I wonder… if you can handle my car

I’m frankly deeply worried about Richard Linklater’s forthcoming adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Linklater’s experience charting the stoners and brown-bag philosophers of the UT Austin scene means the comic scenes of burnout rambling will probably play just right, and Robert Downey, Jr. looks as brilliant and natural as ever. But Linklater’s methods are almost entirely haphazard, episodic, accumulative, and inductive, and I can’t think that’s going to do anything but soften and smear Dick’s precise, noir-ish, mechanical way of developing both his narrative and his critique of both sides of the drug culture.

Even the visual style points to this problem. Dick’s novel is full of the sweat and grit and grease of riding around LA in a barely functioning Oldsmobile with no A/C, but Linklater’s method of shooting video and then having animators paint over it (made famous in his excellent Waking Life, where it meshed beautifully with the narrative style) largely erases those physical details, cooling the space in which the story unfolds, diffusing the harsh sunlight of Dick’s description.

I am dubious.

On the other hand, I’ll certainly watch it, as I’ve already watched the trailer twice. It’s undeniably good-looking, if perhaps not in a way entirely faithful to Dick’s writing, and the scramble suit looks pretty cool.

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