ACF#18: Blade Runner

 

This week, the podcast is about Blade Runner. Pete Spiliakos has a few things to say you may not have heard before, starting with slavery in the New World. The old question debated by Bartolomeo de Las Casas in the case of the Indians comes up, in this instance, about the replicants: Do they have souls? I bring up the question of what scientific power does to our world in making it wholly artificial — the heavens are replicated on earth in this story, and it takes some guessing about whether humanity can survive the transformation.

We also talk about the noir detective genre; the use of sentimentality toward pets to prove humanity; the mortality that constitutes us as we are; and how much of our being we are having replicated when we throw off they yoke of work.

There are 59 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I saw this at the theater, and I fell asleep through large sections of it.  I won’t say it was totally boring, but I did fall asleep.

    The gist of the movie just didn’t work for me.  I don’t have the interest in going into much detail, but the idea that robots are people is just boring by itself, and resurrecting Harrison Ford didn’t work for Star Wars and didn’t work for Blade Runner.

    The lead actor was very uninteresting, wooden, and I’m sorry but sex with a hologram robot isn’t my idea of an important relationship.

    And they blurred the boundary between people and robots so much that there wasn’t even an interesting question being posed anymore.

    One big yawn.

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I never saw the movie, but I read We Can Build You.  Still have it on the bookshelf, in fact.

    • #2
  3. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    To each their own but I’ve seen this movie 20 times and will see it another 10.   I’ve already seen 2049 twice.

    Phenomenal sci-fi.

    Listening now.

    • #3
  4. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Unlike @docjay I can’t say I’ve seen the original 20 times, but I’ve seen it enough to recommend it as a classic of both sci-fi and film-noir. I’ve also seen “2049” twice now, and enjoyed it both times (although it could easily have 30 min. edited and not lose a note.)

    BTW – RE: the original – stick with the 1982 cinema release version. Subsequent re-edits and cuts didn’t add anything, IMHO.

    • #4
  5. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    DocJay (View Comment):

    To each their own but I’ve seen this movie 20 times and will see it another 10. I’ve already seen 2049 twice.

    To be clear, I was only referring to 2049, not the original, which was brilliant.

    • #5
  6. shreck Member
    shreck
    @shreck

    It was about 30 min too long. General consensus from the people I saw it with, they were internet spaceship nerds.

    • #6
  7. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Directors , writers, musicians etc sometimes fall in love with their work and put in more when less would imporove.  2049 could use 30 less for sure.  I had a flask for viewing 2.

    • #7
  8. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    I don’t know. I saw it twice and both times was spellbound, caught off guard when it suddenly ended.  Left the theater very thoughtful, both times.

    • #8
  9. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):
    I don’t know. I saw it twice and both times was spellbound, caught off guard when it suddenly ended. Left the theater very thoughtful, both times.

    We’re gonna talk about the new one next week. We’ve got a handle on at least a few big things, so you might enjoy the conversation!

    • #9
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Directors , writers, musicians etc sometimes fall in love with their work and put in more when less would imporove. 2049 could use 30 less for sure. I had a flask for viewing 2.

    That certainly helps. In fact, for a drink, I could easily have stayed for another 30 minutes…

    • #10
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    I never saw the movie, but I read We Can Build You. Still have it on the bookshelf, in fact.

    You should watch it. Harrison Ford does a really good noir detective. Bogart for the 80s.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The slavery metaphor never worked for me. If the replicants indeed have souls, then when the Tyrell Corporation creates one, it is creating a responsibility, not a resource. Would they then continue to create them? If they do, they are creating borderline sociopaths. It’s far better as a reflection of mortality and morality in general.

    • #12
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    Unlike @docjay I can’t say I’ve seen the original 20 times, but I’ve seen it enough to recommend it as a classic of both sci-fi and film-noir. I’ve also seen “2049” twice now, and enjoyed it both times (although it could easily have 30 min. edited and not lose a note.)

    BTW – RE: the original – stick with the 1982 cinema release version. Subsequent re-edits and cuts didn’t add anything, IMHO.

    I don’t really mind any of the versions. But I agree that film came out in theaters complete. Remarkable how much talent they had working on it, from score & cinematography to the director & cast. The writers did a remarkable job, too, quite unexpectedly, & the source, however silly, had great seeds to plant in the right soil… But then the American people spoke–it wasn’t gonna be a hit! One good thing about tech is, future generations get to have their say, too, & the movie has acquired reputation, if not money.

    I hope the sequel will get a reevaluation, too–it, too, has been a disappointment in theaters.

