A Scanner Darkly is somewhat fascinating, somewhat repulsive, and a lot confusing. It’s not easy to figure out what everyone is trying to accomplish. That all might be by design, but it makes for difficult viewing. The biggest question to be asked is why animate a movie that was already filmed in live action? According the animation featurette included in the special features, hundreds of hours were required for the Rotoscope animation, and it certainly had to have added greatly to the film’s budget. Personally, I think the unique animation style, created the atmosphere for the entire film. The animation is a part of the story. Kind of real and kind of not, is the essence of what the movie is about. Substance D has created a loss of reality, yet all the characters are still living, and still experiencing some kind of life. They go through life either in a hallucinogenic daze or disguised in a Scramble Suit. It’s reality, but not reality at the same time.
On Blu-ray, the picture looks spectacular. The Rotoscope animation is recreated perfectly and the creepy surreal-real, but not real setting is brought to life (so to speak). The video is presented in 1080p HD. The colors are crisp and clear, and the definition could not be better. The opening scene in which Charles thinks he has bugs crawling all over him (and his poor dog) is just as disturbing as if the scene existed on regular live action film. The bugs pop out of the screen in agonizing detail.
The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 640 kbps. Sometimes the sound seems a little muddled, but it could be because it’s a muddled world all the characters live in. Sometimes the dialogue seemed a little thin and I found myself missing a word every now and then. As far a special features go, there is the aforementioned animation featurette, a making of documentary, which utilizes archival interviews with Philip K. Dick, and a commentary by Linklater, Reeves, Isa Dick Hackett (Philip K. Dick’s daughter), Tommy Pallotta (producer), and Jonathan Lethem (a Philip K. Dick historian).