What I'm Watching: The Scribbler
I have neglected doing this review for far too long, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner. But better late than never.
The Scribbler is a very intricate, involved movie with a plot that is not easily summarised. And when it IS summarised, it is only barely scratching the surface. Which is a good sign, IMO, but bear with me as I try and keep this simple!
Katie Cassidy stars as Suki, a young woman who has no real identity, and yet at the same time has too many identities. She has multiple personalities, the sheer amount of which kept her locked up for most of her remembered life. Recently, she's been subjected to a new therapy known as the Siamese Burn, which rewires the brain, eliminates or assimilates the alters, and given time, will leave Suki with just one personality. The primary other personality we deal with is the titular "Scribbler", a mute personality that communicates only through, well, sribblings. Scribblings everywhere, and when it can be bothered to actually write and not just cover things in black swirls, it writes in reverse. Even when Suki is in control, the Scribbler has a pen and is marking up any surface it can.
"Crazy people, we don't play by the rules- and there are always side effects. "
Which leads to the larger question of, is Suki the real personality? Is she the primary alter, and if not, what happens once the Siamese Burn unit hits 1? Who are we inside, behind all the masks we put on? Who is our true self?
Beyond all that, you have Suki reaching a point in her therapy where she's being released to Juniper Towers (Known as Jumper Towers amongst the residents, because...well...) which starts to let her slowly begin to be reintegrated into society, and still be monitored.
The building is populated with so many colourful characters, each one quirky and strange and damaged in all their own ways. Which sets up another very interesting question...is ANY of this real? Could all this be playing out in Suki's head? Is the *entire* movie the internalised process of Suki's personalities being eliminated?
They keep this question up in the air for the larger part of the movie. Every time she burns out a personality, someone dies. Is that symbolic of Suki's personalities being removed? Is each person within this tower part of Suki's headspace? Or when Suki blacks out while using the device, is she going around in a state, or under the control of one of her other alters, killing off the real residents in the real world?
It's not just a question of, are the suicidal people just jumping, or are they being killed? It becomes a question of, is it Suki pushing them, is it someone else inside her head, is it someone else *entirely*, is it just normal (if coincidental) suicides, is any of this even real, or is it merely symbolic of Suki's internal struggle??
I love this multi-layered mystery aspect to the story. Every time you think, "Ah HAA, it is DEFINITELY this!!" the movie pulls the rug out from you and you're thinking no wait, it's ACTUALLY this! Even then, it's something else, just waiting to peel back yet another layer and reveal even more. Almost up until the final moments of the film, you are kept guessing. And I am pleased to say everything DOES become clear and you know exactly what's been going on. At least...I think so. I'm sure someone could come along and argue me about it, but I think it's pretty clear what the answer is to what level of reality we're operating on.
The clear star of this movie is Katie Cassidy. She does an amazing job as Suki, and her action moments in the movie totally sold me on her future as Black Canary on the tv show Arrow. This role is transformative for Katie, in much the same way as Charlize Theron in Monster, and other roles. She is nearly unrecognisable, and there is a freedom in being so different. Suki is a messed up young woman, but you feel for her and connect with her in a way that you wouldn't expect as she tries to navigate this mystery and try and find out who she is.
The cast is solid, even though it has a few weak points, but overall everyone gives a decent enough performance, and it's populated with a lot of familiar faces. The ones that matter bring their A game. The writing is sharp, and draws a LOT from the graphic novel the movie is based upon, and while I'm not quite done reading it, it is a very faithful recreation, from lines of dialogue, to the story, to visuals. I would argue this is one of the most perfect comic to film adaptations I've ever seen, and it translates beautifully to the screen.
I absolutely love this movie. How much? Well, you all know how much I love "The Crow". How I've long said it's my favourite movie of all time. Well...this movie came dangerously close to dethroning that movie, but instead settled into probably my #2 spot. It's *definitely* my #2 comic adaptation.
"Your world is back to front, not mine."
In fact, this movie is VERY much "The Crow" of the 2010s, for this generation. It's a movie based off an independent comic, with stunning visuals, a grungy feel, and is a work that has the creators trying to work through some personal stuff on the comics page. Both movies have a grimy, gothic feeling to it, have a dark sense of humour to them, and colourful characters surrounding them. I could seriously sit down and write a long article JUST comparing and contrasting the two movies. The similarities are striking when you sit down and think of them, and clearly bias me towards liking this movie even more.
The biggest difference is that this movie is lacking the amazing music of The Crow. If they had a rocking soundtrack that even began to compare to the older movie, this would be standing right next to it. And yeah, that's a minor nitpick, and surely a budgetary issue, but this movie just seemed to lack something musically. This doesn't HURT the movie, but it holds it back just a little bit.
There's also some weird moments in the movie that don't quite click with me, like the slightly gratuitous sex scene. But hey, that's movie making for ya. I thought that scene was more gracefully handled in the graphic novel. Also, the style of the movie feels off. The sets feel like sets, and don't quite feel organic too me, and are weirdly lit. It *feels* fake to me. It works well within the world of the movie, creating a unique look, and one that COULD be fake, thanks to this maybe all being in Suki's head, but ultimately it's just that tiny bit off that doesn't seem right. It works to throw you off, make you think even more that this is all Suki's delusions, and also works as a comicbook world, but just isn't quite right.
On top of everything I've already told you about the movie, "The Scribbler" is a superhero origin story. You don't quite realise this until the final moments of the movie, and it's maybe TOO much of a swerve in tone for some people that comes far too late in the movie to really fit, but once I realised what was going on, it was more of a pleasant revelation and made the movie all the better. It works better on repeat viewings, and you know where this all is going. My only real wish is that there was MORE story, because the movie ends in such a way that it opens up the possibility for a whole new world centered around The Scribbler and other people with abilities beyond those of mortal men.
"I see a world of people who aren't who they think they are, waiting for someone to wake them up."
This movie deals with questions of identity, in a fascinating way, while dealing with a multilayered mystery, questioning reality, and keeps you guessing from the first moment to the last. All while playing with superhero tropes, a fun cast, and one of Katie Cassidy's best roles. This should be a breakout role for her, but because it's an indie comic adaptation, it will likely be ignored by the larger crowd.
I have been so taken with this movie, I tracked down the graphic novel by Daniel Schaffer as soon as I could, because I needed to see how this story began and what it was based on. I watched it back in October, and already rewatched it several times over, and have been trying to get all my excited thoughts to be somewhat coherent and less scattered for a decent review. I think I mostly succeeded, even if this is all over the place. But that almost makes sense for a movie about multiple personalities. Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.
If you see one movie I've ever talked about, it needs to be this one. I absolutely loved watching this movie, for almost every single moment, and am not done watching it yet. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of my thoughts, while also feeling like I've talked too much. This movie affected me on some level, AND was a great adventure. Man, did I love this movie. You could grab me and I would still talk your ear off about it, even beyond what I've already said here. There's so many layers, this movie is so deep, with so much going on, and it's just such a well-crafted story that's a lot of fun, but has things to say, and isn't just a mystery, or a comic book, or superheroes, or any one thing. The movie is as packed as Suki's head, and trying to find your way to the true story within is a great echo of Suki's own journey.
...So yeah, I guess this gets a pretty high recommendation from me. I'll shut up now and let people go form their own opinions.
"Side effects include telekinesis, super strength and cool hair."