Monday, October 31, 2011

Blade Runner / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Film: “Blade Runner” Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford. (1982)

Book: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick. (1968)

This is an example of a film loosely based on a story, unlike “The Princess Bride,” which was quite faithful to the book. There are many differences between “Blade Runner” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

The basic plot of both movie and film is about a detective who must find androids who are pretending to be human. They are not allowed to be on Earth anymore, in this futuristic dystopia, so they must be terminated. It’s a dirty job, but Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard can do it. The story explores the question of what does it mean to be human. Deckard tests suspects for empathetic response, using a machine that measures bodily reactions such as heart rate, breathing, and eye movement. His mission gets complicated when he meets an android who nearly passes the test, and he begins to wonder about the line between androids and humans.

The book and film posit that it gets harder to tell the difference as androids become more advanced and humanlike. It also neglects the possibility, in my opinion, of humans who lack empathy, seeing as this is a sign of major sociopaths. In a story about the morality of killing something that is barely distinguishable from humans, as androids are fighting for freedom and equal rights, I think it could have been a valid point to address.

The book does get a little long-winded at points, especially where Deckard is obsessed with getting a real live pet, in a world where animals are nearly extinct and highly desired as status symbols, representing the value of real organic life. This was completely left out of the film, even though that is the main theme. Much of the symbolism added to the movie, such as origami unicorns, was lost on me. A lot of it just seemed to be added for weirdness or shock value. The actions of Deckard were also altered so much that I found his character much less sympathetic.

Final Cut:
For these reasons, I’m not sure why the movie became such a cult classic. The book itself has lots of action, violence, and sex already without Hollywood’s changes. I wouldn’t mind seeing a new film adaptation that stays truer to Dick’s story. Despite a handsome young Harrison Ford, overall I would recommend skipping the movie and reading the book.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Princess Bride

"The Princess Bride" is one of the best book-to-movie translations out there, perhaps because the screenplay was written by the book's author, William Goldman. Despite his attribution of the book to an “S. Morgenstern,” don’t be fooled. The book is a piece of meta-fiction: a story within a story within a story. This is one of the things I enjoyed about the book, but it’s not missed in the movie. The movie removes one of the layers, but keeps it a story within a story; although changing it from being about William Goldman’s navel-gazing fictionalized self and his relationship with his son to, in the movie, being about a grandfather’s relationship with his grandson. The movie’s bookend is much more likeable, I think. Goldman as a pathetic screenwriter who wants to impress actresses while in Hollywood doesn’t come across as nearly as charming. Sure, his attempts become derailed as he tries to track down a copy of S. Morgenstern’s “The Princess Bride” for his son back in New York City, but I much preferred the movie’s more wholesome story of a boy home sick who receives a visit from his grandfather.

The main plot of Westley and Princess Buttercup follows the book quite closely. It does drop some backstory on the supporting characters, but the movie isn’t hurt for this. If anything, it makes reading the book after seeing the movie more rewarding. The actors make the characters so loveable that I was excited to learn more about their backgrounds. The movie skips over this for the sake of time and narrative flow, but rewards readers by not removing callbacks or hints to the backstories of the book.

Though the music and sets of the film are a little cheesy taken on their own, the film is really wonderful thanks to Goldman’s witty writing and the actors’ committed, solemn delivery. In my opinion, the actors make the movie better than the book.

Film: “The Princess Bride” (1987) Directed by Rob Reiner, written by William Goldman. Starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, and Robin Wright.

Book: The Princess Bride (1973) Written by William Goldman.

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