Over 37 years after the release of the now cult-classic film, “Blade Runner’s” distant-future setting of November 2019 has finally arrived; and while we may not have flying cars and hologram assistants, many have credited the film as having been one of the most predictive and successful science fiction films ever produced. Its effect on society and art alike are profound, and its legacy is one worth exploring.
For those who have not seen the movie, I would highly recommend sitting down and watching it (preferably the 2007 director’s cut) as the movie is quite hard to adequately represent in simple words. The main plot revolves around the character Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) a blade runner. In the world of the film, human-like creatures called “replicants” are grown by mankind and serve as workers for the actual humans. If one of these replicants starts causing trouble, a Blade Runner is called in to deal with them accordingly. The film follows Rick as he attempts to track down and put an end to the replicant terrorist Roy Batty (played by the late Rutger Hauer) and his gang of rebel replicants.
When the film hit theaters in 1982, it was not exactly a critical success. Slow pacing and an increasingly over-saturated science fiction market (including Scott’s own film, “Alien”, only three years prior) contributed to general public disinterest, resulting in rather mediocre sales. Even so, the film managed to bring in some awards that year, including Best Original Score for the film’s composer, Vangelis. While most of the public was not interested in this bizarre dystopian world created by Scott, some were mesmerized by the dark future he had created. While perhaps not the first work in the genre, many consider “Blade Runner” as the first Cyberpunk piece. Cyberpunk is a genre defined, as the name might imply, by futuristic settings accompanied by heavy anti-authoritarian themes. This genre would slowly supplant itself into pop-culture over the years, with no particular “Golden age of Cyberpunk,” rather, having a slow drip effect over the following decades.
“Blade Runner” has had many notable influences since it’s debut in 1972. It’s heavily modern-Asian inspired aesthetic was a major hit in Japan, directly influencing the creation of two of the most successful anime of all time, “Akira” in 1988, and “Ghost in the Shell” in 1995. It also inspired countless novels, one of the most noteworthy of these being Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash,” a book published in 1992 that, among other things, predicted that the world would soon be connected via computers in one large network, and all of the issues that this could bring. One of the most anticipated video games in recent memory, “Cyberpunk 2077,” is set to come out on April 16, 2020, after around seven years of waiting. While the film did not feature the first electronic soundtrack, it certainly features one of the most sophisticated. The bizarre, and mostly improvised, synthesized music of the movie would change the field of electronic music irreparably, and it remains one of the most noteworthy movie scores to date.
A little more subjective area of the film’s legacy is in its prediction of the future. Since we are living in 2019, I can definitively say that the physical world of the film has not come true, but it’s themes of capitalism and isolation in the modern world seem to be more and more relevant by the day. The feeling of loneliness and being drowned out by the overwhelming cityscapes of the film are one of the key tenets of the Cyberpunk genre and is what keeps it so relevant. With our ever-increasing population, the continuous encroach of cities onto the surrounding country, the consumer-focused nature of modern society, all of these feelings are explored by the movie and is what brings me back to watch it all these years later.
“Blade Runner” may not have wowed critics when it first debuted, but I think that it’s effects on the sci-fi genre, it’s powerful cinematography and it’s increasingly relevant social commentary make it worth a watch.