A Scanner Darkly Review

Posted: 04/30/2013 in Movie Reviews
Tags: , ,

By Eugene Sax


A Scanner Darkly, based on the book by Phillip K. Dick, follows the story of Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) in one of the hardest situations through his life. The setting is a futuristic, yet not too futuristic, Earth. The world is plagued with a new drug on the street: Substance D. More addictive than any drug on the market and quite more dangerous, A Scanner Darkly follows the downfall of Arctor as he slips deeper and deeper into addiction.

One of the most interesting things right off the bat is the art style of this movie. The movie uses interpolated rotoscoping. Many people may know this style from early Disney films. The scenes were shot by real actors doing the actions, and were then drawn over to create the animated film style that we see today. This version of rotoscoping is new and improved. Instead of every frame being drawn itself, now the computer does a lot of the work with the animation by filling in some of the key frames between scenes itself rather than having the human animator draw every scene.


An undercover cop for the Orange County Police Department (codenamed Fred), Arctor is tasked with infiltrating a drug ring for Substance D and to find the source. Keeping tabs on James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) is his secondary assignment. Arctor and Barris are “friends” amongst their group, but Barris has suspected that Arctor is a cop and goes to the authorities to get him arrested. Arctor’s superior (codenamed Hank) already knows Fred’s identity and is just trying to get Barris into custody. Hank is willing to go to any length in order to find where “D” is being supplied from.

For those who haven’t read the book, this movie is inspired by a true story of the author and his friends and their trials with drugs in the 70’s. Arctor becomes an addict himself in his assignment and soon loses his identity and understanding of the world around him. A Scanner Darkly comments on the drug scene in general, showing how users take down everyone around them as well.


A Scanner Darkly is a movie that really makes you think. How do your choices affect those around you? Do you trust the people around you? How far are you willing to go for something that matters to you? The story is well written, and the characters are very defined and have the ability to grow onto many viewers. I always enjoy a movie that tells about some type of social aspect and criticizes the world that we live in, especially with something that is as serious as the drug scene. Also, I’m a sucker for a new and interesting art style. Definitely worth a watch for any who are interested in the social stigma and effects that drugs have, or who just like Keanu Reeves or Robert Downey Jr.

Score: 8/10

While not gaming or creating his own games, Eugene is an avid movie viewer. Robert Downey Jr. is one of his favorites, but he covers any and all movies. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_sax or friend him on PSN, XBLA and Steam at Azoth_of-Flame. If you’re really feeling it, check him out on League of Legends at LoboIzanagi.

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