Philip K. Dick
Movies based on the stories of author Philip K. Dick
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Blade Runner 1982, R)
When four artificial humans return to Earth to seek their maker and extend their lifespans, an ex-"Blade Runner" is sent in pursuit to "retire" them. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is a true watershed in the evolution of science fiction cinema. It's one of the most visually influential films ever made and although William Gibson's novel Neuromancer is often cited as the birth of "Cyberpunk", he freely admits that Ridley Scott did it first. Although most cyberpunk influenced movies look very silly in this day and age, Scott's future detective story created its own sub-genre (often referred to as "tech noir") by skillfully blending the format of Film Noir with the visual trappings of science fiction making for an immersive world that is the melting pot of styles and cultures of an overpopulated near future. And considering that this film is now three decades old, it still looks incredible. Harrison Ford's burnt out detective who is sick of his role as executioner is a far more interesting protagonist than the usual Hollywood action hero and his showdown with a typically intense Rutger Hauer while he is coming to terms with his new and burgeoning emotions is one of the greatest ever committed to celluloid. A timeless classic and personal favourite, and yet another reason why Ridley Scott is rightly considered to be one of the best in the business.
Minority Report 2002, PG-13)
An experimental police unit that uses precognitive "seers" to prevent murders from being committed before they happen has to hunt one of its own when its commander appears in one of the visions gunning down a complete stranger. Steven Spielberg's pedigree shines through in yet another sci-fi based upon a tale by Philip K. Dick, containing many of his familiar ingredients, including time paradox, the concept of free will versus destiny and the ethics and morality of technology. These heady concepts are interwoven with Hollywood hi-tec imagery and blockbuster set pieces to produce a flashy, mainstream action film with far more intelligence than most. It's true that the film gets a little bogged down from time to time as Spielberg gets a little too carried away with his own effects budget and it takes itself a little too seriously for its own good, but the slick production design and his own uncanny knack for pacing and entertainment always keeps the twisting, turning plot on track. Clearly influenced by Blade Runner, it may not be the measure of Ridley Scott's classic, but thanks to some solid writing and fine performances it's still a damn fine entry into the sci-fi pantheon and probably Tom Cruise's best effort to date.
Next 2007, PG-13)
Chris Johnson was born with the ability to see two minutes into his own future but chose to hide it in an attempt to lead a "normal" life, until FBI agent Julianne Moore decides that he is her best chance of foiling a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in California. Next is a fairly generic sci-fi actioner based on an interesting premise taken from yet another Philip K. Dick story, but the upshot is that it's 24 with Hiro from Heroes standing in for Jack Bauer. There are a couple of flaws in the logic of the plot; the reason why Jessica Biel's pretty and pretty irrelevant character alters his ability and who the terrorists are and what it was they hoped to achieve are both completely ignored. What is left though is an entertaining action flick that ticks all the no-brainer boxes. Essentially it's just a superhero film without the tights but thanks to some well executed set pieces and direction with a modicum of flair it's a fun way to spend an hour and a half if you're not in the mood for anything too taxing.
A Scanner Darkly 2006, R)
Richard Linklater gives Philip K. Dick's anti-drug fable the anime treatment in this tale of an undercover narc, whose identity is kept secret from everyone (including his colleagues) leading to his becoming the subject of his own investigation. Technically, the actors all fulfill their relative niches, from Keanu's self-analysing stoner to Harrelson's wacky attention seeking and the visuals are fine if a little unsophisticated by today's standards. For me though, it was only for the last half hour, when the story FINALLY kicked in that it really grabbed my attention. The first hour of the film is exactly like being in the company of genuine druggies ie listening to a load of self-absorbed pretentious and paranoid bullshit blanketed in a psychaledic haze; it's actually so accurate it's eerie. The problem is that K. Dick was writing an well observed and honest indictment of the seductiveness and destructiveness of drugs, the fact that the film ends with a list his friends who were destroyed by them underlines this. Therefore Linklater's use of self-consciously "cool" actors and the fashionable animated style is completely at odds with the message the story was trying to convey. As a whole it's a well executed film that unfortunately missed the point of it's source material.
Impostor 2002, PG-13)
Weapons designer Gary Sinise finds himself on the run in a warring future state after being accused of being an alien spy. Yet another potboiler based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Impostor doesn't really have the depth or invention to satisfyingly explore the source material's themes of identity and sense of self. It does however have some nice effects and production design, and a cast that although lacking in big name stars, does have enough in the way of solid character actors to keep you watching, including Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub and Madeleine Stowe. The rather straight to DVD style direction and unimaginative plot (it's basically just a long chase sequence) means it will win no prizes for originality, but taken as a no frills sci-fi B-movie it has enough action and twists to pass 80 minutes inoffensively enough. Nowhere near the best Philip K. Dick adaptation, but far from the worst.
Paycheck 2003, PG-13)
Let's see. You take a portion of Total Recall, and a touch of Terminator 2, and a soupcon of Memento, simmer for 90 minutes, and you get...a really lame rip off of Minority Report. At end of the day, it's impossible to care about two characters you know absolutely nothing about, apart from they're supposed to be "the good guys". ESPECIALLY if one of them's Ben Affleck.
Total Recall 1990, R)
The Adjustment Bureau 2011, PG-13)
A senatorial candidate meets the woman of his dreams but an enigmatic organisation of men in black keep interfering in his life to keep them apart. The movie poster for this film contained an earnest looking Matt Damon in full Bourne pose running through a surreal cityscape, a clearly premeditated attempt to dupe the male population into thinking that The Adjustment Bureau was going to be another Inception style sci-fi thriller. The opening scenes also show some really nice chemistry between Matt and Emily Blunt and when we first see the Bureau, it seems like it's going to be more of a surreal fantasy in the shape of Eternal Sunshine. But don't be fooled. IT'S A ****ING CHICK FLICK. Far more in the vein of City Of Angels, the plot is just the old "handsome and powerful man wants to give up everything for the true love he hardly knows" that gets the ladies sighing heavily and staring into the middle distance, and the sci fi element is just some vaguery about a "divine plan" that's never explained and leads to nothing more than a bunch of running around in streets and libraries. Basically just the usual Sex And The City fan's wet dream with a few special effects thrown in to "keep the lads happy", The Adjustment Bureau even made me sit through contemporary ballet for Christ's sake. What a gyp.