What can be said of Blade Runner? It was science-fiction’s formative point, the end of adolescence at a bounty hunter’s bullet. If Metropolis was the beginning, this was rebirth, and although we didn’t get too much cyberpunk film in this country, beyond Johnny Mnemonic and Lawnmower Man 2, Japan was hit hard with Blade Runner fever. We can thank this film for Bubblegum Crisis (but we’ll also thank Streets of Fire), among so many other great things. What did those crazy Japanese see in this movie, that critics at the time didn’t?
I honestly don’t know, especially in light of Bubblegum Crisis, which basically takes the setting of LA 2019, and some of the themes of sex androids and things, but remixes the old s&d in a rockin’, kickass new way. That anime is truly something, my favorite part of which (in theory) is the finale, the most anti-climactic ending to a show ever conceived (because it wasn’t).
Blade Runner is different than this. You might say. It’s based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, favorite author here at The Battle Beyond Planet X. It’s quite the departure, however, much more focused, and its thematic endgame is new. With DADOES, the idea is questioning reality — is this a real turtle? At one point, Deckard is taken to a police station, and discovers that it’s manned entirely by androids. Auto-manned, perhaps.
In Blade Runner, this question is deep in the fabric while operating on the surface, but is only a stepping stone to the deeper questions. It’s true that DADOES asks what it means to be human, but Blade Runner does it in a less techsistential, and more humane way. This is a perfect scifi drama, about as flawless as they come.
And yet, there are questions of its integrity. Seems that Ridley Scott believes Deckard is a replicant, which is adverse to the central idea of the movie. See, this is an unusual role for Harrison Ford. He plays that same put-upon, gritty, displaced gunslinger, but he’s not a hero. In the mold of a hard-boiled detective, he’s burnt out, and this arc is one of dehumanization, like in Jin-Roh. Apparently murdering human simulacra in cold blood wears on you.
That’s the core conceit of the movie, and it’s high-concept scifi. It asks ‘what if there were androids that were so lifelike, they were indistinguishable from humans?’ and then frames these androids in the crosshairs of a blade runner: ‘what if you had to kill them, and the rest of the world saw it as no different than unplugging your toaster?’
And the noir sensibilities of this movie are no accident. It’s an old world, its very architecture a reminder of how far we haven’t come. Something new is born here, like the Puppet Master on the sea of information — we see that a replicant can be more than human, but there’s no grand revolution. Just dead bodies and one blade runner’s prank on another: you have become a robot, in so many words (origami unicorn).
Now go and check out Bubblegum Crisis.