The Ubik-uitous Philip K. Dick

For some film fans, Philip K. Dick is “that guy who wrote Blade Runner and Total Recall.”

Well, perhaps. Dick wrote stories called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, both of which differed in considerable ways from the films that increased the author’s existing cult-status.

And yet, we may have the filmmakers Ridley Scott and Paul Verhoeven to thank for the resurgence of interest in Dick’s mind-bending science fiction stories. Blade Runner remains one of the most celebrated science fiction films ever made, even thirty years after its release. Total Recall is still popular, and is getting the remake treatment soon (with Colin Farrell, I’m hearing).

It seems to have become a badge of honor for an actor to add a Philip K. Dick property to their record. Keanu Reeves fell into an alternate, drug-induced reality in A Scanner Darkly. Tom Cruise chased his own eyeballs down a corridor in Minority Report. Ben Affleck gave it a try in Paycheck. Nicolas Cage was Next.

These days, Matt Damon is trying to outrun angels in The Adjustment Bureau.

Even Disney is in on the game, adapting Dick’s short story King of the Elves.

And now, one of the most revered and respected novels of Philip K. Dick’s career is reportedly being adapted by Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, one of the most imaginative filmmakers working today. He’s looking to make a movie of Ubik. It might be just the thing for Gondry as his version of The Green Hornet was blasted by critics and lacked much of his personality and style.

Whatever the case, I’m excited. In a time when most fantasy and sci-fi films are about little more than swords and monsters and bloodshed, boasting only in the qualities they’ve stripped from better books, I’m happy to buy a ticket to anything that challenges us to contemplate what we’re seeing. The best adaptations of this remarkable writer’s work – Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly – have had an inventive visual style to match the wildly imaginative narrative. Gondry and Philip K. Dick sound like a big-screen marriage made in heaven.

And it will just perpetuate the author’s, um… ubiquity.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.


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