Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Five films that improved the book

At Cracked, Ryan Menezes tagged five movies that improved the book (according to the author), including:
Blade Runner Kills, Saves Philip K. Dick

Most of the authors on this list feared how their books' adaptations would turn out, but Phillip K. Dick is the only one who literally shat blood over it. Dick was in an emotional slump by the '80s. According to a letter he sent to producers, he had lost faith in the entire realm of science fiction. He now thought sci-fi was "inbred," "derivative," and "stale." The whole field had "settled into a monotonous death."

Blade Runner, an adaptation of Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, seemed set to continue the trend. After reading an early script, Dick thought the filmmakers had removed all nuance and meaning from his story, leaving it just a bunch of brainless fight scenes between robots and a bounty hunter. By the spring of 1981, he was popping painkillers and chugging glasses of scotch. On Memorial Day, he began hemorrhaging through his guts. Hollywood was spiritually murdering the man before his film was even released, which is weird, because they usually wait until the box office is in to call the gypsies.

And it turns out all of Dick's fears were justified. At the last minute, the studio forced a happy ending and tacked on an awful voice-over, which indeed sucked all subtlety from the film. Luckily, Dick never saw the finished product. He had only previewed early cuts, which were much closer to the incredible director's cut we have today. Dick was relieved that the world of the film was "so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing." In fact, he saw the film's effects as a new sort of visual expression altogether. Sure, sure -- but was it as good as the book?


Dick thought it went far beyond the book -- he couldn't imagine that anything he'd written could ever be "escalated into such stunning dimensions." This one film justified his entire career up until that point. Dick died soon after sharing his thoughts with the studio, which presumably saw an author ecstatic with an adaptation for once and thought, "Well, this just won't do."
Read about another entry on the list.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? also appears on Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the twelve most unfaithful movie versions of science fiction and fantasy books, Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, John Mullan's list of ten of the best titles in the form of questions, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of ten classic sci-fi books that were originally considered failures and Robert Collins's top ten list of dystopian novels.

--Marshal Zeringue