Dystopian films: Blade Runner, World on a wire, Source Code, etc.

Jake Gyllenhaal making the Test Shoot At Radiant Images for "End of Watch" (2012)

While much of its success can be tied to its marriage of Groundhog Day to the dystopic world of Philip K. Dick, Source Code would not have worked without its leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan.

In Colten Stevens, he has found a character that he can imbue with his special brand of affably manic desperation. For some reason, Gyllenhaal seems best suited for roles in which he's tilting at windmills, not quite insanely but holding fast to an irrational hope. Source: inconsiderateprick.blogspot.com

“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

That’s the opening line in George Orwell’s classic book, 1984. Here it is once more the “cruelest month” as poet T.S. Eliot contended in The Waste Land, and a similarly bright cold day. Not so sure about the clocks, but the foreboding in those 20th century literary works surely resonates today. The 1949 novel concerns a totalitarian dystopia where the term “memory hole” refers to enforced amnesia and “Newspeak” is language dumbed-down to foster lack of logical thought. Eliot’s twisty 1922 verses include “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” “One must be so careful these days” and other despairing observations.

The Adjustment Bureau and Source Code (released on April 1st), suggest Big Brother-like societies. In the former production, adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, Matt Damon plays a politician who encounters the unseen forces – all wearing fedoras! – that manipulate our lives.

Source Code, cleverly written by Ben Ripley and smartly directed by Duncan Jones, is a sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as U.S. Army Captain Colter Stevens. His last memory is of flying a helicopter mission in Afghanistan when he’s suddenly transported onto a commuter train heading for Chicago with a bomb onboard. www.criticsatlarge.ca

"A dystopic science-fiction epic, World on a Wire is German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s gloriously cracked, boundlessly inventive take on future paranoia.

With dashes of Kubrick, Vonnegut, and Dick, but a flavor entirely his own, World on a Wire is the noir-spiked tale of reluctant action hero Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch), a cybernetics engineer who uncovers a massive corporate and governmental conspiracy. At risk? Our entire reality as we know it. This long unseen three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the weird world of tomorrow from one of cinema’s kinkiest geniuses.

“An analog-age Avatar, a movie that anticipates Blade Runner in its meditation on artificial and human intelligence and The Matrix in its conception of reality as a computer-generated illusion… Fassbinder’s love of mirrors as décor and alienation devices, inherited from his idol Douglas Sirk, reaches a dizzying peak in World on a Wire. Almost every shot features at least one mirror image; faces and bodies are reflected in tabletops, refracted through lamps, caught between infinity mirrors.”—Dennis Lim, The New York Times. Source: www.lacma.org

"As a dark, dystopian flop it seemed, in 1982, that Blade Runner was a place its British director, Ridley Scott, should flee from and never return. As the years wore on, things changed. Rereleases – most significantly a director's cut – saw it become a commercial success. Critics caught up with a growing army of fans, and it was hailed as a classic – a pioneer of neo-noir.

Blade Runner

Production year: 1982

Country: USA

Cert (UK): 15

Runtime: 117 mins

Directors: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Inevitably, there followed calls for sequels, prequels and remakes. It had appeared that Scott was destined to resist, thereby disappointing those hankering to know more of Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). But 30 years on, it seems as though Scott is finally ready to go back to Blade Runner.

Still of Harrison Ford and Sean Young in Blade Runner (1982)

The US production company Alcon Entertainment, which bought the rights to make a new film earlier this year, confirmed this week that Scott had agreed to be involved. "We are elated Ridley Scott will shepherd this iconic story into a new, exciting direction," said producers Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove. "We are huge fans of Ridley's and of the original Blade Runner. This is a once-in-a-lifetime project for us."

Kosove told Reuters: "The idea was always to go right to Ridley and that's exactly what we did." He added that having Scott attached "gives people a level of comfort about how serious we are".

Based on the 1968 Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner was not a box office or critical hit at the time but has gathered plaudits over the years. Negative critical opinion of the film was largely reversed with the arrival in 1992 of Scott's own director's cut, which excised the original theatrical release's studio-commissioned Ford voiceover and a ham-fisted pegged-on "happy ending" denouement which the film-maker is said to have hated.

At 73, Scott is a Hollywood elder statesman and will no doubt have secured final cut as part of his deal to return as director. Alcon has not revealed whether the new Blade Runner will be a sequel or prequel to the original. Dick never wrote a sequel to the book, so Alcon will probably be aiming to produce an original story. Three follow-up novels by the writer's friend, KW Jeter, were written between 1995 and 2000 to try to resolve some of the differences between Blade Runner and its source novel, but they were poorly received and are not widely read.

Ford appears unlikely to return in the new Blade Runner. Alcon makes no mention of him in its press release announcing Scott's signing and in any case, his involvement would ruin the central enigma at the heart of the original film.

Set in an overpopulated future Los Angeles that never sees the sunlight, Scott's movie is about a "blade runner", Rick Deckard (Ford) who is tasked with taking out a gang of replicants (android outlaws) who have escaped to Earth from an offworld colony. The film-maker left the audience to decide whether Deckard himself is in fact also a replicant.

The new film is unlikely to appear before 2013. Scott is also making Prometheus – which sees him return to the universe of his early sci-fi classic, Alien. Source: www.guardian.co.uk