Tuesday, June 27, 2006

On The D.

Yesterday to a preview of A Scanner Darkly in a plush screening theatre in Warner Brother’s London headquarters. Director and screenwriter Richard Linklater is clearly a fan of Philip K. Dick’s work; his adaptation of Dick’s semi-autobiographical novel about an undercover cop falling apart under the insiduous influence of the brain-killing drug Substance D, is, some necessary compression apart, faithful to both the text and the melancholy spirit of the novel. It was shot as a live action film and rotoscoped by computer animation to provide a graphic novel look that works pretty well; it’s hard, really, to see how the scramble suit effects could have been done so effectively otherwise. Hallucinatory weirdness is kept to the minimum, although there’s some very subtle distortion here and there, especially towards the end. Given that the story is largely plot-free and packs a lot of dialog, it does sag a little in places, but does its best by Dick's intricate drug-fueled paranoid riffs, is seasoned with some lovely touches of black humour, and the diminuendo ending, containing just a flicker of hope, is faithful to that of novel. Fans of Dick’s work will almost certainly love it, but I fear that its bleak, amorphous plot will have limited appeal to the general public. Keanu Reeves as undercover narc Bob Arctor is basically Keanu Reeves; Robert Downey Jr is a tour de force as the manically unpleasant James Barris; Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder turn in solid performances, and Rory Cochrane is going to hate being called the new Jack Black.


Anonymous Sergey said...

I`m scared that Dick`s worlds couldn`t be adequately transformed into the form of the movie.
On the one hand, we get "Total Recall" by P. Verhoveen (almost nothing was left of original story and it was blockbuster based on visual effects, black humour and playing by Mr. Universe:) Оn the other hand - "Minority Report", which was boring and uninteresting - Spielberg tried to show that he could do films not only about Jurassic Park (Well, I knew it before - I saw "Empire of the Sun"). The only successful attempt IMHO - "Bladeruner", but here the director R. Scott not only liked the author`s work but believed in the world, which he created...

June 28, 2006 10:11 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

A Scanner Darkly is only the third film to be based on one of his novels - most of the others were adapated from short stories. Maybe that has something to do with it...

June 29, 2006 3:13 pm  
Anonymous Sergey said...

May be, Paul... When you are reading the novels by Dick it seems that he is writing a kind of dry report about real events, whithout much polishing of the style, and when you are involved in his world - you are starting to understand how interesting and paradoxal are his works.
This gradual involvement of the reader is very hard to transform in movie... Movie needs dynamics.
The other problem - he was much ahead of his own time and his influence on SF thinking are not well-known to general public.

If today sombody would try to make movie "Ubick" - majority would think that it is remake of "Matrix":)

June 29, 2006 8:53 pm  
Blogger martyn44 said...

Was PKD as good as I remember him being?
As I was typing that I realised how Dickian the question is, and I guess that is the answer too.
If Ridley Scott couldn't succesfully translate PKD to the screen - Bladerunner does, after all, miss out half the book - then I hold out little hope.
But I do still hope.

July 07, 2006 4:46 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Not everything Dick wrote was up to the mark, it's true, but his novels could also break your heart. Scanner is a heartbreaker.

July 07, 2006 9:49 pm  
Blogger Farah said...


the movie somehow manages to get a grip on that "dry report" style. Exhaustion runs through it.

July 23, 2006 11:23 am  

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