    • #13
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Percival (View Comment):
    The slavery metaphor never worked for me. If the replicants indeed have souls, then when the Tyrell Corporation creates one, it is creating a responsibility, not a resource. Would they then continue to create them? If they do, they are creating borderline sociopaths. It’s far better as a reflection of mortality and morality in general.

    The point is that the corporation no more than old man Tyrell is in control of what’s being created.

    As for the would question: Have slavers, to your knowledge, always acknowledged they’re creating a responsibility rather than a resource in breeding slaves, & have they acted on that knowledge?

    • #14
  15. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I enjoyed the film quite a bit.  The question of humans, souls, machines has been vexing philosophers for ages.  Descartes thought animals were mere machines.  It’s always an interesting question.

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    The slavery metaphor never worked for me. If the replicants indeed have souls, then when the Tyrell Corporation creates one, it is creating a responsibility, not a resource. Would they then continue to create them? If they do, they are creating borderline sociopaths. It’s far better as a reflection of mortality and morality in general.

    The point is that the corporation no more than old man Tyrell is in control of what’s being created.

    As for the would question: Have slavers, to your knowledge, always acknowledged they’re creating a responsibility rather than a resource in breeding slaves, & have they acted on that knowledge?

    I was just finishing up my degree when this movie came out and I found myself wondering “who would work for these guys?” Actual slavers didn’t care, I suppose, but plenty of people found it wrong enough to actively and eventually violently oppose it.

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Percival (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    The slavery metaphor never worked for me. If the replicants indeed have souls, then when the Tyrell Corporation creates one, it is creating a responsibility, not a resource. Would they then continue to create them? If they do, they are creating borderline sociopaths. It’s far better as a reflection of mortality and morality in general.

    The point is that the corporation no more than old man Tyrell is in control of what’s being created.

    As for the would question: Have slavers, to your knowledge, always acknowledged they’re creating a responsibility rather than a resource in breeding slaves, & have they acted on that knowledge?

    I was just finishing up my degree when this movie came out and I found myself wondering “who would work for these guys?” Actual slavers didn’t care, I suppose, but plenty of people found it wrong enough to actively and eventually violently oppose it.

    Well, eventually. Tech made Southern slavery profitable, but also made the non-slave North even more prosperous. It’s not necessary that it always be that way.

    Tech has destroyed lots of jobs, but so far created more than enough others. But it’ s not necessarily going to be that way in future, either.

    So this is a story about what happens if things change. & the answer it suggests is a future with far fewer choices & without the moral virtues–beginning, as per Aristotle, with manliness–to insist on choices. So all the people with jobs seem servants in this story. As per the suggestion of the pyramids, despotism has come back, but by science.

    • #17
  18. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    A very good and insightful discussion of the film. Thanks.

    Just a few points.

    I think Titus meant to say “Rachel” instead of “Susan” for Tyrrel’s replicant who leaves the company to become Deckard’s girlfriend.

    Ridley Scott embellished the film after the original release to insert the notion that Deckard could be a replicant. I think it’s an unnecessary addition.

    The void/comp test is also I think a veiled reference to the Turing test.

    Roy Baddy’s “…tears in rain” speech at the end of the film was written by Rutger Hauer, not Philip K. Dick, Scott, or screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. Hauer took Ridley Scott aside and recited the speech he had written. Scott was impressed enough to include it in the film. What’s fascinating is that Hauer’s memorable speech I think is critical in driving home the point that the events that the replicants experience to establish new memories that trigger emotions and thus presses the point home that they are justifiably as human as humans which indicates that Hauer understood the material maybe even better than Scott did.

    Blade Runner – is based also in part on Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein – Eldon Tyrrel is essentially Dr. Frankenstein plopped into this dystopian future and Roy Baddy is his monster that he’s brought to life. The scene where Baddy confronts his maker is an obvious reference to Shelley’s work. Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott and his screenwriters built on the questions that Shelley posed in her novel by exploring the themes of slavery in a depressing and increasingly artificial and post New Wold America that has become an Old World that once relied on slave-owning and trading as Titus and Pete discuss.

    Clearly a lot of science fiction is based on earlier literary work. Brian Aldiss’s story Super Toys Last All Summer Long which became “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” explores the same themes of humanity in robots and which Kubrik and later Spielberg infused with heavy and direct references to Pinocchio (also about a manipulatable machine – a puppet – who yearns to become a real boy).

    It would be interesting to watch Blade Runner, A.I., Artificial Intelligence, Ex Machina and Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein back to back.

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    You’re right about the green-eyed lady.

