Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Scanner Darkly


I was, frankly, stunned at how bad this movie was. Not a single thing worked. It was, famously, done with interpolated rotoscoping. The interpolated part is computer-generated; rotoscoping was invented by Max Fleischer in 1914 for his Koko the Clown movies. Here, it is a horrible distraction. Keanu Reeves’ beard looks like some awful fungus crawling all over his face. Many things don’t have shadows. The “scramble suits” the undercover cops wear are interesting … for about five minutes. Then they just get on your nerves.

And really, there isn’t much of a story. It mostly consists of dope-addled people sitting around talking nonsense, and that gets old fast. No reason is given as to why 20% of the population is taking this awful stuff called Substance D, and though I assume the rotoscoping was done to give a feeling of a dope dream, no real sense of the high the addicts get is given except for the opening scene where bugs are crawling all over a man. The reviews say that Reaves “fell in love” with Winona Ryder, but it was news to me. There was zero chemistry. World-famous stoner Robert Downey Jr babbled, world-famous pothead Woody Harrelson freaked, and Reeves, who looks stoned at the best of times, mostly just sat there and brooded. The music was insipid. The “revelation” of who “Agent Fred’s” boss was, was … blindingly obvious, the other revelation of what they were doing to Fred was stupid, and the other other revelation of where Substance D was coming from was way, way beyond stupid.

This whole film is almost as bad as Substance D except, thank god, it’s not addictive.