'Blade Runner 2049' cements author Philip K. Dick's legacy

Rick Olivares

Posted at Dec 22 2016 03:02 PM

When the trailer of "Blade Runner 2049" was released last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but marvel at the work -- the entire body if you will – of the late American science fiction author, Philip K. Dick.

Dick was a mostly unknown if not struggling writer at that time and became popular posthumously as he passed away at the age of 53, four months before the Ridley Scott-directed “Blade Runner” was released. The author did, of course, plant his imprimatur on the whole film project.

Although the film adaptation of his book, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was initially far from a critical and commercial success in 1982, it became a cult classic and a highly popular choice in video rental to the point that there were various iterations released with the whole controversy if one of the characters was a replicant or not sparking vigorous debate. When the director’s cut was released in 1992, it became one of the few films to be re-released in cinema, decades after its initial screening.

It wasn’t until the release of the Paul Verhoeven film, “Total Recall,” that was loosely based on Dick’s short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” that the writer received the adulation and respect he never experienced when he was alive.

The massive success of the Steven Speilberg-Tom Cruise blockbuster that ensued, “Minority Report,” based on a short story by the same name, kicked Dick’s popularity into overdrive. Nowadays, you have annual Philip K. Dick festivals and conventions!

Moreover, 11 of his works - with three in the pipeline for future release -- that have been adapted in some way have collectively grossed $1 billion. Not bad for someone who struggled yet was highly prolific as he published 44 novels and 121 short stories.

And now we’re on to the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” that is slated for a 2017 release. “Total Recall” was re-made in 2012 so technically, “Blade Runner” is the first of Dick’s works, to merit a sequel.

Harrison Ford is back as Rick Deckard -- the bone of contention in the “is-he-a-replicant-or-not” issue. Incredibly, Ford was able to play all of his iconic characters from his most popular films. The now 74-year old actor returned after 19 years to play the archeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones in "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." And last year, 2015, Ford once more played the space smuggler-turned rebellion leader Han Solo in “The Force Awakens,” 32 years after the last Star Wars film, “The Return of the Jedi.”

And now 35 years after “Blade Runner,” Ford, who had made a career portraying roguish characters, is back as bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, and will share billing with Canadian actor, Ryan Gosling who is 36 years his junior.

Ridley Scott is off the director’s chair. In his place is Denis Villeneuve, the Canadian director who recently was at the helm of the Emily Blunt film, “Sicario,” and the aliens-are-among-us sci-fi motion picture, “Arrival.”

I loved “Blade Runner” for its sci-fi noir approach and its wonderful performances by Rutger Hauer as the replicant rebel Roy Batty; Daryl Hannah gave a wonderful performance as Pris Stratton, the pleasure model replicant; Sean Young as the object of Deckard’s affections in “Rachael”; and a very young Edward James Olmos who portrayed the mysterious policeman, Gaff.

I’m hoping that “Blade Runner 2049” with Ford, Gosling, Dave Bautista, and Robin Wright to name a few will be just as memorable and powerful.

As for Philip K. Dick, the man is right up there, maybe even a plane above the sci-fi writers who were more celebrated before his passing in H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. His works that prominently featured virtual or simulated realities and incredible technology while all wrapped around dueling identities and psyches – with "Ubik," "Flow My Tears the Policeman Said," "The Man in the High Castle," and "The Kingdom of the Elves" all in various stages of development, Dick’s work continues to compel and awe.

After all, the man, was ahead of his time.

POSTSCRIPT

H.G. Wells’ works saw the film adaptations of "The Time Machine," "The Island of Doctor Moreau," "The Invisible Man," and "The War of the Worlds."

Robert Heinlein, considered one of the “Big Three” pioneering sci-fi writers along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, had his “Starship Troopers” also receive the movie treatment. While Clarke co-wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey" that is widely considered one of the most influential films of all time.

But in terms of impact, I’d say that Dick in death, has made a bigger impact. “Blade Runner 2049” will cement that legacy.