With talk of a Bladerunner re-make/relaunch/prequel/sequel or other no longer just talk, but actual, I thought it was high time we took a look at some of the superb sci-fi noirs out there before a time inevitably comes when; bastardised by remakes and thoughtless plagiarism, Hollywood conspires to make us not enjoy them anymore.
One of the first things I found when I began researching this article is how few sci-fi noirs are a) out there and b) and good. The majority of the good ones were unsurprisingly adapted from the work of Philip K. Dick (some not. I’ Robot anyone), but in some rare instances this wasn’t the case.
Below are a list of what I consider my favourite five, if not best, Sci-fi Noir flicks currently in existence, and an analysis of the Private eye type Protagonists that drive them. There’s obviously more had I wanted to make it a top ten (City of Lost Children and The Matrix definitely might feature), but in keeping it short and sweet here’s what I came up with.
I’ve referred to the main Protagonists as Dicks, in keeping with the slang term for private eye’s, although notably not all the main characters in the movies are PI’s, in some cases they’re just people trying to work out the mystery they’re currently embroiled in. But I’m calling them Dick’s anyway for simplicity’s sake. Just in case you wondered.
Lets get started after the jump:
The Film: Minority Report
Directed by Steven Spielberg and Starring Tom Cruise, Minority Report was loosely based on the short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick and was originally considered for a sequel to Dicks other loose film adaptation Total Recall. Spielberg described the film as “fifty percent character and fifty percent very complicated storytelling with layers and layers of murder mystery and plot.” which makes it a perfect addition for the sci-noir genre.
Set in the year 2054, where “PreCrime”, a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”. The film’s central theme is the question of free will vs. determinism. It examines whether free will can exist if the future is set and known in advance.
The Dick: Captain John Anderton
As Captain John Anderton, a divorced and middle-aged, Chief of the Department of PreCrime in Washington, D.C. the disappearance of his son has devastated him, and provided the motivation for him to join the PreCrime unit. He is addicted to drugs, which he uses to cope with the pain from the loss of his son, but maintains a professional appearance while at work.
Not really a detective in role, Anderton definitely is in spirit. A damaged character with a drug addiction, a divorce and a shed load of hang ups from his past Anderton is perfect pulp dick material from the mould of Marlowe, Spade or Milodragovitch. Suspecting he’s been set up when the Pre-cog’s predict that he’ll kill a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours, Anderton is forced to go on the run to clear his name in a ripping yarn that see’s the murder/mystery convention turned on it’s head as Anderton’s actons are complicated by pre-cognitions and nothing is as simple as it seems.
You see the dilemma don’t you. If you don’t kill me, precogs were wrong and precrime is over. If you do kill me, you go away, but it proves the system works. The precogs were right. So, what are you going to do now? What’s it worth? Just one more murder? You’ll rot in hell with a halo, but people will still believe in precrime. All you have to do is kill me like they said you would. Except you know your own future, which means you can change it if you want to. You still have a choice Lamar. Like I did.
- John Anderton: