Blade Runner

Rob Latham and Jeffrey Hicks

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Blade Runner

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Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, was originally released in June of 1982 to mixed reviews and a poor showing at the box office. It became a strong seller on home video, however, and developed a sufficiently intense fan following to allow Scott to release a “director’s cut” edition in 1992, which did well in theaters and was embraced by most critics. Based in part on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a 1968 Philip K. Dick novel, Blade Runner blends elements of film noir and science fiction to create a striking visual aesthetic. The plot follows police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), known on the street as a “blade runner,” as he tracks four renegade androids—genetically engineered artificial persons (called replicants in the film), who are manufactured by a sinister multinational firm, the Tyrell Corporation—through the streets of a sprawling, dismal, future Los Angeles. Forced in his job to “retire” each replicant, Deckard begins to examine his definition of humanity and eventually questions his own existence as “human.” The replicants, led by the flamboyant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), are seeking a cure for the genetic coding that limits their lifespan to only four years; they are also programmed with artificial memories that give them a fragile ersatz identity. After a lengthy pitched battle with Batty across rainy rooftops, Deckard abandons his job and flees the city with Rachael (Sean Young), another runaway replicant with whom he has fallen in love. The 1982 release featured a world-weary Deckard voice-over and an arbitrary happy ending, in which Rachael’s genetic termination code has been deactivated; the 1992 director’s cut, however, eliminated the voice-over entirely, which gave the audience more distance from Deckard’s character, and restored some scenes that strongly suggested he might be a replicant too. In 2007, a digitally restored “25th Anniversary Edition”—dubbed the “Final Cut”—had a limited theatrical release before being issued on DVD. Today it is consistently listed as one of the most important science fiction movies ever made, and it is one of only 550 films admitted to the Library of Congress as part of the National Film Registry. Its cult following has inspired a host of Internet fan sites and spin-off properties. Countless filmmakers, artists, and authors have found inspiration in the film, and its proto-cyberpunk vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019 has become synonymous with the predominant conception of the future metropolis. Ultimately the film challenges the viewer’s notions of humanity, vision of the future, and faith in technology.

Article.  10111 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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