By Michael Donovan, guest writer
Many movies in the sci-fi genre appear to more based on more action, and less futuristic until “The Terminator” and “Robocop” and other dystopic sci-fi movies debuted on the big screens. However, these movies didn’t hold any great resemblance of the future, but instead it depicts a more catastrophic future where robots can be good or bad. In addition, the directors of these movies mostly had a message showing that the cyborgs and robots rule the earth or act as a cop that saves people from crime. As a result, this genre didn’t not give a feel of any cyborgs that need mentioning besides the “The Terminator” because they picture these cyborgs as robots, not humanoids.
However, there was one movie that conveyed the message to the viewer by showing a dystopic future with cyborgs. This showed many different attributes, perspective, and characteristics of the far future and cyborgs. Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” conveys the message that cyborgs can be peaceful and sometimes intelligent as humans and even have the same emotions and feelings of humans despite enhanced strength. This shows that unlike other movies before or after “Blade Runner,” sometimes cyborgs are more savage or evil, rather than the more peaceful and intelligent humanoids in the movie.
The film takes place in a dystopic Los Angeles where cop cars, taxis and cars are hover vehicles. In addition, we also see in the movie that most of the buildings in Los Angeles are taller than skyscrapers and are brighter, showing more commercial ads on buildings rather than billboards. We also see in the background that in the dystopic Los Angeles that there is more commercialism and industries that gives the scene a gloomy look because there is no sun. From the beginning of the movie we see the main protagonist, Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford and his fellow officer named Gaf, played by Edward James Olmos, that meet his previous supervisor, Bryan Deckard, a former “blade runner”. Now this where the term “blade runner” comes in. Blade runners act like special cops that track down and terminate these cyborg humanoids called “replicants,” that were supposed to be illegal on Earth, and want to extend their lives before they expire. However, there are 4 illegal replicants that have escaped and landed on earth. As a result, Rick Deckard has to terminate or “retire” these models before any trouble happens. There we see Rick watching a video of one of the models named Leon (Brion James) that is being tested by the Voight-Kampff machine that tests to see if he is a replicant or human. This is because the replicants look like humans but with more intellect and strength, but the main difference is that they have artificial memory. In addition, this machine tests any reflections and emotions such as eye movement, heart rate, and other attributes. Afterwards, it has been concluded that Leon has to be “retired” after killing another blade runner, Holden. After watching the tape Rick is assigned to “retire” Leon and the other three replicants- Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Pris (Daryl Hannah).
The movie debuted in 1982 and was highly influential due to its production stages, music, special effects, and it’s unique perspective of the future. Some other stand-out special effects include the flames on the building in the dark and hover vehicles, with great sound effects. In addition, the different lighting in several scenes highlight the film’s noir-ish tone, such as the streets where it is dark and the strip clubs where is much brighter, creating the unique contrast. This type of lighting was used multiple times by making the motion controlled camera rewind multiple times for different lighting effects and background. In addition to the special effects, the music was also popular due to different mixes of sounds and techno music, enhancing that futuristic feel when watching the movie. The fim’s main composer, Vangelis (known for his Academy Award-winning composition of the main theme from “Chariots of Fire”) created a certain ambience by using vocals and chimes from the Demis Rousses. He also created a love theme that reflected a haunting tone by having Dick Morrissey play the theme as a sax soloist. In addition to Vangelis, there was also some other songs that were included from different cultures, including Japanese ensembles such as Nippiona, for example. Dave Ripley also incorporated harps, played by Gail Laughton. As a result, the music won many awards and was very well liked by fans. However, the only downside to making the incredible soundtrack was that the release of the score was delayed multiple times, resulting in many bootlegs version of the soundtrack over the years.
The design of the film, like the landscape, gave a futuristic feel of the urban jungle. It is also very similar to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” due to the urban environment with a noir feel. It also depicts a hierarchy where the wealthy are at the top of the crop and overlooking their workers. This is shown when stills of “Metropolis” were inserted with the “Blade Runner,” showing that society is based on wealthy individuals. There were also some incredible aerial shots in various scenes, such as Rachael and Rick traveling into the daylight in the original release of the movie. Last but not least, spinners were used as vehicles in the movie to show a futuristic characteristics, using jet propulsion to let them hover in any direction. The design of the spinner was created by Syd Mead as a way to define it as a vehicle that can create lift when it directs air downward by using press kits by three different engines. It was also shown that the police in the film can only use spinners to patrol the city, but the wealthy can acquire the spinner license even though there is restrictions to own a spinner.
“ Blade Runner” gave us a futuristic and dystopic noir feeling by showing a gloomy city in the rain. However, the main theme of the film tells us that cyborgs can be human, compared to other sci-fi futuristic movies today represent a more sinister and evil characteristic of cyborgs as tyrannical robots bent on destruction. It also implies that these cyborgs just want to experience their life to the fullest without promoting harm. In addition, each one of the replicants in the movie have certain feelings and just want blend in society without any errors or casualties. This is shown when Zhora is just working at a strip club and Pris living in the streets of Los Angeles. Whether you think cyborgs are just trying to live their lives to the fullest or savage robots bent on destruction, “Blade Runner” keeps you pondering over the answer long after the movie is over.