An Exception (Blade Runner)

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Posted by Richard (28th Sep 2000, 11:38)

Originally published in Wyrmtongue September 2000.

One of the rules of fiction (as I'm sure all of you are aware) is that, in the transference from book to film something is generally lost! As the title of this rant suggests I have found an anomaly interrupting this otherwise universal phenomena. I recently read a book called 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' (this was actually the title although it had 'BLADE RUNNER' emblazoned across the front of it). The point is that the book bore almost no relation to the film apart from the central character's first name. Despite radically changing elements of the book the filmmakers managed (burdened by a tortuous production and post production process) to produce a stunning action/science fiction classic, which owed as much to the 'Maltese Falcon'

and the great film noir tradition as it did to contemporary SF.

An interesting twist on the film is the time that it took from the original release in 1982 to the Director's Cut being released on video in 1992. The original film comprehensively failed the screen tests, and as a result had plot clarifying voice-overs added and a tacked on happy ending. Cut to make it more palatable to the 80's consumer (over the great objections of Ridley Scott who was technically fired) were some of the less transparent areas, for example the dream unicorn. This version didn't do well either and was left to die a death, except by a few loyal fans who could see that there was a good movie buried somewhere. At one of these showings an earlier cut without the voiceover was shown by accident and this so improved the film that it ensured the release of the Director's Cut, hailed as the classic it undoubtedly is.

My mistake was probably having seen the film first which usually restricts your imagination when reading the original work. I suppose that in many cases film adaptations miss out huge chunks of plot, but the surprise with this book is the amount removed. Usually some of the details of the book are retained as a sort of respect to the author. With Blade Runner the filmmakers took a hatchet to the book and produced something almost unique in my experience; a film adaptation which so outclassed the original work, that the book has passed out of the public perception.

The questions tackled by both the book and the film (although the film is out to entertain more) surround the nature of life, sentience and the morality of destroying that which is different. Here another difference between the two works emerges, in the film the pathos is with the replicants and there is the possibility Deckard himself is one. You are shown that no matter how different they are they are still alive (brilliantly acted by Rutger Hauer). But the book runs out of feeling for them in the second half and plays the fact that they don't apparently empathise, as a way of showing that they are worthy of eradication.

Read the book and watch the film again and please make up your own minds, but above all enjoy them both!

About item:

- Blade Runner
- Blade Runner - The Director's Cut
- Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (blade Runner)

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- Video
- Dick, Philip K

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read biography for - Sulkyblue

 Sulkyblue ( 20th May 2004, 11:35, Rank: Nazgul )  reply

I've been nagged to watch this film repeatedly by many people and finally gave in. Having been nagged it was never going to live up to it's hype... hence it's kinda tricky to give a review. It was a good film - nice style, interesting plot, ok characters (limitted personalities, but nevermind)... nothing wrong with it. But having been told how great it was, I just didn't think it was *that* amazing. sorry.

read biography for - bigbob

 bigbob ( 20th May 2004, 14:23, Rank: Psycho Historian )  reply

Blade runner is like most film adaptions of PKD it takes ideas from the book. This has a lot to do with most of Dick's stuff beign almost unfilmable in the original form. Another example of this is Minority Report. I actually think the original short story is better but you can see why spielberg made the changes he did. Also i found the film to be better on a second watching.

Anohter great film base don a PKD short is Total Recall.

I must get round to reading Paycheck now that you mention it.

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