Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Philip K. Dick, maybe the greatest science-fiction writer in American literature, the psycho, the rebel, the drug addict, the man whose experience with mixed substances would give the chills to every modern party-junkie on Earth? Dick’s imagination transgressed the barriers of time and space, his imagination traveling to places and situations we can’t even begin to understand. Father of modern SF, Dick left us a remarkable heritage of novels and short stories and also a personal legacy, consisting in recurrent themes and motives which influenced writers and artists until today.
It is said that when Hollywood lacks some brilliant ideas regarding what movie to make next and be a hit, they recycle one of Dick’s old stories. This goes on for almost thirty years now and many modern cinema gurus began their careers turning the writer’s stories into films that changed history and the world as we know it. So let’s see what our S.F classic favorite movies find their roots in Dick’s works.
1. Blade Runner
Young Ridley Scott gained his fame as a brilliant director thirty years ago, giving the world a dark, violent weird movie. Thirty years ago, when released, this work of art didn’t impress the viewers but it certainly dropped an emotional bomb on them. The proof is that over time, Blade Runner became a cult-movie, a classic no S.F aficionado must not miss. The film is based on Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and critics said it is way better than the book.
2. Total Recall
Two concepts pop to mind when hearing this title: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the lady with three breasts. Also dark and violent, full of action, exploiting the futuristic themes of Dick’s work, the movie was considered a masterpiece, propelling Arnie to the status of a super-action-hero. Set in a world where one can control others’ memories, where reality is deeply intricate into hallucination, when one can’t separate friend from foe, where conspiracies and betrayal are the common currencies, Total Recall is based on the story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
Do you remember this 1995 movie, starring Petter Weller and Roy Dupuis among others? A space opera offering some of Dick’s favorite obsessions: future, the extinction of all humanity, humanity in itself, the purpose of the individual facing his fate. The underlying story is Second Variety, first published in 1953, a mind-blowing, soul-scorching story about war.
4. Minority Report
Tom Cruise at his best. A worldwide phenomenon, the movie launched the concept of Pre-Cogs, set a touchstone in special effects and made Steven Spielberg a rock-star. One of the few movies that kept the original short story title managed to raise the bar in Hollywood quality pictures and today is still regarded as a classic science-fiction movie, with a hint of paranormal and dystopia.
Spencer Olham is accused of being an alien android and the story follows his quest of proving he is human, in a breathtaking race and a permanent inner conflict and questioning, while skillfully escaping the forces sent to put him down. Another story keeping the original title, Impostors comes back to the individual’s perpetual search of his true self, the battle of good and evil and the facing of one’s own monsters. Gary Sinise did an awesome job in the role of honest, on-the-run, emotionally shattered Spencer.
6. A Scanner Darkly
Definitely one of the weirdest, hard-to-swallow, psychologically abusing movies ever made, with a sketched Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr. featuring this dystopian universe revolving around a powerful drug. This movie looks like it was extracted from Dick’s most disintegrating and colored drug-induced dreams and it gave the chills to people all over the world. A masterpiece in animation, screenplay and acting, the movie has all the autobiographical clues the 1977 novel implied, winning significant awards.
Come the modern ages, a 2003 movie starring Nicholas Cage and Julianne Moore drew viewers and critics’ attention. Maybe not the best movie ever, Next is that kind of film that came to life in a moment Hollywood was missing its muse. Entertaining, with Nic’s famous humor and Moore’s surreal beauty, Next comes from Dick’s story The Golden Man. The ability of seeing into the future is the common trait that binds the movie to the 1953 novelette, but up to this point, it’s hard to decide which one is better.
This 2003 movie follows the story of Jennings, a brilliant engineer who finds himself in the strange position of running for his life after getting involved in what seemed to be the project of his life, both professionally and financially. The 1952 Dick’s story was put on screen by no other than John Woo, a famous director who gain his fame by bringing together action and special effects in an fabulous manner.
9. The Adjustment Bureau
This movie doesn’t even calls for much presentation, as superstar Matt Damon gave a true acting recital in 2011. Also this movie vs. story case is quite hard to analyze, because the movie barely keeps the story’s subject, while it emphasizes some Dick’s prose specifics, such as the individual alienation, “the run” from the external enemies and internal demons, the gap between outside reality and individually perceived reality and so on.
10. The Man in the High Castle
30 years after Blade Runner, Ridley Scott comes back to his roots, involving himself in an audacious project: turning into a four-hours mini-series the much appraised novel (bearing thee same name), while convincing screen-play writer and producer Frank Spotnitz to join the team. If Spotnitz’s name sounds familiar to you, yes, he is one of the brilliant crew members that put the X Files series in the gallery of the most appreciated and loved SF series of all times.