The plot of the 1982 film Blade Runner (directed by Ridley Scott) unravels in the year 2019 in Los Angeles. According to the movie’s plotline, by this time the American society has undergone a drastic transformation, as the so-called ‘replicants’ (genetically engineered androids, virtually indistinguishable from humans) began accounting for the population’s ever increased share. Yet, formally speaking, replicants are not allowed to be present on Earth – the reason why they have been produced, in the first place, is to perform dangerous/non-prestigious jobs in the ‘off-world’ colonies. The film’s main character Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is entrusted with the mission of hunting down the group of replicants, which had made it to Earth illegally, and ‘retiring’ (killing) them.
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The foremost aspect of how the urban landscape is being represented in Blade Runner is that the director made a deliberate point in accentuating the perceptual unfriendliness of the environment, in the foreground of which the action takes place. This was done to expose the urban landscape, as such that prompts people to experience the sensation of an existential alienation. While striving to achieve the earlier mentioned effect, Scott resorted to emphasizing the foreign sounding of the featured neon-advertisements and underscoring the symbolical significance of a never-ending rain. As a result, viewers find themselves submerged in the clearly dystopian atmosphere of a futuristic living, which in turn makes them emotionally related to the explored themes and motifs.
The foremost reason why viewing audiences almost instantaneously come to realize the fact that the film’s action takes place in the dystopian future is that the film’s depiction of Los Angeles does not quite match the contemporary images of this city. After all, even though that the policy of multiculturalism has been enjoying the status of an officially sponsored policy in California for quite some time now, it has not turned Los Angeles into another ‘Honcouver’ yet.
In the film, however, this city appears to have gone almost completely Asian – something that the city’s contemporary residents are yet to witness in the future. The fact that replicants play an important role in Blade Runner, also contributes to the film’s dystopian aura, because it correlates with our unconscious expectation that in the dystopian society, the pace of people’s moral advancement falls behind the pace of the technological one.
Blade Runner ends on a somewhat positive note – Deckard and Rachel (a female replicant, whom Deckard was supposed to kill) end up getting together and deciding in favor of leaving Los Angeles for good. However, there is certain artificialness to the conclusion’s optimistic sounding. After all, the themes and motifs, explored in the film, do imply that in the described dystopian society one cannot possibly expect to be able to live its life without being constantly watched by the government. Therefore, after having been exposed to the movie’s conclusion, viewers invariably end up assuming that it is being only the matter of time, before Deckard and Rachel are caught. Thus, there can be very only a few doubts that Blade Runner does promote the idea that in the future, people’s constitutionally guaranteed entitlement to privacy will be progressively undermined.
There is indeed a certain rationale in believing that the time when Blade Runner was made did result in the film’s apparent bleakness. After all, it was namely the year that followed the deliverance of the American hostages from Iran, which saw the release of this particular movie. In its turn, the earlier mentioned incident with the American hostages showed the whole world that there are certain situations when technologically advanced nations/societies find themselves helpless, while facing a crisis. Partially this explains the neo-noir spirit of gloom, radiated by Blade Runner.
The ‘traces’ of Blade Runner can be well found in a number of more recent Hollywood movies. In this respect, Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report comes in particularly illustrative. After all, just as it happened to be the case with Blade Runner, Minority Report exposes viewers to the image of a futuristic/dystopian society. This society takes pride in having eliminated the possibility for premeditated homicides to take place, while keeping in secret the unsightly aspects of this accomplishment. Thus, we can well assume that there is nothing accidental about the film Blade Runner continuing to enjoy a cult-status. It appears that, during the course of making this movie, Scott remained thoroughly aware of what causes many contemporaries to experience the sensation of being alienated from the realities of a post-industrial (technologically intense) living.
Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perfs. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young. Warner Brothers, 1982.
Minority Report. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perfs. Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton. 20th Century Fox, 2002.