and wound up studying the artistic techniques rather than paying attention to the story. Dick's ideas about leniency toward drug addicts may have pushed the envelope when he wrote it in 1977, but nothing about the story remains fresh. Double crosses, paranoia, shady governments -- these themes regularly wind up on ABC prime time. Only the film's style brought the concept forward.

Third, good actors are good no matter what. Robert Downey, Jr. riveted me. Any scene featuring his character grabbed my full attention. He was fantastic, as was Woody Harrelson as a rather standard paranoid druggy. Keanu, however, is just as wooden and unemotional in animated format as he is in real life. The technique of layering animation over actual video footage ensured that his stiff and unconvincing body language remained intact, likely despite the animators' best efforts.

Flaws aside, the movie veered from dull to entertaining when random druggy wasters randomly talked about random bits. The number of gears on a bike. Why seeing bugs is a sure sign of hallucinations. The reason why a car engine stopped. And these were not small scenes. They became whole subplots unto themselves and livened a done-to-death plot with moments of humor, absurdity, and a clear vision of that lifestyle.

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