Monday, May 22, 2017

A Look at PKD - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

Now that I’m back from Chicago, it’s time to look at more PKD stories and adaptations. Tonight,  it’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Yes, that is the title to the book. I doubt Warner Bros. would have been fine with that name. I can see why Ridley Scott (or who ever was behind the movie) changed to something edgier: Blade Runner. The Phillip K. Dick novel was first published in 1968. It’s been reprinted a lot since then. Blade Runner was released in 1982 and got a mixed reception at first. Since then, it’s become more popular and some claim it’s one of the best sci-fi films.

Now I have a confession about this movie: I hadn’t seen it fully until a couple of days ago. Yes, I know I’m a pretty bad sci-fi fan. Put down your digital ptichforks! I’ve seen small reviews here and there about the movie beforehand. I know Confused Matthew did a review back in the day. I think SFDebris did one as well. I actually read the novel before I saw the movie this time. I checked out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep at the library a couple of years ago. Now that I’ve finally seen the movie and revisited the book, what do I think?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Blade Runner
Novel Written by Phillip K. Dick
Movie directed by Ridley Scott

BRIEF BLURB: In the not too distant future, a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard must hunt down fugitive androids that have landed on Earth.

The novel takes place in San Francisco in the year 2021 (or 1992 in earlier versions). Earth is more or less a wasteland since the last major war. People have gone to the stars and colonized places like Mars. Androids, which looked identical to humans, were given to ones off-world but they were banned from living on Earth. Also, a new religion called Mercerism has cropped up and just about everyone is doing it.  Animals are also going extinct and they are becoming a valuable commodity. If someone can’t own a real animal, they can purchase an electrical one. In Rick Deckard’s case, it’s an electrical sheep.

 A group of androids escape from Mars and come to Earth. Two are killed off by another bounty hunter, but he gets injured, so Deckard is called in to deal with the other six androids. Deckard takes the job and hopes to use the money to buy a living animal. Before he heads out to do “retiring” (killing androids), he’s sent to Seattle to test a procedure that’s used to find androids. The “person” he ends up using the test on is a young woman named Rachael Rosen. After he does it, he gets to do his thing and takes out three andys throughout the night.

Meanwhile, we also follow a “chickenhead” named John Isidore. He lives in a vacant apartment complex and ends up coming across Pris, one of the escaped androids. He takes a liking to her. The two are then approached by the last two survivors: Roy and Irmgard Baty. Since they know the rest are dead, the three hide out in the complex. Isidore decides to help them out.

Back with Deckard, he buys a real goat and takes it home to his wife, Iran. He also gets with Rachael Rosen since wants to help him take out the other three andys. She and Deckard also do other stuff but let’s just say it doesn’t work out in the end. Rick heads over to the complex and takes out the other 3 andys. While he’s done something most bounty hunters haven’t done, he gets some bad news about his goat. The whole experience leaves Deckard reflecting on a lot of things and the story ends.

Movie and Changes
The movie takes place in Los Angeles in the year 2019. Earth was ravaged after a war, so people took to the stars. The Tyrell Corporation created androids aka, “replicants,” to be used in space. They’re banned from Earth, though. When replicants illegally come to Earth, bounty hunters called “blade runners” are called in to take them out. In this case, six replicants come to Earth and two are killed. Rick Deckard is more or less forced in to taking out the remaining four replicants. Before he does so, he is sent to the Tyrell Corporation to test out a procedure in finding replicants. It’s here where he meets Rachael, another replicant and they end up sharing a bond.
Harrision Ford and Edward James Olmos? Yeah, this is awesome.

Deckard is able to find and take out two replicants. Rachael even helps him in taking out one of them. Those two end up getting weirdly close. Meanwhile, one replicant, Pris, ends up befriending an inventor named Sebastian. Eventually, Roy Batty, the leader of the group, finds Pris and Sebastian. It turns out they came to Earth in order to find a way to prolong their four-year life span. Since Sebastian works for Tyrell, he takes Roy to the head. Let’s say things don’t work out.

