Sunday, April 29, 2007

I've Been Next'd!

Strip mining involves using powerful machines to extract valuable minerals from beneath the Earth's surface, often doing great damage to the surrounding environment. If this process were also to destroy the valuable minerals being extracted it would be a perfect metaphor for what Hollywood has done with the latest Dick adaptation.

'Next' takes a basic idea from Dick's short story "The Golden Man" - the ability to see a short time into the future - and crudely wrings it for everything it's worth, which frankly isn't all that much. The writers and producers clearly attempted to transplant the protagonist of the short story (a golden mutant who proves irresistible to women and therefore spells the end for normal mankind's genetic future) into Dick's every-man hero, in this case the so-wooden-he's-practically-a-whittling-project Nicolas Cage. This crude reshuffling of Dick's recurring themes yields predictably disastrous results.

The film is so vastly different (and inferior) to the short story I wonder a bit why they even felt the need to option the story. That brings me to my concern: what if Dick's name is becoming a selling point for otherwise completely vapid, moronic movies? Hollywood knows all the Dick-heads are likely to see the next PKD adaptation in theaters. Dick's name guarantees a certain cool-factor at least until word gets out that the latest bastardization of his work sucks - yet again.

The Dick estate may end up shooting itself in its collective foot if they keep allowing ham-fisted treatments of Dick's work to flop at theaters. Dick adaptations are already shaky propositions. 25 years later Blade Runner is just beginning to turn a profit. There have now been many more misses than hits. The odds are not running in our favor.

Perhaps there will be two kinds of Dick adaptations in the future. The "serious" novels will get the "Scanner Darkly" treatment with script consultants and proper respect for the source material and then there'll be tripe like 'Next,' vapid car-chase scenes, dodgy chairs, and canned dialog. But you cannot torment audiences with 'Next' and 'Paycheck' clones forever.

When the big suprise ending came onscreen last night in the theater I distinctly heard a young girl in the back exclaim, "Oh no they di-nnn-t!"
Oh yes they did.


Anonymous said...

I thought about going to see the film last night, but why should I pay through the nose to see a crap film simply because PKD's name is in the small print? I'll just wait until it appears in a DVD bargain bin somewhere.

Scott Radtke said...

Blade Runner was a critical and box office flop. That's why it's taken 25 years to generate a profit and what do they do? Re-shoots?! WTF? I had hoped the directors cut would have ended it.

Let's face it, the adaptation game is one that fans of novels are going to lose. It's because the mediums are incompatible and Hollywood types tend to minimize risk - and maximize profits - by plugging in formulas.

There will continue to be good adaptations - Blade Runner, Screamers, Totall Recall(who's with me?) - but they always have been and always will be rare.

Why should we expect an adaptation of P.K. Dick to fare any better?

p.s. Try to find a first draft of the script for Next - That's where all the good ideas probably still are.

Darryl Mason said...

Terrible news that Next is a stinker. Obviously US audiences smelt it coming from a trailer away. What was wrong with The Golden Man story? It was beautiful, touching and scary. And it's a mutant story! Kids love mutants, don't they?

When will producers realise that there is more to a PKD movie than just a big chase and explosions and some mid weirdness?

A Scanner Darkly worked because it was faithful to the novel. Probably one of the most faithful adaptations ever made.

There are still many, many wonderful PKD stories that could become wonderful movies, but the producers and directors should get away from the action, and go with the brilliant ideas inherent in so much of PKD's work.

Frankly, I think the time is right for another adaptation of Electric Sheep, much more true to the original novel. It's still a great story, of which Blade Runner used maybe 20%, and not the best 20% either.

Excellent site, David. Keep up the great work.

Darryl Mason said...

BTW Scott,

I think Total Recall was great fun, and it's still worth a look today.

From what I know about PKD's love of movies, and his sense of humour, I think he would have enjoyed Total Recall as well.

Do you all know PKD wrote a screenplay for Ubik? It's almost like another book, an extended Ubik. Tons more dialogue and ideas and new scenes. But if it had been filmed as it was written, it would have run for five or six hours, with monologues stretching for three or four minutes. Lots of long, but excellent raves.

Valis, Radio Free Albemuth and Flow My Tears have all now been optioned for movie adaptations, apparently. Here's hoping the producers are brave enough to do the book's justice. Though I'd be surprised if the brother-sister incest of Flow My Tears would be included. Interesting to note that Tom Cruise held the rights to Flow My Tears in the late 90s(?) and was planning to play Jason Taverner.

Ragle Gumm said...

I agree with you; it's time for another version Do Androids... done with the same faithfulness to the script exhibited in Scanner. No roto-scoping this time though...

Anonymous said...

The Cruise as Jason Taverner? Good grief. He was bad enough as Anderton.

Duncan Lawson said...

Even if you take away the disregard for the original story, the movie is so pungently bad. Even with the aid of a couple of pre-movie drinks, I found my jaw dropping at the dialogue, the plot holes, and the acting. With all that money, and all that talent (Julianne Moore anyway) you would hope for something watchable, but no; it was a bowl of shit without the bowl.

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