Pull Up a Chair: Blade Runner: An Examination
Since there has been confirmation that Ridley Scott is in the first stages of making a sequel, Blade Runner 2, I thought I would do an analysis of the original dystopic science fiction Film Noir. Underrated at the time of its release, it has gained in appreciation since, with various box sets and cuts available now. It’s based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep by Philip K. Dick and set in Los Angeles circa 2019. Science fiction writers, even those of the darkest dystopian futures, tend to be overly optimistic quite often, which is the case here, having by that time assuming technologies that are yet to appear.
This, however, can be forgiven as they tread a thin line having to make the future seem advanced enough and yet still enable the reader or viewer to relate in the current time. Blade Runner is no exception, assuming that by this time we are colonizing space. But only for those who qualify physically, and one assumes mentally and financially as well.
The plot — which I will not repeat here in its entirety, but still spoiler alert — revolves around Decker, a Blade Runner, a member of the police unit to track down and execute replicants, bio-engineered slaves developed and produced by the Tyrell Corporation, which are illegal on Earth. Decker is persuaded by Bryant — head of the unit — to come out of retirement to hunt down and eliminate 4 replicants that have come back to Earth from the “Off World Colonies.”
What you are immediately hit with is this view of an urban environment that is only slightly better than completely run down. With floating blimp-like objects that contentiously blare out audio and beam video to entice you to move off Earth to the colonies. Indeed, only those “lesser humans” remain on Earth. Some by choice, but most by necessity due to not being able to qualify. It takes place in an Asian area of the city, with Asian eateries nearly everywhere. You are left to wonder if this is the norm for the whole city or planet, that one of the qualities one needs to posses to move “Off World” is to be White.
The movie gives many messages, direct and a number indirect. That the “Beautiful People” have given up on Earth and have left for the colonies. That those who are still on Earth are left to make it as best they can. That Dr. Tyrell himself is both a victim and benefactor of this, having built an industrial empire through his genus in genetic engineering by supplying replicant slaves to the colonies. That the technology needed to maintain the status quo of the little people on the streets, makes it down to the streets. That those on the street and still on Earth mostly get along, since with the immigration of the “Beautiful People” to the colonies, there is no longer any reason not to get along. Indeed the “street language” is described as “a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you. ” That the police are there primarily to make sure nothing and no one upsets this relationship. That the biggest corporation, both physically and financially, is the Tyrell Corporation, reaching high enough to actually get sun at the top, when in the street it’s always foggy and rainy and polluted. It’s a city left to slowly fall apart.
The view one gets of the city is not unlike that of the old Hudson your rich uncle left you when he moved to Manhattan. With rust and problems you yourself cannot fix, but it still runs well enough to get you to the store and back. Even with fading paint and the bumper tied on with bailing wire, broken radio antenna and a radio that makes buzzing sounds when played. Parked out in front of an old farm house that leans a bit more each year, it hasn’t seen paint itself for many years.
Scott does leave a number of questions unanswered. Like why use an obviously primitive method of identifying replicants? Why not use genetic identification? Unless perhaps the genetics between humans and replicants are so similar, that it has proven unreliable. Was the reason given by Tyrell for implanting memories into replicants the real reason, or is it something else? Does Tyrell have some other use for replicants where memories would be necessary? Why would he give Rachael an extended lifespan, when all others were limited to 4 years. Why did he even try to extend this in other replicants? And lastly, why just a female with these additional qualities?
Blade Runner gives a peek at a capitalist society that has left its former home to be slowly abandoned and fall into ruin; where capitalists have finally found the ideal slaves and ideal peasants.
A great movie, but not a pretty picture.
Looking forward to Blade Runner 2?