The 1982 release of science fiction film Blade Runner proved to be most iconic in filmmaking history for it defined the standards of futuristic cinema; subsequent films that approach the same level of possibility have appropriated much of the same ideology, which projects a dystopian view of the future. Some of these films are Boris Sagal’s The Omega Man in 1971 and its 2008 remake I Am Legend by Francis Lawrence, The Wachowkis’ 1999 film The Matrix, and the 2002 hit Minority Report directed by Steven Spielberg.
In each film, as in Blade Runner, the future is portrayed to have been conquered by certain evils propagated by creations of human technology, and the goal is to either correct the errors or maintain the equilibrium or peace achieved. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner creates a universe that initially allowed the manufacture of replicants, which are human clones meant to serve in off-world colonies that eventually wreak havoc among humans.
The storyline is simple enough, as retired Blade Runner Rick Deckard, efficiently played by Harrison Ford, is tapped to eliminate several replicants that have escaped to Earth. With these clones programmed genetically to exceed human capacities in terms of strength and intelligence, Deckard’s reluctance to hunt them down is met with his former superior’s disapproval; he is told clearly that he is either a cop, or part of the ‘little people’.
Thus Deckard sets out to find and kill the dangerous replicants, which are all configured to perform certain tasks in their respective four-year life spans: Zhora, the martial arts assassin; Pris, the pleasure model; Leon, the nuclear fuel loader and immediate cause of the hunt due to his murder of another Blade Runner; and Roy Batty, a combat model and apparent leader of the crew. In the midst of this adventure, Deckard meets Rachael, an assistant at the replicant-making company Tyrell Corporation; this replicant is programmed to believe she is human, and eventually establishes a romantic relationship with Deckard.
In the end, Deckard manages to kill the four identified replicants, albeit leaving Rachael unharmed. The stated differences among the characters and their significance in the film reveal the themes of power and oppression amidst a distinct class society operating within the human constructs of authority and labour. II. Social Classes and Themes in Blade Runner The film was made during the height of the Ronald Reagan era, which was defined by an increased level of importance on defence and significant cuts on regular needs such as housing, education, and welfare (Gerblinger).
The Reagan ideology was deeply rooted in the classic and traditionalist views of society and its perceptions, including the idea of regression; this is evaluated in terms of ‘going back’ to a state considered ideal. During the 1980s, this meant eliminating all forms of defeat or failure identified with the country, in this case the Vietnam War of the previous decades. Because this had ultimately harmed the consciousness of the American people as well as the concept of leadership and utopia, the primary concern was to revert to convention—including espousing the values that had originally made America unblemished in its greatness.
This same thinking is apparent in Blade Runner, where man-made innovations eventually became the threats to humanity; thus the only solution is to re-establish the norms that uphold the constructs of heroes and power structures, and destroy all intervening elements such as those symbolised by the replicants. The existence of social classes is seen in the dynamics between the Blade Runners and the government, the replicants and humans, and the Blade Runners and the replicants.
The segmentation of ‘cops’ and ‘little people’ is at once a clear intent to define the distribution of power: human police and Blade Runners, representing the government, possessed authority and rule; ordinary humans are the subjects of government; and the replicants are intentionally created to perform specific tasks that essentially categorise them into the labour function. Production is a necessary aspect of their existence, but when they are found to possess enough physical and mental power to surpass the capacities of government, they are declared illegal.
Such is typical scenario in Marxist discussions, wherein the presence of power is often claimed by those who can in order to dictate upon the less privileged; the value of labour and production is seen solely in their contribution to increase this power, and negations of it would almost always result in oppression. III. Urbanisation in a Dystopian Society The filmmakers channel Hong Kong’s relatively small yet technology-driven metropolis in creating Los Angeles in 2019, including notable effects of urban decay produced by the economic objectives of globalisation.
This echoes the era of Blade Runner’s filming, which was characterised by fear and paranoia caused by the overtaking Japanese economy; businesses and their employees were wary about corporate takeovers that would eventually harm individual income and lifestyle (‘The Apex of Creation’). This depiction of a bleak future is also patterned after the quirky impression of Japanese cities, including people dressed in costumes that appear to be throwbacks to old eras, wasting away in the synthetic universe of excess and economic power.
