So Amazon is in the business of making original movies and TV shows. Great. The first one I’m watching is The Man in the High Castle, a ten-episode mini-series of an alternate America–one in which we lost the Second World War–based on the novel of the same name by Science Fiction visionary Philip K. Dick.
Dick, as you may know, is responsible for a great many of the stories behind countless Hollywood movies, including Minority Report, Blade Runner, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau.
Having read the source material for the movies listed above, I can say that Hollywood has a spotty record of translating Dick’s often deep, philosophical ideas into a decent, yet still marketable, property.
Still, I had high hopes going in to this one, especially as I don’t have the source material to compare it to.
First, let me say that Amazon didn’t scrimp in the production values on this. I thoroughly appreciated the overall feel of the series. Set in 1962, the story oscillates between New York, now held by the Nazis
(along with the rest of the east coast and most of the Midwest, nearly to the Rockies), and San Francisco, held by the Japanese empire, along with the rest of the west coast.
The bulk of the Rockies, from Mexico to Canada, have become the neutral zone, a buffer between the two conquerors, and a place where the neither side holds absolute sway.
Spending all ten episodes telling us how important these scraps of film are, we learn that they depict what we would consider “real” history, showing the fall of Germany and Japan. The resistance tries to acquire the films and get them to the titular Man in the High Castle.
No one knows who he is, of course, or where the films come from. At first, we are told that the Man creates them as propaganda against the Nazis and Japanese. Later, when we meet the resistance, they say that they are trying to get the films to the Man.
If that is the case, then where are the films really coming from?
The political intrigue between the Japanese and the Nazis is very well-played, as is the internecine conflict within the Nazis themselves. Plots, counter-plots, and cover-ups all merge together into a single, amorphous entity that is this world in 1962.
That said, I really enjoyed The Man in the High Castle, right up until the last three minutes. The films’ origins are still unknown, a spy gets freed by someone he has tried to kill, and we get a glimpse of the “real” world of 1962 America when a character somehow crosses over.
Dick is a notoriously obscure writer, at times, but even I can’t believe that this is how it ends in his original work. Normally, he provides the reader with at least an indication of the reality behind the story, of how his visions have come to be, but the Amazon version….
Still, I recommend watching The Man in the High Castle, if for no other reason than to enjoy the atmosphere in which it takes place. But if you hate, and I mean HATE, inconclusive endings, then be prepared for those last three minutes.