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  • Print Philip K. Dick on film in print
  • Neil Easterbrook (bio)
Paul M. Sammon, Future Noir: The Making of 'Blade Runner'. Revised edition. London: Gollancz, 2007. xix+588pp. £16.99 (hbk).
Jason P. Vest, Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies. London: Praeger, 2007. xviii+223pp. £29.95 (hbk).
Brian J. Robb, Counterfeit Worlds: Philip K. Dick on Film. London: Titan, 2006. 317pp. £16.99 (pbk).

As John Anderton stands 'in front of a cracked mirror' (Dick Minority 85), he hears the radio blaring from another room. It's an announcement that 'the prophylactic pre-detection of criminals through the ingenious use of mutant precogs' (84) – otherwise known as the 'Precrime system' – has identified the fugitive Anderton as a (probable) murderer. The certainty of the mutants' prediction is that a computer systematically compares and correlates their visions. Since 'unanimity of all three precogs is a hoped-for but seldom-achieved phenomena', the computer collates the opinion of the majority pair and produces 'a minority report of some slight variation, usually with reference to time and place, of the third mutant' (85).

In Anderton's case, the minority report is a 'misphased' (89) or meta-vision, a reflection, as through a cracked mirror, of the majority report; this minority report changes the future, since it takes into account the fact that Anderton is notified by the original report of the pending murder: 'a new time-path had been created' rendering the original majority report 'obsolete' (88). But so too does the minority report create another (101), and Anderton eventually manifests his innocence by himself issuing another report – choosing to kill the story's villain, someone who sought to enslave the entire planet Earth. As a punishment (or reward, depending on one's view), Anderton is exiled to the off-world colonies, where his ignominy (or his heroism) will be neither vilified nor praised – just utterly forgotten.

Taken from the story 'The Minority Report' (1956), here is an indirect allegory of the adaptation of Philip K. Dick's fiction by industrial cinema. An original text, all the more significant because it captures a minority view, a heterogeneous vision of the future, is rendered obsolete, then refracted as through [End Page 107] a cracked mirror, which gives rise to a never-ending spiral of dissenting reviews and interpretations, where that series of discursive disputes sends the prophetic source into exile (or benign neglect, depending on one's view). Dick's original text becomes, ironically, the minority report that disputes the Hollywood adaptation, but it is exiled, by neglect, into heroic ignominy or ignominious heroism. Complications, convolutions and conditional parentheticals abound. Very phildickian, that.1

Ever since the appearance of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (US/Singapore 1982), whose genetic ancestor is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), Hollywood has shown considerable interest in mining Dick's work for estranging and estranged ideas, which it then immediately subordinates to the system of homogenisation that still marks the Hollywood ideal.2 This tendency is revealed, perfectly I think, in the DVD extra 'Minority Report from Story to Screen'. That story isn't Dick's 'The Minority Report' but instead the story of how Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg came to work together, their mutual enthusiasm based in mutual respect: two Hollywood giants, so to speak, cranking 888, the Penfield Mood Organ's number for 'the desire to watch TV, no matter what's on' (Dick Androids 4).

There are now nine films from Dick's work – Blade Runner, Total Recall (Verhoeven US 1990), Confessions d'un Barjo (Boivin France 1992), Screamers (Duguay Canada/US/Japan 1996), Impostor (Fleder US 2002), Minority Report (Spielberg US 2002), Paycheck (Woo US/Canada 2003), A Scanner Darkly (Linklater US 2006) and Next (Tamahori US 2007). Scott's film alone has had almost as many manifestations – a US theatrical release, an international release, a circulating 'working cut', a pan-and-scan version for broadcast TV and video cassette, a Criterion analogue laser disc (wide-screen, but with the bottom ten per cent of the image cropped), a so-called 'Director's cut', an uncirculated [End Page 108] forty-seven-minute remix by Charles de Lauzirika and a final...


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