The Good

A great movie that shows there are many sides to Orange County.

The Bad

I would have liked an even more in-depth look at the animation process.

Set in Anaheim, California at some point in the near future, A Scanner Darkly follows Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane), and Donna (Winona Ryder) as they spiral into paranoia via a drug known as Substance D. Barris and Luckman live with Arctor and when he is not getting juiced up with his friends, he also serves as a spy trying to bring down his friends who are believed to be part of a drug ring. Making this all the more confusing is the fact that Arctor works in a shape shifting suit and he interacts heavily with someone in a shape shifting suit, so nobody knows who is who. The fact that his day job is to sit at a console monitoring his own home, and it also requires him to get into Substance D, ends up having A Scanner Darkly make an incredibly strong statement about drugs in society and the war that is allegedly being waged against them. Director Richard Linklater should be applauded for continuing to expand himself with both interesting and mainstream projects.


Commentary Track

Featuring Keanu Reeves, Richard Linklater, producer Tommy Pallotta, author Jonathan Lethem and Isa Dick Hackett. Okay, seeing all the names on here was a little disconcerting at first, but overall I think this commentary worked out well. People don't seem like they are fighting over one another to get their points across, in fact, it is just the opposite. Everyone is very respectful and polite as they talk about making this film, the medium in which it was brought to the bring screen, and of course the subject matter of Philip K. Dick's story.

One Summer in Austin

A "making of" that I wish was longer. I love when I see an interesting film like A Scanner Darkly and they put in extras that aren't simply run of the mill stuff. Everything about this One Summer in Austin doesn't feel as predetermined as it usually does. The major story is how this movie was shot and then transformed into being the visual spectacle that it is. It was really great getting to hear from the people involved, and I honestly felt like we got into the characters and the actor's heads a little bit more.

The Weight of the Line

The animators who brought this film to life are finally given a chance to be heard. While this isn't as in-depth as the access we were given by Animation Head Bob Sabiston on the Waking Life DVD, there is enough here to satisfy most people's curiosity. Again, I wish that this was longer and more in-depth and I wish that this animation program was available to consumers. We find out what the working conditions were like, how the look of the movie was achieved, and overall we are given a sense of just how much work it is to make an animated movie.


Widescreen Version presented in a "matted" widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. I loved the look of this movie and I could only wonder how it might look on a big screen TV or perhaps in one of the next generation formats. This movie is so colorful and richly detailed, yet I am wondering if it would even work in the live action format? Also, Linklater doesn't beat us over the head with imagery, so much as he sticks us in a world and then lets all the characters creep up on us much like their paranoia creeps up on them.


Dolby Digital - English Dolby Surround 5.1. The audio on this movie was really solid, even though I was only hearing it play out of my one speaker TV. If there is one release that should be bundled in home theater systems I would cast my vote for A Scanner Darkly. It is rare that you see a film that merges new technologies with old ones so seamlessly, but I never felt that this move was calling attention to any of the groundbreaking aspects of it's production.


The front cover features a frazzled silhouette of Keanu Reeves as he stares at a bunch of monitors featuring images of the other cast members in the film. The back cover offers up more shots from the film, a description of what this movie is about, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and technical specs. While I think a release like this screams for more bells and whistles, that will probably come when this movie takes off as a succes d'estime on DVD.

Final Word

This is one of the best films I have ever seen. As someone who lives in Orange County it was nice to see a filmmaker put together a movie that finally got into the underbelly of the suburbs I have been living around my whole life. Also, I loved seeing them drive around and be able to spot an area like the Tustin Market Place in animated form. I loved the writing, the dialogue, the performances, and I think that the animation style that was employed was the perfect medium to tell this mind bending Philip K. Dick story. Even more impressive is the fact that A Scanner Darkly isn't a hard movie to follow. Yeah, here and there things get a little confusing, but this movie isn't like Waking Life which just seemed like an excuse to explore the power of the animation software.

It is rare that animation for adults is taken this seriously but I think history is going to be very kind and remember A Scanner Darkly for the groundbreaking film that it is.

A Scanner Darkly was released May 25, 2006.