Film buffs can’t spare much optimism when it comes to messing with the classics. Everything you read about the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner (1982) rehashes the question of whether it can possibly live up to the first one. Unrelenting doubt is clearly the wisest strategy for protecting our innocent hearts, but honestly, who’s to say that this time the sequel won’t improve upon the classic? Some argue that the original film isn’t as good as the novel it was based on, Philip K. Dick’s 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which portrays a more complex and nuanced future than the film does. Here are 5 things from the book that didn’t make it into Blade Runner, but, if screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green shy closer to Dick’s vision, might finally score some screen time in the sequel.
1. Electric Sheep – In the book, the people who are left on Earth after humans colonize Mars are obsessed with animals, even robotic animals. Despite the expense, everyone’s gotta have one, and it’s a major theme of the book. It’s a matter of ego; more like a car than a pet. This is a point of fascination totally missing from Blade Runner, despite how much we would have all loved to watch Harrison Ford play with a kitten (think Eliot Gould’s ‘Hungry Cat’ in Altman’s The Long Goodbye). The pet obsession adds a shade of humanity to Dick’s tough sci-fi, and, were he alive to have seen Blade Runner come out, he might have wondered how Ridley Scott has missed such a major theme of this book. The new film is a great opportunity for Hollywood to make it up to the guy, who unfortunately passed in 1982; the same year Blade Runner was released.2. The Mood Organ – Rick Deckard and everyone on Earth use mood organs in Do Androids (think a radio where you can dial in to any mood you want by choosing a signal). Deckard is heavier user of these devices than the average guy, as his moral quandaries get the best of him when he doesn’t use the mood organ. His job, killing replicants who he increasingly sees as more and more human, drives him to rely on the device. The inclusion of mood organs or mood control in the new film would resurrect the visionary prophesies of Dick’s work, depicting a future in which we use outside stimulus to influence our own feelings, as with pharmaceuticals in modern day (Dick, it is worth noting, was not one to scorn the pharmaceutical indulgences of his own day).
3. A Closer Look at John Isidore – In Do Androids, the point of view switches between Rick Deckard and John Isidore (J.F. Sebastian in the the film), whereas in Blade Runner, the focus sticks with Deckard or with the replicants who use Isidore/Sebastian. The dual narrative both represents the author’s point of view as a schizophrenic and conveniently presents a fascinating insight into opposing views vying for attention within each of us. One assumes that Ridley Scott’s decision to wash over Isidore’s point of view keeps things simple, as compressing any novel into 120 pages means cutting some fat. Isidore, however, was some pretty fascinating fat. It is rare for a film to follow the point of view of a person with mental disabilities, and Dick would probably have been disappointed to see his work go to waste, especially considering he was a man whose own brilliant mind was riddled with schizophrenia, and he only expressed himself fully via the two characters. Bringing back dual narrators in the second Blade Runner might be a chance to more deeply explore Dick’s themes of binarisms within the self and society.4. San Francisco – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is set in San Francisco, and maybe the sequel will move North about 300 miles, to get a bit closer to Dick’s vision. Los Angeles as Ridley Scott’s derelict future metropolis is made fascinating by Jordan Conenweth’s fragmented lighting, and the downtown Bradbury Building was a stunning location to trash in the final fight, but it would be interesting to see it set in San Francisco; arguably the original home of noir. Dashiell Hammett set his gritty crime thrillers in that city for a reason, and it’s likely that Dick would have loved seeing the Golden Gate bridge all dressed up in techno-garbage with hover cars swirling around it like lights on a Christmas tree.
5. Chickenheads – In Do Androids, humans are only allowed to emigrate to the Mars colonies if they pass the physical, because radioactive dust from “World War Terminus” has rendered many humans psychologically unstable, this margin of society being derogatorily referred to as chickenheads. John Isidore is a chickenhead and looked down upon by humans and even replicants, who are his intellectual superiors. The chickenheads of Do Androids were another one of Dick’s million and one ways of reminding us that technological innovations do not always represent an improved standard of living. By creating a sort of caste system among the scant population remaining on Earth, his depressing, post-apocalyptic point is well made. In his lifetime, Dick knew what it felt like to be marginalized by his mental problems and surely would want the chickenheads to be represented in the sequel since they were sadly excluded from Blade Runner.