When one of them, Darryl Revok goes rogue and plans to create a scanner army to take over the world, another, Cameron Vale is recruited by a shady corporation named ConSec to bring Revok down.
This film is all over the place. I described it as sci-fi horror action, and while it has some of those qualities, it also kind of exists in its own unique unclassifiable bubble. It's also got mixings of class warfare, prejudice against the superior-abled, and a sense of psychedelia combined with anti-authoritarianism. It's definitely a Cronenberg film alright.
It's a very dated film, but in a pretty cool way. I liked that it reeked of the early 80s, as it gives the proceedings a unique vibe and atmosphere, and a sense of style that you don't really see today. I think we need a lot more chrome and stuff that's blood red in color.
The film does have an eerie and unnerving atmosphere and tone that really help enhance the ridiculous and nutty plot. This is further helped by the set design, cinematography, effects, and Howard Shore's creepy score.
The acting from the lead is admittedly pretty bland and distracting, but Michael Ironside is wonderfully batty and menacing as Revok.
All in all, a weird film, and a bit of a mess. But it's got some cool ideas, is technically well made, and is pretty entertaining, so yeah, give it a watch.
Overall, Cronenberg's early work, which I'm seeing for the first time, is not as good - relies too much on gruesomeness - as his later work (cf. Crash and Existenz.
This lack of connective substance also has the effect of making the hero's investigation seem far too straightforward. For instance, at one point he chances upon a drug vial with a mysterious corporate logo on it, and in the very next scene he's already managed to infiltrate the laboratory that produced it. Cronenberg wraps things up with a piece of logic straight out of the James Bond book of spying: if you snoop around long enough you will eventually be shot with a tranquilliser dart, waking up exactly where you need to be, just in time for the final showdown.
Unusually for Cronenberg, Scanners doesn't even have the saving grace of originality on its side; utilising the same theme - telepaths, exploited by sinister agencies as potential weapons - De Palma's superior The Fury beat Scanners to the screen by nearly three years, and even the soft and cuddly Star Wars saga has a thread of parapsychology running through it. On the subject of Star Wars, the genealogical soap-operatics at the end of Scanners resemble those of The Empire Strikes Back!
This is a neat sci-fi thriller from director David Cronenberg that has a very good premise that could have been a better movie if the characters were handled better than the plot.
The story involves a select group of humans with an extraordinary power.
Cameron Vale: You called me a scanner. What is that?
Paul Ruth: Freak of nature, born with a certain form of ESP; derangement of the synapses which we call telepathy.
One of these scanners is Cameron Vale. He starts out at the beginning of the movie acting as a bum, before being recruited by a big company to stop another Scanner, played by Michael Ironside.
Ironside's character, Darryl Revok, is a powerful scanner bent on creating scanners all over the world, ruling over them, and getting rid of anyone in his way.
It is now up to Cameron to find Revok and stop him before it is too late.
Opposed to other Cronenberg features, which involve characters facing situations that usually have an extraordinary or at least conflicting dilemma to deal with but keeps its emphasis on the characters, this film is more about its plot, which becomes a little silly. There are evil corporations, people held at gun point with bad guy dialog in there way, and car chases.
Also, Stephen Lack as Cameron Vale is kind of bland. I can see why he was chosen for the part, his eyes are perfect for being a scanner, but the villain Revok is a much more interesting character that we do not see enough of. A movie focusing on him could have been even cooler.
However, the concept of this movie is really good and there are a lot of memorable moments, including the climatic scanner battle, and other scattered moments thanks to the good looking effects and the coolness that is Michael Ironside. Frequent Cronenberg collaborator, Howard Shore, also delivers a good score that works for the film.
Programmer: There's no need for that. It's just internal switching.
Braedon Keller: Yeah? No one's ever switched off a scanner before!