Although released to decidedly mixed reviews and audience ennui in the summer of 1982, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner has since ascended to the pinnacle of the sci-fi cinema Valhalla.
In fact, the Scott film is often mentioned in the same breath as Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) as, perhaps, the greatest science fiction film yet produced.
The film assiduously echoes the up-to-the-minute social worries of the era in which it was crafted (the 1980's), and obsesses on issues that remain of great importance in our nation, even today: race, and wealth.
Advertisements for Coca-Cola and other products stand several stories high.
This is appropriate, because, of course, he is a man who plays God, creating a race of slaves, essentially, known as Replicants.
Meanwhile, far down below on street level...it's a roiling Hell of ugly industry, punk fashion, neon lights, steam, and ubiquitous rain.
This is the world of today -- the haves vs. the have-nots -- but forecast into a grim future, where the divisions have grown even worse.
The Replicants don’t want to be classified inferior, their very lives and identities unimportant and unrecognized.
They want equality (and more life)…fucker.
In narrative terms, Blade Runner revolves around the hunt and pursuit of six renegade replicants.
Early in the 1980's, many citizens in the United States of America feared that the country had a new, powerful and sinister competitor: Japan. At the time, that Pacific nation excelled in industry, manufacturing, and the development of new technologies.
In the World War II era, a dedicated drive towards equality for all U.S. citizens was begun here at home. The 1940's was the epoch of Roosevelt's Executive Order 8802, which opened up new job possibilities for African-Americans. It was also the era in which white-only primaries were judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
If you desire to delve deeply into the visuals of Blade Runner, consider that Zhora is murdered while crashing through a series of transparent glass barriers, a metaphor, perhaps, for the oft-mentioned "glass ceiling" that keeps racial/ethnic minorities from achieving high level positions in society.
There's a test in Blade Runner for determining if a person is human or Replicant, and it is called a "Voigt-Kampff" Test. That name sounds uncomfortably like Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf, doesn't it? And when we think of the Nazis, we remember their belief in racial purity, the subjugating of "lesser" races, right? The Voight-Kampf functions as a tool to identify one such lesser race: the Replicant.
"Empathy," of course, has become a racial code word in America today, as we saw during the two Supreme Court justice nominating processes in the Obama Era. What Blade Runner doesn't make plain, however, is if Replicants possess a surfeit or lack of empathy in their iris responses. What do humans possess? More or less empathy than a Replicant?
Finally, what's abundantly clear in Blade Runner is that Replicants are people too. They are, as the saying goes, more human than human. They love, they mourn, and they want what all human beings want: more life.
In fact, the Replicants undergo a real spiritual quest in the film. They seek to find their God, Tyrell, and petition him for more life. They seek forgiveness from him too, at least after a fashion, for their brutal methods of self-preservation. In answer, they are told by Tyrell, Our Corporate God, that they have done nothing "the God of biomechanics wouldn't let you into heaven for."
In this beautiful and emotionally-wrenching climactic scene of Blade Runner, Batty is depicted grasping a white dove as his time on Earth runs out.
You've Done A Man's Job, or Less Human Than Human: The Deckard Equation
One of the key questions regarding Blade Runner involves its protagonist, Deckard. Director Ridley Scott has suggested that Deckard is, in fact, a Replicant himself. Harrison Ford has gone on record as saying he believes the opposite, that Deckard is human.
In other words, a job worthy of a man, or a human being.
This description could be interpreted to mean that the Replicant Deckard has performed as well as a human would under similar circumstances. It is thus a race-centric remark (Hey, you did good….for a black guy!) and thus an acknowledgment of Deckard's genetic origin.
The ensuing fight scene suggests that our hero is made of much the same stuff as Batty.
Yet the movie depicts four Replicants, and notes that one (the fifth?) was killed attempting to cross a border, a fence (a death which again, reeks of racial connotations in today's America).
Therefore, by process of elimination, the sixth Replicant must be Deckard himself.
I wonder what Blade Runner 2049 will bring...