Philip K. Dick: One of the More Prolific Science Fiction Writers of the 20th Century

Philip K. Dick: One of the More Prolific Science Fiction Writers of the 20th Century

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Philip K. Dick is one of the more prolific science fiction writers of the second half of the 20th century. His dark plots, themes, and characterizations differ greatly from those who preceded him. This has seemingly translated well onto the big screen, as at last count, nearly ten of his novels and short stories have been adapted into films. Several of these films have garnered critical acclaim for both their movie credentials and use of source material. Blade Runner, originally released in 1982 and based off a 1968 novel entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? along with A Scanner Darkly, a 2006 film based off a book of the same name released in 1977, are two such examples. They provide an excellent base to compare the adaptations in terms of visual style, plot authenticity, and characterization. Both movies took alternate routes, yet both were very well received, though one’s financial success is far greater than the other.

Immediately upon viewing either film, the viewer is struck with the unique visual style each presents. This impression is likely the defining image one is left with after viewing the entire film. Each took a different approach in using visuals to stage the environment and context of the plot. Blade Runner styles Dick’s vision of Los Angeles circa 2019 as a futuristic film noir, with an anachronistic mix of technology combined with dark angles and shadows. Virtually all of the visual styles of this environment happened pre-production; that is, they do not rely heavily on computer editing after filming to achieve the desired effect. The opening scene involving the interrogation of Leon in a dark, smoky, high-ceilinged room could be lifted right out of a 1950s mystery film. The detective then pulls out ...


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...t earned even less at the box office and has not taken off upon home release. Perhaps this is due to Blade Runner having friendlier source material – bounty hunting versus drug use. However, it might also be due to the liberties which the screenwriters took in adapting the film, making it more big screen friendly.

Regardless of their financial successes, both novels and their respective film adaptations are held in high esteem by many. They both utilize unique visual techniques to immerse their audience in the worlds of Philip K. Dick, but differ on their strictness of plot and characterization. In the end, however, the departures from the original source material of Blade Runner are executed so well that they come across on par with the literal A Scanner Darkly. Both movies play tribute to genius of Philip K. Dick’s writing by being complete, well-rounded works.

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