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A Scanner Darkly Synopsis


A Scanner Darkly is set in suburban Orange County, California in a future where America has lost the war on drugs. When one reluctant undercover cop is ordered to start spying on his friends, he is launched on a paranoid journey into the absurd, where identities and loyalties are impossible to decode. It is a cautionary tale of drug use based on the novel by Philip K. Dick and his own experiences. A Scanner Darkly uses the technology first employed in the movie Waking Life to create animated replicas of real performers. Live action photography is overlaid with an animation process called interpolated rotoscoping to create a highly stylized look.


I�m not a fan of this rotoscoping technology. The idea is you have actors actually give the performances, then you basically trace over them and put it on screen. Why not just let us see the actors? It seems like an easy way to get out of having a big effects budget.

Maybe it�ll look really cool when used on this material. Some of the stills look exceptional. But what I saw of it in action in the movie Waking Life was mostly just really damned annoying. Stylistic seems to be the big excuse word these days for things that are annoying. As if saying something is stylistic exempts it from also looking good, or as if not liking it makes you somehow stupider than the artsy-fartsy, film snobs who have convinced themselves they do.

Look, I�m ready and willing to be wowed by rotoscoping, but up till now I�ve seen nothing good come of it. This is also the thing used on the CGI movie The Polar Express (or at least some form of it) and that just looked creepy. So far the whole rotoscoping phenomenon is 0-2 with me.

What might help this one is that it looks like they actually have an interesting story. Philip K. Dick based movies, while they aren�t always a success, are at least consistently interesting. This is one of the Dick books I haven�t read, but it wouldn�t mean anything if I did. His work is always better after it�s translated on film than it is in print.

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