Philip K. Dick: One Of The More Prolific Science Fiction Writers Of The 20th Century

1741 words - 7 pages

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 the futuristic Voight-Kampff test equipment. This style is one of the reasons Blade Runner has endured nearly thirty years after its initial release while other science fiction films released during this time have faded into obscurity. Rather than rely heavily on action-oriented special effects, director Ridley Scott creates a futuristic environment that is at the same time both familiar and new to audiences. The sense of familiarity the viewer has with this future makes the modern advances in robotics and transportation introduced throughout the story more believable.

In contrast, A Scanner Darkly is immediately noteworthy for its use of rotoscoping. The entire movie was first filmed as any normal movie would be. Afterwards, computer animators recreated the frames, using combinations of several techniques to create the appeal which director Richard Linklater envisioned. Though some would consider this a novelty, the rotoscoping helps recreate the distorted, dream-like sense of reality the characters in the film live in. Colors are flattened and perspective takes on a new feel, as the viewer sometimes feels detached from the environment, much like lead Bob Arctor feels on a daily basis while addicted to Substance D....

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