Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly is not a likeable movie. It's the antithesis of the popular inspirational/feel-good genre; not what most people expect from an animated film. The film's trailers have focused primarily on banter between Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, and other lighter moments in the film. While A Scanner Darkly does have its comic side, its overall message is bleak and even grim.

The not-so-distant future world of the film is portrayed in extremes. People are continually being monitored by hidden cameras and recording devices. Undercover cops, trying to control the sale and abuse of the illegal and addictive Substance D, wear "scramble suits" to avoid recognition. Nearly all the characters in the film take Substance D pills in varying quantities. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover cop who learns he is becoming dangerously addicted to the pills while assigned to watch a group of potential criminals ... and the addiction is starting to cause serious brain damage. The film explores a drug-obsessed culture in ways that naturally are supposed to provide parallels to our own culture and the manner in which legal and illegal drugs of all kinds fit in.