Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's time for a holy war

I now have a heresy named after me. (See background here and here.)

But I see no reason to accept the designation, for the reasons I offer in that last link; it's the pagan DeLong who's proposing to do away with an obviously canonical text.Will no one rid me of this troublesome apostate? Where are my Fremen legions to fight my jihad?

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the following does count as a heresy on my part, and I won't pretend it's an orthodoxy. I finished readin Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? yesterday-- my first time to read it or any Phillip Dick. (Embarrassing, I know.) And: Blade Runner is almost incomparably better. Not only are the characters richer and deeper and better-developed; not only are every one of the major plot changes made by the movie clear improvements over the book; and not only is the mood and environment and sense of change over time better set with "blade runners" and "replicants" than with "bounty hunters" and "androids." But also the core Dickian themes of identity confusion, memory confusion, and not knowing which way reality lies are explored in a (I'm going to get attacked here) pretty tedious and plodding fashion in the book, whereas the movie (the Director's Cut, I mean) successfully spins the viewer around and brings him or her in to the characters' confusion and uncertainty.

I think it's worse than that. I think I just didn't like the book very much. It was only the search for glimmers of the movie's greatness that kept me going through it at all; on its own it was entirely flat. The couple of scenes of ostensible head-trippy confusion about identity just inspired in me a reaction of, "Oh, OK, I guess that's what's going on. Oh, no, that's what's going on. Ah."

I can't think of a time when I've thought a movie so outshone its source book; and I can't imagine how people saw such potential for a movie in such an ordinary story. It turns out the potential was there, but I think that most of what makes the movie interesting (e.g. Roy's and Rachel's struggles with their limitations, the pathos of J.F., the Deckard-Rachel dynamic, even the kind of future that's being inhabited) was not even incipient in the book. The accomplishment was that of Ridley Scott, Hampton Fancher, Vangelis, and Syd Mead and David Steiner, much more than that of Phillip K. Dick.

All right, I'll now go peacefully to my burning.

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