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Hollywood's Growing Obsession With Philip K. Dick 244

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the can-we-call-him-pip dept.
bowman9991 writes "Even after Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Impostor, and Next, it appears Hollywood's lust for movies based on Philip K. Dick material continues. The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Terence Stamp, is the latest, and features some classic Dick themes, including the fragile nature of reality and a fight against a world controlled and manipulated by powerful unseen entities. When Congressman David Norris meets the love of his life after a political defeat, he must peel back the layers of reality to discover why a mysterious group is so desperate to make sure they never meet again. He is up against the agents of fate itself — the men of The Adjustment Bureau. The Adjustment Bureau adaptation follows news that Terry Gilliam will adapt Dick's novel The World Jones Made, that Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Ubik are being adapted, and that a remake of Total Recall is being developed by the ironically named Original Films Studio."
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Hollywood's Growing Obsession With Philip K. Dick

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <> on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:24AM (#31816594) Journal
    According to the author's Trust's site [], you're missing a few:

    "Time Out of Joint" Purchased by Warner Bros.

    "Valis", "Radio Free Albemuth", and "Flow My Tears the Policeman Said" Purchased by independent producer John Alan Simon

    properties under option: "Adjustment Team" - Short Story, "Ubik" - Novel, "King of the Elves - Short Story

    After reading more than a few of PKD's books and short stories really I'm surprised that Hollywood isn't more obsessed with PKD than they are now. In my opinion, the Science Fiction genre is tired and overdone in very predictable ways. PKD's works are often further out there. I realize that A Scanner Darkly was probably not the most well received movie but I would predict that Dick's use of a sort of confusion/resolution while tackling the standard moral/ethical dilemmas that are the hallmark of SciFi would be an easy option to keep movies "fresh." Of course, I've been wondering the same thing about Stanislaw Lem for quite some time. Aside from Solaris he seems to be relegated to fringe movies like Ari Folman's adaptation of Lem's [] The Futurological Congress [].

    Recently I finished Chuck Palahniuk's Rant and went searching online for more details as I was generally confused about who was a Historian and who was not at the end of the novel. What I found was that he's making it into a trilogy [] and that the rights to his books as movies are generally bought right after he finishes a book. He says:

    We’ve had a bunch of negotiations for Rant. It’s going to be the first of three books on the same sort of theme and the movie production people want to see at least outlines on the next two books in the series because nobody wants to buy the rights of the first of three and not be able to control the rights to the second and third books. So I really have to sell Rant as a three-book package. So once I’m able to present those people with a product outline for the next two books, then we’ll sell.

    So I'm guessing that Fight Club was such a huge money maker and gained mainstream respect that some of his more gritty novels are now premium movie material? Or perhaps he's not too picky on the size of the sum when his story is about to made into a movie?

    There's not a lot of data out there on how much these rights sell for I guess so you can't say whether or not PKD's Trust is just underrating them as pulp scifi and selling them low cost. Combine that possibility with the fact that he's had some huge movies come from his books and I think Hollywood is finally beginning to understand. With Dick you finally have the technology to represent his dreams on screen along with a dearth [] of stories [] along with a public tired of your predictable plots along with the possibility that PKD's trust wants PKD to be appreciated on the silver screen. Lord knows that if I was a member of PKD's family I would love to see the young people of today enjoy his works as much as the young people of yesterday did.

  • Wrong. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb (452530) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <blameme>> on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:29AM (#31816654) Homepage Journal

    Hollywood has made money off of his material, so they're eager to go back to the well. The good news, thus far at least, is that the material they're using is actually well-written.

    Nothing out of the ordinary here, IMO.

    • Re:Wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:46AM (#31816824) Journal
      The source material can be well-written; but then you have directors like Uwe Boll deciding to re-scaffold the story on a different premise, similar to another set of movies that made money 10 years ago, because telling the same story over and over was better. Think Doom (invasion of creatures from Hell) being turned into Resident Evil (retro-virus making creatures from Hell).
    • by daem0n1x (748565) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:01PM (#31817878)
      What happened to good old tits n' ass?
  • by mbone (558574) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:30AM (#31816666)

    That's the one I really want to see ! It could become a classic movie, if done correctly.

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:51AM (#31816868)

      if done correctly.

      Ah, the biggest problem with book to movie conversions. You can be true to form and simultaneously prosecute all the jews while making them out to be greedy coniving businessmen AND world-wide conspirators. Or you can ignore the multiple plot threads that never intertwine and simply go with one story. Or you can realize that all the characters are simply an excuse to portray a backdrop where Germany won WWII.

