Although Blade Runner is ostensibly an action film, it operates on multiple dramatic and narrative levels.
The dystopia explored in Blade Runner is an early example of cyberpunk concepts expanding into a feature film. Eyes are a recurring motif, as are manipulated images, calling into question reality and our ability to accurately perceive and remember it.
It is a literate science fiction film, thematically enfolding the philosophy of religion and moral implications of human mastery of genetic engineering in the context of classical Greek drama and hubris.
Linguistically, the theme of mortality is subtly reiterated in the chess game between Roy and Tyrell, based on the famous Immortal Game of 1851, though Scott has said that was coincidental.
Blade Runner is indebted to film noir conventions:
- the femme fatale;
- protagonist-narration (removed in later versions);
- dark and shadowy cinematography;
the questionable moral outlook of the hero – in this case, extended to include reflections upon the nature of his own humanity.
Blade Runner Insight has a comprehensive collection of analytical essays and articles giving insights into the dystopian themes of Blade Runner.
Dystopia in Blade Runner
An aura of paranoia suffuses the film: corporate power looms large; the police seem omnipresent; vehicle and warning lights probe into buildings; and the consequences of huge biomedical power over the individual are explored – especially the consequences for replicants of their implanted memories. Control over the environment is depicted as taking place on a vast scale, hand in hand with the absence of any natural life, with artificial animals substituting for their extinct predecessors. This oppressive backdrop explains the frequently referenced migration of humans to extra-terrestrial (“off-world”) colonies.
The question of whether Deckard is intended to be a human or a replicant has been an ongoing controversy since the film’s release. Both Michael Deeley and Harrison Ford wanted Deckard to be human while Hampton Fancher preferred ambiguity. Ridley Scott has confirmed that in his vision Deckard is a replicant.
Deckard’s unicorn dream sequence, inserted into the Director’s Cut, coinciding with Gaff’s parting gift of an origami unicorn is seen by many as showing that Deckard is a replicant – as Gaff could have accessed Deckard’s implanted memories.
The interpretation that Deckard is a replicant is challenged by others who believe the unicorn imagery shows that the characters, whether human or replicant, share the same dreams and recognize their affinity, or that the absence of a decisive answer is crucial to the film’s main theme.
The inherent ambiguity and uncertainty of the film, as well as its textual richness, have permitted viewers to see it from their own perspectives.
Blade Runner film info
|Directed by||Ridley Scott|
|Produced by||Michael Deeley|
|Based on||Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? |
by Philip K. Dick
The Ladd Company
Blade Runner Partnership
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$33.8 million|
Dystopian themes in Blade Runner
Replicants are juxtaposed with human characters who are unempathetic, and while the replicants show passion and concern for one another the mass of humanity on the streets is cold and impersonal. The plot sows doubt about the nature of the protagonist Deckard and, in these and many other ways, forces the audience to reevaluate what it means to be human.