7 Deadly Adaptations From the Imagination of Philip K. Dick Besides Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner (1982)

Director Ridley Scott Starring Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer

Screenplays for the movie had been in the works for years with Dick being extremely critical of all versions, but he changed he mind on viewing some of Ridley Scott’s special effects sequences of a dystopian Los Angeles. Despite being an award-winning novelist and a prolific writer Dick was never financially successful until he achieved a measure of stability from the rights to his novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968) the literally source upon which Blade Runner (1982) is based. He died of a heart attack shortly before the film premiered aged 53.

Total Recall (1990)

Director Paul Verhoeven Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone

Loosely based on a short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” by Philip K. Dick and first published in a 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Total Recall (1990) includes such Dickian elements as the confusion of fantasy and reality, machines talking back to humans, and the protagonist’s doubts about his own identity. The futurist thriller was remade in 2012 with Colin Farrell and didn’t reach the awesomeness of the original, but is some well-crafted, high energy sci-fi fun nonetheless.

Minority Report (2002)

Director Steven Spielberg Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

The script was originally adapted as a sequel to Total Recall (1990) in that was set in the same universe, the main character was Douglas Quaid, and the three Precogs were psychic mutants from Mars. This script was eventually tossed out – the only original element remaining in the final film is the sequence in the car factory, an idea that Spielberg loved. In the original short story, “The Minority Report” (1956) the protagonist John Anderton is short, fat, and balding, yet here we get action man Cruise, up against the young Federal agent Farrell, who later appeared in another Dick adaptation of Total Recall (2012).

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Director Richard Linklater Starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr.

According to a 1975 interview in Rolling Stone anything Dick published before 1970 he wrote while on amphetamines. He was a drug user for much of his life but stated that “A Scanner Darkly (1977) was the first complete novel he had written without speed. He cited this novel as his best work, feeling that he “had finally written a true masterpiece after 25 years of writing”. A Scanner Darkly is based on his personal drug experiences, which possesses paranoia, increasing confusion, hallucinations and psychosis throughout. The film was first shot in live-action and then the live footage was animated over (a process known as rotoscoping).

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Director George Nolfi Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

A short story by Philip K Dick titled “Adjustment Team” (1954) was freely adapted here by Bourne screenwriter George Nolfi who turned it into a glitzy futurist conspiracy thriller. The movie is entertaining and savvy but I found it hard to get past the scene where the two leads enjoy a flirty moment when Blunt plonks Damon’s phone into his coffee leaving him smitten as a kitten. Maybe it’s me, but if a someone did that to me on a bus in the morning I’m taking them straight to the nearest Apple Store to buy me a new phone. Suffice it to say it’s a fun film not to be taken seriously.

The Man In The High Castle (2015)

Creator Frank Spotnitz Starring Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans

Dick’s only novel to win a Hugo award was “The Man in the High Castle (1962). The story depicts an alternate version of 1962 America where the Axis powers have won World War II and and divide the United States into a Nazi-controlled East and a Japan-run West. Publicity for the first season ramped up when the advertising campaign got pulled after they covered an entire New York subway with Nazi and Imperial Japanese imagery as seen in the show. The first season received critical acclaim regardless.

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2017)

Starring Jack Reynor, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston

Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams (Sundays on Channel 4, 9pm) is an ambitious series of 10 one-hour films based on his stories, pulling in big stars with a different cast and crew for each episode. Each varies wildly in tone sharing only a couple of common themes and motifs that connect them to each other. It’s difficult not to compare parables with Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror,” which is tough territory to compete with, but having more serious sci-fi storytelling back in the mainstream can only be a good thing.

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