Book vs. Movie: The Adjustment Bureau

March 10, 2011

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In this corner: the Book. A collection of words that represent ideas when filtered through the lexical systems in a human brain. From clay tablets to bound collections of wood pulp to units of stored data, the book has been around in one format or another for some 3,800 years.

And in this corner: the Movie. A 112-year-old kid born in France to a guy named Lumiere and raised primarily in Hollywood by his uncle Charlie "the Tramp" Chaplin. This young upstart has quickly made a huge impact on society, rapidly becoming the most financially lucrative form of storytelling in the modern world.

Both square off in the ring again as Box Office Prophets presents another round of Book vs. Movie.

The Adjustment Bureau

Back in the early 1950s, science fiction was beginning to gain a great deal of popularity. The knowledge that science could take us into the stars or eliminate the human race entirely was beginning to enter the popular consciousness and a great many people were fascinated by it. With fewer competing forms of media in the mid-twentieth century, the most common form of sci-fi entertainment was most likely pulp sci-fi magazines. Magazine racks all over the country were brimming over with brightly-colored magazines with names like Amazing Stories, Fantastic Universe, Startling Stories Imagination and Time To Come. Those interested in making money as writers quickly found an eager market in sci-fi pup magazines.


One such writer was a rather nice guy living in California named Phil. Phil wrote stories furiously to make ends meet. At some point in early 1953, he kicked out a rather interesting idea involving a secret organization that adjusted the course of events in history as they happened. The story was published in Orbit Science Fiction in the fall of 1954. Over half a century later, Philip K. Dick is one of the most acclaimed sci-fi authors in history. His ideas have been turned into films like Bladerunner, The Minority Report and a host of others. This fall, Universal Pictures releases a film based on that fifty-plus year-old story. The Adjustment Team of 1954 becomes The Adjustment Bureau of 2010 — a George Nolfi film starring Matt Damon.

The Story

The Adjustment Team was published only a brief period of time before his debut as a novelist. It was a period in his life when he was feverishly writing stories that were rapidly getting published in numerous magazines. The types of stories he was writing were disparate and sundry. The Adjustment Team had a number of ideas packed into a very, very small package.

The story opens as a clerk with a clipboard approaches a green, stucco house and proceeds to have a conversation with a dog in the back yard. It gets a little weird from there. The clerk is ensuring that the dog knows its job. The dog assures the clerk that it knows its job. Time passes and the husband (Ed) and wife (Ruth) who live there are preparing for the day ahead. She leaves for work. He narrowly avoids making it out of the door when a salesman drops by to sell Ed some life insurance. The dog barks, but it’s too late — one $10,000 insurance policy later, Ed is late to work.

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