Sunday, May 30, 2010

Do Replicants Dream of Electric Blade Runners

I am usually pretty apprehensive about movies or television shows being based off of books. I mean, I understand that for the sake of time things need to be condensed and edited, but sometimes stories are just completely changed, using only characters' names and locations from the book (e.g., every version of The Three Musketeers I've ever seen or that horrible piece of shit “Legend of the Seeker” which destroyed Terry Goodkind's masterful Sword of Truth series). There have been some notable exceptions, such as Peter Jackson's rendition of The Lord of the Rings and the more recent Chronicles of Narnia movie adaptations which actually seem to follow the books fairly closely. Typically, I've found that seeing the movie before reading the book is the better way to go, as it makes the book that much better (and also helps with visualization at times). However, years ago I watched the movie “Blade Runner” and until recently had been unable to find a copy of the book it was based upon due to it apparently being out of print. Thankfully, the folks at The Science-Fiction Book Club, along with Dell Publishing, have re-released Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. After reading the book, I found a desire to dust off my DVD of “Blade Runner” and compare the two as I remembered the movie seeming to have more action than the novel, which seemed a more cerebral endeavor.

Upon actually sitting down and watching the movie again this morning, I realized how very different “Blade Runner” is from the novel that inspired it. I sat down with pen and pad in hand to make notes, but five minutes in abandoned that notion and just sat back and enjoyed the movie. The differences were that vast. The “replicants” in the film were completely different and much more sinister than the androids, or “andys” in the book. The protagonist is single in the film, but married in the book – although he does fall in love/have an affair with one of the replicants/andys in both. There are entire characters and scenes in the movie that the book never even implies, and the population in the movie is much more vast than the post-apocalyptic society presented in the novel. I could go on and on.

The point is, why does Hollywood always manage to take a perfectly good story and muck it up? Granted, in this case, if Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was produced word-for-word as a movie, it would be pretty boring (the book is less action and more written to make you think). However, it always seems that films based on books or short stories regularly make over arching changes that are unnecessary. There are a few exceptions (as I mentioned above) but even in those exceptions there are still scenes left out or even inserted.

I love a good movie, but honestly, a good book is infinitely better. When a good book is made into a good movie, that's awesome. When a good book is made into a mediocre movie, it makes me sad. So, I'm not really sure how I feel about the “Blade Runner” versus Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep dynamic because I liked both of them, even though saying the movie is based on the book is a bit of a stretch; inspired by would be a better description. At any rate, it does reenforce my convictions that Hollywood is running out of ideas for movies and television and justifies my love of books.

~ JC
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