Released in 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick has achieved something more than its original purpose. Whether by chance or design Scott’s film has become akin to a study text in the influence a film can have on other creative mediums.
To begin with the film has had seven revisions to date, with the final cut re-released in cinemas this year. For any piece of work that says a lot. Apart from the Bible, I can’t think of any piece, that has been tinkered with or revised as many times in such a short space of time. To me, that shows the quality of the source material, I mean even here, I am doing my own take on what influence this film has had in all the topics our site cover.
My first experience of the film was as a small child. Growing up in the 80’s I was an early adopted of the VHS and renting videos at the weekend was a major event. Blade Runner was introduced to me as a trailer on a rented tape long forgotten. The trailer which is available on the DVD and Blu-Ray. The trailer was a masterpiece to the young me. Violent, shocking, ominous voice over, memorable lines and starring Han Solo/ Indiana Jones. The trailer set the film up as this mythical film that I had to see. Having good parents I was allowed to see films which, may have strayed into the 15 or 18 category much younger, as long as they were a ‘good’ film. For some reason Blade Runner didn’t qualify for this so along with Platoon I had to wait until my teens to watch it. This just increased the allure of the movie even more.
When I first got to watch the movie, I was disappointed. It was too slow, the main character was weak and there wasn’t enough action. The trailer had lured me into a false sense of what to expect. Perhaps this is the reason for the poor showing at the box office. The film only made $5 million in profit, before taking off as a cult hit. I ended up leaving the film behind for many years disappointed, until I started to notice how often it was referenced in all my interests. It was time to revisit the film myself.
Being at college, I was full of new techniques and as a person was able to read more deeply into what I was consuming in my gaming, reading and watching. Now Blade Runner was laid out before me and I was able to appreciate what it was.
Firstly what I would call the ‘vision’ of the film. From the moment you see the slums of 2019 Los Angeles, you believe them. This isn’t the utopian vision of the future, that had been depicted in other films of the time. There are no space battles, no lasers and no aliens. What we have is designed by the worst of mankind. Since the early 1990’s this grim future is the standard. Once we realised we wouldn’t be getting flying cars and hover-boards film makers started to look into the realities of science fiction. In this instance Blade Runner was correct. There is little in the film that could not be achieved or surpassed by 2019. We have the possibility of missions to Mars, the neon-noire look has already been and gone in billboard areas like Picadilly Circus and TIme Square and most importantly the advancements in A.I. and robotics are increasing at an alarming rate.
The impact this realistic science fiction has had on gaming is profound. While there has only been one direct game in 1997, which is criminally unavailable on modern machines, most of the formative games since the film came out have borrowed from it both thematically and in design. Early examples include Another World, Flashback, Syndicate, G-Police, Deus Ex,Metal Gear Solid and what I noticed first Perfect Dark. In the N64 classic, the early levels are set in typical Blade Runner territory, the neon lights, hovering cars, synthetic soundtrack, silver metallic pistol, brown trench-coat and wet dark surroundings. If that sounds familiar then I have just described the stylistic design of Scott’s film. Even the character of Rick Deckard has become the typical template for ‘futuristic detective’. Think moody and ‘one more job’ and you have it.
What seemed like a weak portrayal of a hero to the teenage me, was in fact a genius piece of casting. Because Ford can play this type of character perfectly, we have to think behind why Rick Deckard is like this. His primary job is to retire humanoid robots. As he hunts down the four escaped ‘Replicants’ in the events in Blade Runner, he begins to question his own and their humanity. On first viewing I just wanted Deckard to hunt down these evil androids and eliminate them in as entertaining a way as possible. I was probably looking for something more like early Schwarzenegger or Stallone, than the broken character of Deckard. Since the film came out the central theory had by many is that Deckard himself is a replicant. It’s a brilliant theory and the open-ended nature of the film allows it to continue to this day. If you don’t believe it? Fine there is no right or wrong answer, Deckard has layer upon layer, if you want to dig that deeply. Think of the characters we see in our films now. All of them have multiple personality traits and dark pasts. Back when the film was released people didn’t want complicated, introverted main characters. They wanted the shoot first action-hero, the western film genre was starting to die and the Vietnam war still lingered in the nations consciousness. The idea that the ‘enemy’ in the film was possibly as human as the protagonist and more so than the authority figures of the Tyrrell Corporation was not popular. Cinema audiences needed to see that they were fighting on the right side.
The leader of the Replicants ‘Roy’ played by Rutger Hauer is as important an ingredient as Deckard himself. He is one of the original anti-heroes. Starting off as a cruel, emotionless killer, we learn that his main motivation is the same as all living creatures. He only wants to prolong his life. His group’s life spans are running out and they are seeking their creator to gain more life. I don’t need to spell out the many interpretations this leads to from religious and ethical perspectives. His monologue at the end is the highpoint of the film. This trend of the anti-hero was very important to me growing up. In all my interests, from gaming, reading, writing, films and even Wrestling, I was always drawn to the villain. A well-played villain, became more important as I grew up. When younger you loved them being defeated, when older, you appreciate how they let the hero fulfil their potential. Now I can see why Roy is so important a character in modern culture.
Needless to say now I can see why this is such an important film. But was it by design that all these perfect elements fell into place? Some would look at Scot’s other films and question this. I for one am willing to give him he benefit of the doubt. Now finally I will get the chance to see this on the big screen and see if I continue to hold it in such reverence or if I am like the audience from 82.