      And then there's the difficult question of how to end the movie. Self-insertion is tripe and you can't have the climax of the movie hinge on a fortune telling explaining that the world is a. And if you're going to change the ending of the movie, then you're going to have to change a few things leading up to it, and at that point you might as well get a writer to make you something that can be put on the screen.

      And shit like this is how we got "Total Recall", which shares about 4 words from the book: "mars" and "inserting false memories".

    • by wiredog (43288) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:53AM (#31817730) Journal

      Probably unfilmable, but it might be fun to see the attempt.

    • by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:08PM (#31817964)

      They would never do it. That's because The Man in The High Castle paints a not entirely negative picture of Japanese colonialism. It's too much cognitive dissonance for the whole world to handle. I could however see a low budget indie-manga being made out of it if they could somehow get the rights.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:31AM (#31816670) Journal

    How about some hard sci-fi on the big screen, for a effing change? Honestly, aliens that copulate with black hookers and live in a ghetto, or Dance with the Volves on another Planet just didn't do it, for me. Neither did Total Recall, for that matter. Take some of Stephen Baxter's opus - hopefully not even Hollywood can screw up that!

    For me, the epitome of sci-fi filmography was The Andromeda Strain (the original one, of course). Plenty of creativity, yet pretty hard sci-fi (coupled with believable acting/good directing) and no flying thumbs from the bottom of a reactor.

  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:31AM (#31816672)

    Phillip K Dick, mostly wrote short stories. Some of these movies are very loosely based upon those stories, I don't understand why they are not just writing scripts without association. The only thing I could come up with is they think it has some marketing value.

    • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:36AM (#31816710) Homepage

      Phillip K Dick, mostly wrote short stories. Some of these movies are very loosely based upon those stories, I don't understand why they are not just writing scripts without association. The only thing I could come up with is they think it has some marketing value.

      It has both marketing value and prevents someone from screaming "They just ripped off XXXXX".

    • by TheLink (130905) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:38AM (#31816744) Journal
      Short stories are OK for movies actually. 2+ hours is actually a short time to squeeze an entire book in.

      With many movies you could have a better ending or explanation for things, but it's just not going to fit in 2-3 hours.
      • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:52AM (#31816874) Journal
        Many epic stories need to be a series, either TV or movie. T10K was like ... 6 or 7 movies 3 hours long each? That's how you implement an epic story. Or look at BSG, or more loosely, Enterprise. The problem with TV series is they try to resolve microconflicts in one or two episodes; Enterprise was always a favorite of mine because while there was a small storyline in each episode, there were also 5 other things going on at the same time, on-screen.
      • by shimage (954282) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:18PM (#31818120)

        While I agree with you, I don't see what this has to do with PKD and the movies nominally based on his stories. Total Recall has almost nothing to do with We'll Remember it for You Wholesale. Most of the movie occurs after the short story has already ended, and the few bits that overlap with the movie are changed substantially. Minority Report (the film) has the opposite moral of the short story it's based on. The only PKD-sourced movie I've seen that is remotely close to the source material is Screamer (though, I will note that I haven't seen Paycheck or Imposter, and I haven't read A Scanner Darkly).

        I think it's more likely that the two aforementioned reasons are the most important: for marketing and also to cover their asses (cf the Terminator and Harlan Ellison's credit).

  • Short Stories (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Port1080 (515567) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:35AM (#31816696) Homepage

    Dick's stories are perfect for film adaptation because they tend to be short - either short stories or novellas. His longest novels are still very short compared to most of what gets published today in the sci-fi genre. Short stories are easier to adapt to film - you generally have to cut a lot out of a novel to make it fit into a two hour movie, but short stories translate to a script more easily. Dick's stories also tend to have the kind of plot twists and the potential for action sequences that Hollywood favors, and he's well known and has a fairly big cult following. There are tons and tons of good sci-fi short stories out there, but very few of their authors are as well known as PKD. Combine all that together and they're a natural choice for adaptation.

  • Terry Gilliam is one of the most fantastic individuals in the history of film.

    If you're a geek, you know him as a founding member of Monty Python (Patsy in The Holy Grail or Cardinal "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition" Fang). If you're into film, he's done some fantastic dystopian sci-fi films (Brazil, 12 Monkeys). Talk about breadth of talent.

