Is entertainment value so much to ask for nowadays that only one out of every twenty movies I see can accomplish it? Likewise, is an original, through-provoking plot just as unreasonable? Out of the near-200 reviews I've written for this website, it seems I repeat those two questions in almost every one. I'm sick of it. While A Scanner Darkly isn't a horrible film, it just leaves me asking those questions once again. Why is this? Because it's typical. It's not so-bad-I-threw-up, but it's just average in every way and form. I guess a few people might find it mildly worth watching, but that doesn't mean it's good. Even skimming over the reviews that gave this a perfect score I didn't see a single person who thought A Scanner Darkly was too far above average. So as I always ask: if it's average, if you've seen it time and time again, was it really necessary to view? You and I could have both used the time we spent watching this movie and done something productive with our lives. Like the laundry. Or bought a pizza. Or spent time with our kids. Or went fishing. Or...
A Scanner Darkly is your basic druggie movie. It changes nothing to the overall formula and follows all the standard clichés. There is nothing new here at all. People get high and yell at each other, then get paranoid, then their lives fall apart. Who would have guessed? It's elementary stuff.
Further into the plot, there is the generic specialized government agency that is supposed to fix the:-'insert single futuristic problem here-':and the two story arcs, druggies and government, get intermingled. Again, who would have guessed? I can't go further into to entirely cliché plot without spoiling it, so I won't. I will say, however, that the ending is possibly the most cliché thing I've ever seen in a druggie movie. It's downright pathetic. I completely understood everything about this movie, and I fail to see what makes it so complex that half the people who watch it are left dumb and sucking their thumbs. It just mixes two of the most overused plot-lines in American cinema. It's just a futuristic druggie movie, there is nothing NOT to get.
Another major problem I have with A Scanner Darkly is that is takes on one specific problem and doesn't bother with anything else. It builds a world out of one single issue, and that is the only thing that matters in that world. It's the same flaw as Fahrenheit 451, where it assumed the only single problem the futuristic world would have is censorship, nothing else, that was all that mattered. Excuse me, I have to roll on the floor laughing. People, look around. The world today has thousands upon thousands of separate problems that affect everyone. Yes one is drugs. Yes one is censorship. But neither of those things even come close to defining the world's problems. At all. Period. What is the point of Mr. Dick creating his own futuristic world, then only giving it one sole problem and assuming that everything but that sole problem is completely a-okay? It's close-minded. It's the opposite of why Lord of the Rings is remembered. Because Lord of the Rings created its own world, then pumped the entire thing full of problems and situations like real life. And if Dick isn't going for realism, then why is he bothering trying to write (then make a movie adaption) about a realistic problem? It's simply poor storytelling.
Likewise, there was next to no entertainment value here. I'm all for films that scar you and drag you through the dirt to make an intelligent point, but A Scanner Darkly was just uninteresting because it lacked an interesting story. People talking, no matter how drugged up they are, rarely makes a good movie. I wished to God I could just turn if off and get on with my life, but if I did that I couldn't write this review. There were so many points in the movie where I just kept thinking: "I'm done, turn it off. I'm done!"
As for the rotoscoping. Again, what was the point? I see nothing wrong with it, but I didn't see anything it improved, either. It was just like the rest of the movie: pointless.
Though I enjoy reading science fiction, I've never read a Philip K. Dick novel in my life. I've seen a few of his movie adaptations, like Blade Runner, and never saw anything too amazing about their overall stories. So, just as an educated assumption, I fail to see why all the Dick fanboys are... well, fanboys in the first place. Having never read the novel, but having read reviews, I can also make an educated assumption that they didn't change much to the story A Scanner Darkly told. So maybe Dick isn't the most interesting author out there. Why do people keep making his stuff movies, then? Really.
Review by Jacques98 from the Internet Movie Database.