Also typical of the perceived restrictions that define Japanese culture is the use of voyeurism and submission, as the influence of corporations is shown to be great enough to pinpoint, expose, and determine any person’s activities. The streets are densely populated and consumerism reveals itself in the architecture, notwithstanding the presented plan of urban efficiency (‘The Apex of Creation’). Humans in the film, apart from those in authority, are portrayed to be mere pawns in the grand scheme of power and control.
The more resourceful ones manage to find their own place in the economic equation by providing for the needs of replicants, thus supporting the ill effects of the imagined universe perpetuated by capitalism and the need for power. In this sense it affirms the practices in place today, with the thriving industries produced by globalisation as related to capitalism such as foreign outsourcing and immigrant-related businesses; the requirement to keep up with the standards set by the privileged forces individuals and entities to dream up ways and means that may go beyond what is deemed acceptable or legal.
The need to survive, the core of all things produced by the attempt to construct the world on a common structure, is the cause of the imbalance in terms of opportunity and economy. In the case of Blade Runner and its depiction of the future, the twenty-first American city is bound to be controlled by fear due to the clear possibility of crime amidst constant re-appropriations of technology (Davis 1992). IV. Characterisation and Identification Because of the obvious goal to make a statement regarding the issues of its time of production, Blade Runner does not make use of stereotypical characters in terms of background and motivation.
On the other hand, the standard elements of fiction still apply, such as the involvement of protagonists and antagonists, here simply portrayed by Deckard the Blade Runner and the replicants, respectively. From the start, the film already explicates the idea of modernity and the presence of replicants as the necessary products of the goal to innovate and explore human capacities of intelligence, science, and creativity. However, like all human errors, the replicants become threats to the humanity they were originally supposed to serve—at least within the context of power and authority.
These qualifications immediately classify the replicants as antagonists, specially as Blade Runners are introduced to be the forces that correct all criminal elements in society. The first scene showing a replicant murdering a Blade Runner further affirms this logic, particularly since the replicant protagonist is shown to demonstrate his assigned skills that equate to evil. Humanity in general is initially put in a vulnerable position in this regard, as the Blade Runner, despite his knowledge and training, falls into the hands of a man-made model.
With the antagonists identified and categorised into their specific illegal capacities, the introduction of Rick Deckard encapsulates the quintessential protagonist—better termed in this case as the hero. His reluctance to take on the job provides him with a human characteristic, appealing to the anti-thesis of the power-hungry; that he only agrees to it because he is subtly threatened makes him even more representative of humans today, and not as they could be in this image of twenty-first century Los Angeles.
The cops and members of the Tyrell Corporation are depicted ambiguously, as they are appropriated as mere vehicles to move the story forward rather than actual catalysts in story development. However, the insistent attitude conveyed by Deckard’s old boss Bryant is enough to relegate him into a position of greed and power, albeit his professed objective to rid Earth of the evils of replicants somewhat diminishes his flat persona. Deckard as hero and the replicants as villains play out logically throughout the film, except for the symbolic inclusion of Rachael as the uninformed replicant.
She represents the positive effect of this technology, as she is programmed with actual human memories; this makes her different from the others, whose nostalgic capacities remain exclusively within their four-year lives. In this sense she is partly hero, as she later becomes key in saving Deckard’s life; this equation is justified by the fact that she is more human than the rest, owing to her memories. But this is still deliberately assigned by a human scientist, making it an act that appears to be the correct formula compared to the errors in creating other replicants.
Rachael thinks she is human, compared to other replicants’ full knowledge of their being. Replicants Leon, Zhora, and Pris are demonstrated to be of correct programming, devoid of human emotion and logic; but their leader Roy Batty, while consistent in his own assignment, is shown to have some concern over his kind as well as the ability to comprehend his existence. This makes him less flat and static compared to his compatriots, which somehow portrays him to be more human as well.
