The Adjustment Bureau’s cheaper better cousin (a 2002 Twilight Zone adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Adjustment Team)

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After listening to the recently re-released public domain audiobook of Adjustment Team (or the Brilliance Audio audiobook |READ OUR REVIEW|), you’re probably looking forward to watching the well advertized film adaptation entitled The Adjustment Bureau.

Here’s what I wrote about the trailer back in April:

The Adjustment Bureau movie trailer: Powerful, handsome bachelor boy meets cute girl -> handsome boy loses beautiful girl -> handsome boy is chased by powerfully fedoraed men -> handsome gets beautiful back again.

Now, after having seen the film I can say it is exactly like a longer version of the trailer.

The Adjustment Bureau is a competently written romance. But as such it is neither toned nor focused like any Dick story you’ve read.

In their recently filed lawsuit the lawyers for the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust got one thing right. They said this:

“[the filmmakers] took every opportunity to exploit the valuable imprimatur of … the Dick name … they did everything they could to capitalize on the fame, the cachet, the brand of being BASED UPON A STORY BY PHILIP K. DICK.

The estate seemed happy to have the Dick name on there, however diluted its “brand” should become, but only so long as they get to “hoard any and all monies” they think they’re owed. But this post isn’t about that, not directly. This post is about stories, and why ideas matter in stories.

Nearly every element of Adjustment Team‘s plot has been dispensed with in the film. Gone are the talking dog and the “friend with a car.” In are a MAGICAL NEGRO in the form of a dozing black man (replacing the dozing dog), a MEET CUTE ballerina girlfriend and an off the cuff why-can’t-they-do-that-in-real-life political speech that’s also an old trope (called THROWING OUT THE SCRIPT). Also gone are the questions such a world as Ed Fletcher has discovered he lives in would mean to you an me. I came away from Adjustment Team thinking metaphyscial, seeing the idea that Dick was working through, seeing how I’d thought similar ideas, and why my ideas were wrong. I came away from The Adjustment Bureau needing to pee and no wiser than I went in.

The Adjustment Bureau is a fine Hollywood date movie, and it bares almost no resemblance to any Philip K. Dick story you’ll ever read.

I’ll give it this, the film is very competently put together – it’s a by the numbers Hollywood romance with a snappy chase sequence sandwiched between some quasi-fantasy/religious elements. And several fine actors got paid to show up and Carthage must be destroyed.

But the story, Adjustment Team, while only a minor work (just 18 pages). is a paranoid think piece in a suburban setting.

So what are you to do if you’re looking for a more genuine adaptation?

I recommend you check out The Twilight Zone (2002), which has a better, cheaper adaptation of the same story. They’ve called it Gabe’s Story.

The script for Gabe’s Story is credited to Dusty Kay (not PKD) but many of the Dick story elements are in there. Plus the episode is just the right length (22 minutes) to get in with the idea, pose some interesting questions, and let you move on. and in case you’re curious, it’s also got the poor married shlub (with a wife who thinks he’s crazy) a black man in the back yard (not dozing this time) and a trip downtown to an unusual office building. By dispensing with all the romance it gives you the chance to think about what Dick was aiming at, namely what it would all mean if the world was really run from the top down and not the bottom up.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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