    If anyone has what it takes to do Dick well, it's Gilliam (another random piece of trivia: Gilliam was originally chosen by the author to adapt/direct the Harry Potter books. The studios didn't like Rowling's idea and it never happened.)

  • by wwphx (225607) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#31816776) Homepage
    because of this. I find the occasional used Dick in stores and the occasional omnibus, but I don't often find PKD at a reasonable price.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:46AM (#31816820)

    Hollywood is obsessed with secret, powerful, out-of-control, quasi-government agencies because Hollywood is a secret, powerful, out-of-control, quasi-government organization. They are obsessed with destroying the finances and lives of thousands of random people in order to obtain and retain control of the cultural and emotional mental frameworks of most people in the developed world.

      This fascination with the themes of Phillip K. Dick is only a reflection of their own neurotic narcissism.


  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#31816830) Journal

    (sorry I just couldn't miss this opportunity)

  • by Big Smirk (692056) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:47AM (#31816832)

    Not because the movie was spectacular. But because of what many (most/all) missed.

    When the technicians are putting Quaid under for the vacation implant with the 'secret agent' option - one of the techs chuckles "Mars with a blue sky"

    I guess I'll have to read Phillip K Dick's book to see if that was the intention.

  • Yes, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crash McBang (551190) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:48AM (#31816838)
    ... will they be done in 3D?
  • by moteyalpha (1228680) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:53AM (#31816890) Homepage Journal
    It would be nice if you paid for a screen adaption, that you got the books too.
    Much more that can only be experienced in the books.
    PKD is classic.
  • by _critic (145603) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:55AM (#31816904) Homepage

    The best . . . and hardest to do well . . . in my humble opinion.

    Valis would be interesting too.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:57AM (#31816922)

    Entertainment: Hollywood's Growing Obsession With Philip K. Dick

    Would have been a much funnier headline without first and middle names.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#31816978)

    Blade Runner, Total Recall, the Minority Report, and Paycheck are all decent flicks. Not mind-bending, probably, but sure as hell not Uwe Boll/Sex in the City/Kung Fu Kid. There's loads of tripe in Hollywood, so 'win, place, or show' makes sense to me. They can't all be effigies, and much of this work is a fine way to idle away a couple hours here and there.

    What am I missing?

    • by retchdog (1319261) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:20AM (#31817240) Journal

      I never understood the hate for Minority Report. I thought it was fairly well-executed and that the effects mostly helped convey the plot and inherent paranoia, rather than being gratuitous. Sure there were some stupid scenes, like the car factory escape, or the ridiculous vomit baton weapons, but I think it still better than the Hollywood average. Yes, the ending was far too perfectly redemptive, but again I think that the overall plot execution was still above-average.

      Spielberg is quoted as saying that MR was absolutely his darkest possible vision of the future. This doesn't speak well to Spielberg's imagination (the case can be made that life is just as bad now), and he did spend too much time trying clumsily to ape the recently-deceased Stanley Kubrick. Nonetheless, the imagery was stunning: the matron with the motile plants; the spider-invasion of the apartment building; and even the almost-cheesy eye surgery scene. I appreciated all of this.

      In short, it's a lot like Fifth Element to me: a combination of flaws and merits where the narrative is occasionally compromised by spectacle. Anyway, it's easy for me to deal with the flaws.

  • by bigdavex (155746) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#31816986)

    I enjoyed the movies Blade Runner and Minority Report, so I tried reading some of the original short stories. I was disappointed. The writing style is uninspired and the characters are underdeveloped. I think this works for the filmmakers, because they are free to take a premise and fill in the details.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#31816988) Homepage

    ...predicting the future is the most powerful superpower of all.

    Nic Cage was arguably a superhero in Next because seeing 2 minutes into the future let him outmanouver bad guys and walk through machine gun bursts untouched. Seeing an hour into the future let Tom Cruise and the precogs eliminate murder. And seeing a whole day into the future in Paycheck let Ben Affleck save the world.

    Even Dick's novels don't feed the need; Push showed Dakota Fanning the most important of a bunch of psychic heroes because the seers are always a step ahead of you.

    Not that Dick was way out there with that; it was the most powerful spice-given power in Dune, and even George Lucas makes it a plot-steering device in Star Wars. Just the ability to see a fraction of a second into the future made 9-year-old Anakin a top race driver.

