Ridley Scott's vision of Los Angeles as 21st century dystopia has influenced the look of innumerable movies of the decades since from James Cameron's "Terminator" to Tim Burton's "Batman", to "The Crow" to "The Matrix" and many others and remains the high water mark of Scott's long career. "Alien" was brilliant sci-fi and brilliant horror, but with Blade Runner Scott ventured into the deeper waters of the soul and produced a movie that has only grown more relevant as the years have passed. No one wants to think the future is going to be worse than the present but who can deny that Blade Runner's vision of a world gone horribly wrong isn't starting to look more than a little prescient? Overpopulated urban megacities? Check. Environmental degradation? Check. The rise of Asia as a cultural force in the West? Check. Increasingly powerful multinational corporate heads isolated from interaction with and responsibility toward the populations they exploit? Check. Technology that has in many ways surpassed our ability to understand it? Check. And it's that last point that is the heart and soul of the narrative here.
What is life if not a soup of feelings flavored with memories?
With that in mind: what happens if you give robots feelings and false memories as a way to control them? And what happens if they become emotionally attached to those memories, wake up one day and decide they don't want to die? Who's to say who lives and who dies? Who's to say who's alive and who's not?
These are heavy philosophical issues and Scott doesn't do us the disservice of trying to answer them himself. Instead he presents them to us in the form of a filmic meditation and leaves us to decide. It's been a long time since I first saw this film and I'm still thinking it over.
Ridley Scott's film, like the original Philip K. Dick novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) is, at it's core, a cautionary tale. Until we've worked out some of the complex philosophical, legal, societal and mostly moral questions that are arising as our knowledge and accompanying technological prowess take us into undefined territory we should be careful: we might wind up face to face with ourselves one day with a gun in our hand.
Notes: The original studio cut is a waste of time with it's dreadful and distracting voiceover and it's clumsily manufactured 'happy ending'. If you want to see the film the way Scott intended either see the 1992 Directors Cut or the recently released "Final Cut" with it's remastered sound and digitally placed new footage that corrects a few of the original's notable gaffs.
Speaking of sound: the score by Vangelis is nothing less than sublime. The composer paints a parallel story full of wonder, pain, joy, dread and resignation that is never intrusive and absolutely indispensible.
Blade Runner - "The Final Cut" Trailer