Essay: Utopias Explored: The Time Machine

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[. . .] Deckard travels to Seattle to interview Rachel, who eventually fails his test. This is explained to Deckard as Rachel lacks normal empathy because of being raised in space. Later, Deckard verifies that Rachel is indeed an android -- a Nexus Six, or top of the line model. This, and his own feelings of self-doubt about the humanity of "retiring" another being, cause him to philosophize about the morality of his era. Interwoven with Deckard's doubt is the store of J.R. Isidore, a genetically -- damaged individual who lives alone. Pris, an idential twin to Rachel, moves into the building and J.R. befriends her. Pris and her friends attempt to use J.R. To trap Deckard, but Deckard asks Rachel for help and confesses that he is in love with her. Rachel reveals that she has used her sexual powers to convince other bounty hunters not to do their job, but instead of retiring her, he returns her to Rosen Industries, the manufacturer of the androids. Deckard then kills Pris and her friends, leaving Isidore alone and in grief, but earning a citation for the number of kills in one day. Returning home, his wife reports that she saw Rachel kill his new genuine pet goat by thowring it off the buildin roof. Deckard is at a loss, and travels to Oregon to meditate, finding a toad that he thinks is original. Returning home to resume his duties, Deckard finds that the toad is artifical; something that makes him ponder the banality of life even more (Dick).

The Time Machine in Film- The Time Machine has been made into film several times; the classic George Pal version in 1960, a 1978 television version, and a 2002 film directed by Simon Wells (the great-grandson of H.G. Wells). While there are subtle differences in dialog, the plot of the films remains relatively similar. The focus of the film versions become more of a romance between The Time Traveler and the Eloi woman, Weena, and less about the philosophical state of the dystopian world. The 1960 version is more simplistic, and the tension comes from the notion of the good/evil dilemma. The special-effects, of course, are fantastic for the time, but seem quite primitive to a contemporary audience. The major theoretical basis of the novel, that of the question of society, is given less than a few sentences. In fact, the importance of the analysis between feudalism and the future, or what might happen to a truly socialist society, that is so critical to Well's novel, is lost. The Time Traveler's theory that human intelligence is the result of conflict and danger and with no real challenge faced by the Eloi or Morlock, there is no reason for spirit, intelligence, drive, and actualization. However, as entertainment, the three adaptations (television without commercials in this case) are interesting. The 1960 version is truer to the novel in terms of the Eloi and Morlock societies; whereas the 2002 version includes the more modern theme of "time paradox" and changing of history based on actions in the past or future. The nature of evil is far clearer in the 2002 version, there is a Chief Morlock who is more evolved and conversant, whereas in the 1960 version the race is brutish, but lack any malice or will -- they are simply carnivores feeding the only way they know how (The Time Machine)

Blade Runner in Film- Blade Runner is admittedly loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It is a 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott, starting Harrison Ford as Deckard, Rutger Haeuer as Roy, the leader of the Nexus-6 group, and Sean Young as Rachel. The film is set in Los Angeles in 2019. Deckard has retired (literally) but is threatened enough that he reluctantly agrees to come back to retire a group of Nexus-Six androids: Leon, Roy, Zhora, and Pris. Each android has been programmed to live only a limited amount of time, something Roy's group wants to correct. Sent to the Tyrell Corporation to ensure that his test works on the Nexus-Six models, Deckard meets Rachel, and experimental android who believes herself to be human. Meanwhile, one of Tyrell's designers, J.R. Sebastian, an oddly quirky character with a genetic disorder that increases his aging, befriends Pris and is introduced to the leader of the group, Roy. Roy convinces Sebastian to take him to the owner of Tyrell Corporation's private suite, at which time he begs his maker for more time while confessing that he has done "questionable things." Tyrell dismisses Roy's feelings of guilt, assuring him that he is of an advanced design and cannot do wrong. In a powerful scene, Roy kisses Tyrell then kills him. Meanwhile, Deckard has retired Leon and Zhora, and manages to kill Pris just before Roy arrives. In their fight, Deckard is hanging from a rooftop, but Roy saves him -- and just as Roy's time of life is ticking away, he tells Deckard that he is sad because his memories will be lost. Deckard returns home, noting that Rachel has been spared "retiring" from the police, and, depending on the version, either leave the apartment in uncertainty, or drive through a more idyllic escape from civilization

Analysis and Effectiveness- Neither adaptation of the novels is completely true to the authors' form and intent. That is not to say that there are no redeeming qualities in each, but only that some of the original core philosophies are diminished, likely to provide for more action and less dialog. Sad though it may be, audiences and box office dollars drive screenwriting -- the audience expects human interest -- Weena and The Traveler, Deckard and Rachel, and seems to identify more with the pathos and choices made when dealing with a romantic relationship than with any inner turmoil or angst.

Blade Runner is truer to the dark form of the Dick novel in that the cinematography is very film noir and the questionable heroic nature of Deckard. It carries a number of Dick's themes, though: religion, the morality of genetic engineering, the Frankenstein theme, and the impact of technology on choices and wisdom. Ridley Scott described the film as "extremely dark, both literally and metaphorically, with an oddly masochistic feel" (Ebert). Dick's novel "feels" dark as well -- huge corporations and a police force create paranoia that Scott channels in almost every scene. The idea of artificial life-forms looms as a comment of how little we humans have cared for our environment. And, as witnessed with several examples, eyes are a prime focus in the film version (a scene in which a scientist says, "You Nexus Six, you have very good eyes, I design them myself," to Roy killing Tyrell by pushing in his eyes, to the empathy test measuring pupil dilation as part of human empathy). This seems to imply that all is not as it seems, and that the audience is part of the decision about the reality of the characters.

It seems that thematically the film versions of The Time Machine fall short of any real psychological drama or philosophizing that was the clear intent of the novel. They are interesting, entertaining, and certainly follow the overall plot -- but they focus on more of a "soap opera" plot than the larger issue of technological development and humanity. However, if for no other reason, it is likely that the films may provoke greater curiosity for the audience to read the novel. In the 21st century, it is very easy for audiences to opt for the 90 minute version of a classic rather than an evening or two of reading.

Conclusions- Blade Runner does not replace Do Androids Dream, but does provide a wider audience to consider some of the important themes in Dick's novel. One of the most powerful scenes in the film, for instance, is the ending monologue in which Roy tells Deckard the things he has seen and done, and with the rain, the dark, and the symbol of the dove arising from the ashes, really points to an extended definition of humanity that may just cause the audience to rethink its own version of morality.

We now return full circle -- the utopian view of 1984 and Gattaca set the base for the imagined future. In 1984 the world has become far more totalitarian and controlled; something that Blade Runner approaches. In Gattaca, we see genetic engineering creating a new version of humanity, but failing to uncover that very notion; yet in Blade Runner, we see that Rachel and Roy are more human than the humans. In The Time Machine, we are whisked away to a finality of the dystopian future -- a time in which all life is reduced to the dichotomy of prey and predator, until finally the cycle of the solar system winds down. We can, however, wonder which version… [END OF PREVIEW]

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