Consequently, the clear differences between Deckard and the replicants allow the viewer to know which characters with whom to identify, but the circumstances surrounding their individual situations make them all victims of human error and need for power. V. The Understanding of Humanity The whole concept of Blade Runner can be traced to Biblical parameters, given the parallelisms between chaos and creation, and the eventual betrayal of the created Eve compared to the replicants’ supposed mutiny (Bosnak 2001). Though there are many religious beliefs worldwide, the common idea of the universe created by a Supreme Being is present in most.
This may also be assumed to be the philosophy behind Blade Runner, with its futuristic stance only confirming a human subscription to the idea of order and peace. And like the Biblical portrayal of Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden, the powers that be in the Blade Runner universe also found reason to eliminate the replicants of their own creation. Logically, this translates into the choice of good over evil; however, unlike the Biblical depiction of God banishing Eve for her deeds, the government in Blade Runner decides to completely eliminate the replicants due to their uprising.
Life, in the Biblical sense, is always treated with respect—one that is not apparent in the film. But the technical excuse could be the fact that replicants are not human; although they are clearly represented in the exact image and likeness of their creators. In the film, humanity is not completely explored, and the only qualities that are brought into focus are emotions and memories. The lack of these in replicants makes them entirely incapable of logic and judgment, but the presence of Rachael complicates this presented thinking.
To be human is to be able to feel and remember, judge between right and wrong, and have inherent compassion; though these are not seen in the violent replicants, they are obvious in Rachael’s character. On the other hand, the cops and the Tyrell Corporation are more akin to the one-track minded replicants, despite the fact that they are human. VI. Perception and Reality Blade Runner, being a futuristic film, necessitates portrayals of the future as the filmmakers see it. In fact, these are produced by the filmmakers’ own perception of what the world will be in the twenty-first century, given that the film was made in the early 1980s.
As discussed earlier, much of the storyline and physical depiction of Los Angeles are informed by the events and concerns prevalent during the film’s inception, making it largely a statement of current issues as well as a combination of various influences from architecture to literature. Even the idea of an android or a replicant is typical of the decade, which was then thought to be the epitome of futuristic technology. These then are the simulacra evident in the film, appropriated as the logical outcome of developments in science; they are believed to be possibilities in 2019, including the important imitation of the human form.
With these in mind, the film may be assessed via the context of postmodernism, which negates all claims to individuality and exclusivity (Jameson 1984). The use of human likenesses in the form of the replicants is but a nod to an already existing concept, which then becomes questionable in depicting reality in the future. The opposing ideology of modernity requires the introduction of new ideas and forms, which the film only achieves in its dystopian view of the world.
Other than that, the appropriation of cops and mercenaries, vendors and corporations, are but replications of the terms available during the making of the film. Even the complexities of thinking in the film do not stray from the already acknowledged, such as the existence of greed and hunger for power versus the oppression of the ‘little people’. The replicants themselves are given human limitations in terms of logic and ability, since these are products of minds that chose to remain within the known. VII. Conclusion
Blade Runner is undoubtedly one of the finest films ever made, as evidenced by its lasting effects on viewers to this day. It managed to approximate a future real enough to believe in, due to the fact that many have imagined it to be defined by human clones and technology. Looking back, however, the filmmakers were not at an apropos time to know the possibilities to be brought by the actual technology such as the internet; if the idea of electronic capabilities were made available to them then, the idea of clones or replicants may not have been the choice of futuristic representation.
Blade Runner’s world is almost entirely physical in its change, whereas actual reality almost eliminates the requirement of place and time. The internet has made the world less prone to producing clones or human substitutes—a reality that may have changed the story of Blade Runner had it been made today. Bibliography Blade Runner 1982, Warner Bros. Bosnak, M. 2001, ‘The Nocturnal Future as Alienated Existence: Blade Runner’, Journal of Economic and Social Research, Vol 3 No 2. Gerblinger, C.
‘Fiery the Angels Fell: America, Regeneration, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner’, Australasian Journal of American Studies, Vol 21 No. 1. Jameson, Fredric. 1984, ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, New Left Review Vol 1 No. 146. Davis, M. 1992, ‘Beyond Blade Runner: Urban Control the Ecology of Fear’, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, 1st ed. No. 23. ‘The Apex of Creation’, [Online] Available at www. architecture. uwaterloo. ca/faculty_projects/terri/film_papers/blade_runner. pdf –