Hollywood may have found its next golden goose in Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick and his twisting, alluring science fiction stories have been confounding Hollywood since his work was first adapted for the screen in 1982 with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The mixed reviews and lukewarm box office reception that Scott’s movie initially received is perhaps the best example of how adaptations of Dick’s work have slowly gone from being the providence of visionaries to the entertainment du jour of mainstream audiences over the course of decades.
Generally, someone tries to adapt a PKD story once every couple of years, but 2017 is going full bore on adaptations with three major projects currently in the works. Does that mean audiences are finally catching up with Dick’s imagination? Or has Hollywood just picked a new golden goose? Maybe a little of column A and a little of column B.
First up is the return of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, which is coming back for its second season after a packed, and momentous season finale. As one of our top Sci-Fi TV show picks for 2015, if you aren’t watching this Amazon Prime exclusive, you should.
The first season originally released on Amazon Prime in November 2015. Expect to see season two in late 2016, although Amazon hasn’t set an official release yet.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to speculate wildly about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner sequel.
Originally set to drop in January 2018, Alcon Entertainment pushed the timetable for Scott’s sequel forward (a rarity by Hollywood standards), when they moved the release date forward to October 6, 2017.
Scott’s sequel will be directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) when it starts production this summer. We already know Harrison Ford will return as Rick Deckard, and that he’ll be joined by Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, and Dave Bautista.
Finally, but perhaps most interesting of the three projects, is the Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo) project for the UK’s Channel 4.
Moore and Cranston are partnering to creating a Philip K. Dick anthology series titled Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick. The 10-part anthology miniseries will be written by Moore, who is producing the show along with Cranston and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex). Cranston is expected to star as well.
For Sci-Fi and TV fans in general, these are some heavy hitters with a strong pedigree of creating quality shows. If you are a fan of Dick’s works, you couldn’t really ask for more. Each episode in the series will be a standalone story designed to illustrate Dick’s “prophetic vision and celebrate [his] enduring appeal.”
There isn’t a firm release date yet, but the show will air on Channel 4 in the UK. For those of you who aren’t Anglophiles like our esteemed DBP editor, Sony Pictures will be handling the worldwide distribution. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on where and when it will reach North American shores.
Hollywood loves a profitable name for its source material, and it’s taken them quite a while to see if they could get Philip K. Dick to be a consistent success. If 2017, and the three adaptations in the pipe, find even a modicum of success, expect to see an absurd number PKD projects appear in the future instead of the piecemeal production that it’s been to date. With 44 novels and 121 short stories, that’s a lot of source material to adapt. And once the mining begins, it will be tough to stop.
An obvious parallel is comics, but there are many others, like the mining of dystopian YA novels that has occurred in the last 6 years. In the post-Harry Potter world, studios sought to find the next series of adaptable YA books.
In 2010, they tried to capture the HP magic (pun intended) with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Neither film did all that well critically, though Percy Jackson did high enough global sales to warrant a sequel in 2013’s The Sea Monsters. Where that series failed, the Twilight series very much succeeded (at least at the box office).
Financially, the biggest post-Potter winner is the The Hunger Games. Since that adaptation blew up the movie charts, studios have released a glut of post-apocalypse YA movies from the Hunger Games sequels to the Divergent series to the Maze Runner series. Throw in The Giver and Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and we’re up to more than 10 films since March of 2012 when Hunger Games first released. All it takes is one massive success and the floodgates open.
Ubik alone has had at least four unsuccessful attempts at a live-action adatation. If they can add “From the visionary mind that created “Man in the High Castle and Blade Runner,” the chances of it actually being made jump significantly.