It's cyberpunk month here, unofficially or otherwise, here at the United Federation of Charles and I can't help but talk about the classic which helped inspire the genre of cyberpunk. Aside from William Gibson's Neuromancer, the Ridley Scott adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep remains the definitive example of what people think of when they talk about the work. Well, that and Robocop. It is also one of the rare cases where I believe the movie improves on the original, though they're so different it's better to take a "inspired by the events of DADOES" rather than considering it
a straight adaptation.
Most people know the general story of the film: Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired police officer who formerly worked for the Blade Runner unit. It is the job of Blade Runners to hunt down and execute ("retire") all androids ("Replicants") who live on Earth. In the future, despite the Earth's eco-system and economy having collapsed, we've created an entire race of cybernetic humans who exist as a slave labor cast to humanity.
|Also known as LA today.|
|Deckard is an awful human being. Part of the appeal, really.|
This kind of story could never be done without the metaphor of robots because who would want to watch a story about escaped slaves where the slaves were, well, evil? My sympathy is certainly with Roy Batty despite the fact he'd be labeled a terrorist today. However, the genius of Blade Runner is the fact our perspective is with an ambivalent slave overseer and bounty hunter. A man who sees the collateral damage they have to leave behind in order to get even a modicum of freedom as well as those they blame for being treated like animals. It's the perfect kind of noir story because everyone is awful because the system has made them that way.
|Too bad she won't live but then again, who does?|
The Replicants themselves don't have much screen-time but all of them have little quirks which make their story work well. Roy Batty is a genius super-soldier who, if he'd been born human, probably would have been a Caesar or Washington. However, he's also an emotionally unstable four-year-old who has only a few social connections that are dying all around him. Leon is a dirt stupid construction worker who just wants to live and be with his friends but is capable of killing whoever stands in his way. Zora is a assassin turned stripper, which is the kind of lateral career move which usually only happens in tabletop RPGs but symbolizes the fact she just wants to live as a normal person. Priss, well, Priss is a mystery as a prostitute model is notably the most dangerous Replicant and also the most ingratiating.
|Tyrell's office is befitting God. If God had awful taste in suits.|
It's the rainy, dull, and neon vision of a multicultural Los Angeles which is remembered from most people's vision, though. A place where humankind has mostly fled from its dying home planet to the stars where life is probably every bit as bad. It's the look of cyberpunk for a reason, basically because everyone can imagine living in a city so technologically advanced but also miserable.
|In fact, fashion has really gone to hell in the future.|
There's some question which is the best version of Blade Runner but I have to say I prefer the Director's Cut. I think the voice overs, while film noir, kind of overexplain. There's no need to say, for example, that the Blade Runners are racist cops since they embody that with every breath. Likewise, the happy ending is unnecessary and kind of leaves the story in a artificially brighter place than it should be (especially since the environment shouldn't allow a pleasant country drive on Earth).
|It's as if Superman and Harley Quinn were a couple.|
In conclusion, everyone who hasn't seen Blade Runner probably should. If you are going in expecting a deep philosophical treatise on A.I. rights then you'll be disappointed. This is an action movie, a very good one, but you'll have to do a lot of the mental heavy lifting. For those who like thinking about that sort of stuff and debate on the internet then it's a classic for a reason.