Deckard finds out about what happened and gets sent on the trail of the final two replicants. It takes some time, but he’s able to take out Pris. As for Roy, their encounter goes a bit differently. In the end, Rick is able to come away from the fight. He ends up leaving with Rachael and our story ends. Before that, we do get a hint that Deckard may be more than he realizes.
Where did she get all fur? 

The changes here are pretty numerous. Other than Deckard chasing after the androids, not much else made it into the movie.  Some names are changed around. Mercerism is completely left out.  Deckard definitely has some changes. He’s not obsessed with owning any animal and there's no wife mentioned at all. John Isidore is sidelined and changed into Sebastian, an inventor with an aging condition.  Rachael is more innocent here than in the book.  More attention is given to Roy Batty especially towards the end. It’s not a faithful adaptation but it tries to stay close to what Dick envisioned.

After re-reading the novel, I got to say that it was pretty enjoyable. Dick lays out all you need to know about this world. While it is a story about a guy chasing down renegade androids, it’s also about how humanity is surviving in this pretty dark future. Dick explores what it means to be human through Rick, John, and even the androids who are more human than some think. Religion is even brought up here in a way that is interesting.

 Even after the introspection, the parts where Rick is going after androids were pretty good. My favorite part is when he actually gets captured. Unfortunately, this part didn’t make it into the movie… well, it sort of didn’t. While we get pretty dour with Rick, Isidore is there to more or less bring some dark humor since he’s a chickenhead. For those who don’t know, chickenheads are ones whose minds have deteriorated thanks to radiation fallout. His interactions with the andys also provided for some interesting stuff.

Is there anything I don’t like about the book? Not really. After the andys are defeated, things end a bit weird. It’s something to do with Mercer. The idea of Mercerism is also okay. It goes into a weird place toward the end though. Other than that and some small nitpicks, I thought this was pretty good. I can see why someone wanted to adapt it. It’s a little disappointing that some cool stuff from here didn’t make it into the movie.

Then, there’s Blade Runner, the watered down version of the book. While that sounds like I didn’t like this, you’re a little wrong. I thought that this was a pretty nice movie to finally see. By the way, it’s "The Final Cut" that I watched. I know that other versions of this movie are around out there. While some things didn’t make it to the movie, it still has some of what Dick wrote about. It still tries to explore what it means to be human through different characters. I also thought that building up Roy Batty (ha!) here was pretty good.
All I'm seeing is that you got influenced by Sting. I didn't know the Police were still popular in your time.

I really liked the neo-noir feel of the movie. The music done by Vangelis definitely played a hand in creating this futuristic, retro vibe. You could tell it was the 1980’s, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked that Deckerd actually put in some detective work in finding some of the replicants. The action with him chasing down some of the replicants was okay. There was one sequence from the book that I wish made it here. Still, his final scenes with Roy Batty definitely make up for some lackluster action.
This scene was pretty weird. No means no, Rick!

There are some things I’m not a fan of here, though. There are some pretty dull moments here and there. While I know it’s not some big action fest, those moments are there. It could do with the fact that Rick wasn’t that interesting to me. Yeah, there’s that part at the end, but Rick was alright. At least Harrison Ford was playing him. Rick’s and Rachel’s relationship gets really unsettling especially at this one point. It was just weird.

As I said before, the action is a little lackluster. Since Deckard is going up against androids, you’d think a lot of it would be pretty cool. Luckily, the action does get much better at the end. Overall, I do enjoy Blade Runner and I can see why folk throw it into the best of the best. I don’t know if I can do that just yet.


In the end, these were nice. While Blade Runner deviates a bit from its inspiration, most of the concepts and messages are still there. If I had to choose what I like better, I might actually say the novel. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t like Blade Runner. You kind of have to view them as two separate but good entities. Check them out if you haven’t. Well, this may be the end of the Dick adaptations for now. I’m not sure if I can get another one out before May ends, but you never know. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and be careful out there.

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