Sunday, May 29, 2011

Science Fiction #6 - Blade Runner (1982)

Science Fiction is generally separated into two sub-categories - "Soft" Science Fiction and "Hard" Science Fiction. The basic difference between the two is that "Soft" Science Fiction is generally more character- and plot-driven, while "Hard" Science Fiction is driven more by the technology and realism, or at the very least plausibility, of the work. More than that though, Science Fiction that is considered "hard" is usually darker, grittier, and more cynical than "Soft" Science Fiction, which is often light and comedic. I'm more often a fan of "Soft" Science Fiction - something about the whole complicated technology/serious plot combination doesn't entertain me well. So I wasn't expecting that I would like Blade Runner, which, while not exactly logically enough top qualify as "Hard" Science Fiction, is definitely more on the hard side than not. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be totally awesome. I shall elaborate.

Blade Runner is a Ridley Scott film, like Alien, that takes place in the now near future (2019), in an over-crowded, industrial, rainy earth, completely uninhabited by animals and nearly uninhabited by humans. It's also very Asian, for whatever reason. Blade Runner is a very early example of Cyberpunk, a genre involving dehumanization and extreme corporate control. Blade Runner is a sort of Science Fiction Dystopia/Hard Boiled Detective combo where Harrison Ford, who in my opinion obviously has not played enough Hard Boiled Detectives, is Rick Deckard, a "Blade Runner," meaning that he hunts and..."retires" rouge androids (Replicants) who are used as slaves off-planet. These replicants are so realistic that it's possible that not even they know that they're a robot (This particular point has created quite a controversy over whether or not Deckard himself is, in fact, a replicant. There's even disagreement about it within the crew - Ridley Scott says he definitely is a replicant, and Harrison Ford says he definitely isn't). After a few years these highly-realistic robots begin developing emotions and blurring the lines between human and machine and causing other similar troubles, and this simply won't do, so after four years the replicants automatically die. So there four replicants hanging around on earth, looking for a way to live longer, and Rick Deckard is searching for them. It's all very exciting.

Blade Runner is based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which I have actually read, although I don't remember it well, because it was years ago. I do remember that the book was much more cerebral than the movie is. The movie does touch on the issue of humanity - What really separates robots than humans?- which doesn't seem like it would be a practical theme, but is, and has robotic animals and all that, but is doesn't really get into it like the book does. The book is much darker the movie, and tightly themed and plotted, by I enjoyed the movie more. I can see why they changed the name - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? would be hard to fit on a marquis - but I don't know why they chose to name it Blade Runner. There is nary a blade in the entire film. There is running, at least. I guess it just sounds cool - good enough reason as any, really.

This movie is visually stunning. It looks awesome. As apposed to Alien, whose special effects were just fine, and Terminator 2, whose effects were innovative but are now outdated, Blade Runner still looks great. To me, anyway. There's a huge crazy city and umbrellas and flying cars and lots and lots of rain. It's fantastic. I could probably just look at this movie and be happy. I love the way this movie looks - it's blocky and gritty and eighties-y which is awesome. The building they use in the climax is actually an existing building in Los Angeles called the Bradbury Building, which is creepy even when it's not dilapidated and abandoned. It's pretty awesome, actually - all sorts of wrote iron and stuff. Quite a lovely building.

Blade Runner was pretty great - I really enjoyed it. I actually have to watch it again - I don't think I followed the whole thing - what, for example, is with the unicorn? For now, however I will have to move on - I'm already a couple of weeks behind, and not quite halfway through science fiction.

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