    (Funny coincidence: not long after the recent Star Wars movies came out, BBC did a special "Top Gear" about race driving and the host actually took Michael Schumacher into a bar and demonstrated Schumacher was no better than anybody else at the old trick of "catch the bill before I drop it through your fingers". He has the same physical reaction time as anybody else. Top drivers like Schumacher *anticipate* what's coming next - seeing into the future by the ordinary ability of the brain to model the world - and actually start reacting to things before they happen. Lucas is really pretty smart, just not so hot at dialogue.)

    • by qc_dk (734452) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:47AM (#31817648)

      (Funny coincidence: not long after the recent Star Wars movies came out, BBC did a special "Top Gear" about race driving and the host actually took Michael Schumacher into a bar and demonstrated Schumacher was no better than anybody else at the old trick of "catch the bill before I drop it through your fingers". He has the same physical reaction time as anybody else. Top drivers like Schumacher *anticipate* what's coming next - seeing into the future by the ordinary ability of the brain to model the world - and actually start reacting to things before they happen. Lucas is really pretty smart, just not so hot at dialogue.)

      I'm sure he has better physical reaction time, for things related to racing. He probably has programmed reflexes that are related to the feel of the steering wheel that are much faster than either yours or mine.

      I'm a fencer and I can see both(better model, better reflexes) working for me, when fencing beginners. I am better at predicting what people will do. My muscles are faster, and finally I can react faster. The final trick comes from not thinking about a move. If you have to do what Schumacher did in the test (observe,analyse,react) it's clear you are going to be about as fast as anyone else. With enough training you can teach your body to have certain reflexes that are much faster, because the action bypasses parts of the brain. (you can exploit this in fencing because if you discover your opponent has a reflex like this you can trigger it and know his reaction)

  • by kaizendojo (956951) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:10AM (#31817076)
    I'd rather see Phillip K.'s work than the current list of "Dicks" writing SciFi scripts lately.
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:11AM (#31817092)

    If you look at Adjustment Team [], we see that it is in the public domain.

    As is The Variable Man [], The Golden Man [], The Last of the Masters [], Meddler [], Shell Game [], The Turning Wheel [] and possibly a number of other stories.

    But obviously this just proves, that without never ending copyright claims, the world will never see great art again.

  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:27AM (#31817334)
    Film that one if you can! Deeply, deeply strange.
  • by Tomsk70 (984457) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:43AM (#31817594)


  • by Andy Smith (55346) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:37PM (#31818404) Homepage

    We need a remake of Total Recall because...?

  • . . . of course. . . (Score:4, Informative)

    by jafac (1449) on Monday April 12, 2010 @01:26PM (#31819190) Homepage

    . . . Hollywould "gets it". . . LONG after PKD's coolness buzz has faded. That's the way Big Money works. It's the way Big Money has ALWAYS worked. It's really what "cool" was first all about - until they tried to package and market cool to us. Then it was what "punk" was all about. (wash-rinse-repeat).

    Change the name, but it will always be the same: The folks who try to tell us that getting rich is all about taking risks, are really the most financially secure (relatively), and therefore the most risk-averse folks on the planet, and therefore, as far as cultural trends go, will always pretty much be positioned way far back on the long-tail as far as coolness goes.

    A person with a $400 million trust-fund in the bank risking his own $5 million investing in a film based on a PKD story, in 2010, is NOT anything like "cool". Though, the rank and file hoi polloi market will reward him generously.

    A person with $20 in the bank risking $5 (possibly tomorrow's dinner, or the electric bill, or prescription co-pay for his antidepressant meds) on a paperback novel by a new, unknown, unpromoted writer published by an off-brand house (maybe self-published, these days), with fresh ideas that haven't been recycled a dozen thousand times by low-budget mass-market screenwriters - is the definition of cool. That guy will earn the small-scale social respect of his peers by relating his experience in reading the book, in casual conversation. That's how social animals work.

    Then, in 15 years, when the trustafarians decide this writer's popularity has safely gained enough critical mass that they can risk .001% (insured) of their net worth on a film, that "cool" person, and his peers will puke when they see the trailer.

    Nobody expresses this phenomenon as succinctly as "Indy-rock Pete" in Diesel Sweeties. Which, I think, ceased being cool about 5 minutes before I "discovered" and started reading it. I'm waiting for the Michael Bey version of Diesel Sweeties. 16-bit graphics and all. In 3D Imax, Dolby Surround.

  • by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:00PM (#31819700)
    I always liked Blade Runner, the movie. I've also always loved reading sci fi. Recently, I read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and loved it. My next read is "Ubik".

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