    The Frankenstein connection is useful, but limited. I won’t get into literary criticism, but the movie is about dying, not overcoming death.

    You’re also right about Hauer–the quote from Blake, ‘fiery the angels fell’ was also his improvisation.

    • #19
  20. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    You’re right about the green-eyed lady.

    The Frankenstein connection is useful, but limited. I won’t get into literary criticism, but the movie is about dying, not overcoming death.

    You’re also right about Hauer–the quote from Blake, ‘fiery the angels fell’ was also his improvisation.

    Yes, in many respects the film is about dying and a dying culture but it’s not exclusively about dying. The film is also about prolonging life and in some respects overcoming death which is what Shelley’s Frankenstein explores. Rob Baddy demands of Tyrrel, “I want more life, f**cker!” (the line in the original theatrical release); and Deckard says in his narration in the original theatrical release as well:

    “Tyrell had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn’t know how long we had together. Who does?”

    Also – as much as the story takes place in the dark, oppressive and manipulative world immersed in garbage and artificiality of a future Los Angeles, Deckard at the end of the film manages to escape with Rachel and we see their flying car sailing over a bright landscape of pine forests and mountains suggesting that there is potential for spiritual or life affirming renewal beyond the boundaries of the dying and decaying world in which they were once trapped…or enslaved.

    • #20
  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Shelley’s book really does overcome death!

    Whereas here, it’s all about facing mortality. Trying to overcome it, in at least three ways, fails!

    • #21
  22. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    You eventually got to most of my comments, but I will add that while the audience might not have realized that Deckard was the bad guy, he certainly did, and it shows up all the way through.  They have to threaten him to get him on the case.  After he kills the snake dancer, he buys a bottle and gets blind drunk.  Early on, you referred to him as a slave catcher.  I think he could have handled being a slave catcher; it would have been like being a regular cop.  But that wasn’t the job.  He was a slave executioner.  They all either ran or fought because even if they gave up peacefully, he was going to kill them.  How could he not be the bad guy?

    BTW, I think the best argument for him not being a replicant is the way they all smack him around.  If he was one, he would be able to fight better.

    • #22
  23. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re right about the killing. It’s made him rotten.

    Good point about the fighting–but that’s required for the plot, his weakness. The writing is occasionally brilliant, but it wasn’t plotted all that well. Then again, it’s not a comedy–in a tragedy, the audience is always eager to look away from weaknesses in a plot in order to enjoy the suffering…

    • #23
  24. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I also think what really pushes him over the edge is making Sean Young cry when he tells her she’s a replicant.  Shooting them down in the street is bad enough, but that’s too much for him.  That’s the point where he starts looking for a way out.

    I have the Director’s cut, which ends at the elevator without the hopeful add-on.  It’s just a repeat of Edward James Olmos’ line done as voiceover.  “It’s a shame she won’t live.  But then, who does?”  So, no escaping to a new life, or lack of expiration date; they’re just on the run and she’s going to die.

    • #24
  25. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Do you know about the ‘proof’ that Deckard is a replicant based on the little origami unicorn at the end?  The idea is that since Deckard saw the unicorn in his dream, and Edward James Olmos knew about the unicorn, then it must have been an implant like Sean Young’s memories.

    • #25
  26. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    One more: Consider the similarity between the Blade Runners and the Sandmen from Logan’s Run.  In both cases, in order to maintain an ideal society, you need an elite group of executioners.  Now in Blade Runner, the ideal society is happening off world, but it’s still there, and is still the justification for the killing.  Without it, no need for replicants in the first place.

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    The origami unicorn is certainly suggestive. But the point of it would seem to be that Gaff knows Deckard is human, though he may be a replicant, & he thinks so is she. He, too, refuses to be an instrument of the cops & the Tyrell corporation.

    • #27
  28. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    As for the offworld colonies, I get the sense, they’re pretty terrible.

    • #28
  29. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    As for the offworld colonies, I get the sense, they’re pretty terrible.

    I didn’t get that at all.  I thought old world dying, new life on new world.

    • #29
  30. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Do you know about the ‘proof’ that Deckard is a replicant based on the little origami unicorn at the end? The idea is that since Deckard saw the unicorn in his dream, and Edward James Olmos knew about the unicorn, then it must have been an implant like Sean Young’s memories.

    The scene with the unicorn running through the forest was added in later versions of the film and was not in the original theatrical release. Again, Scott added it to infer that Dekard was or could be a replicant. But great comment on Deckard’s weakness in fighting all the replicants who are all much stronger and faster when fighting him. The new film cheats on this and makes Deckard much more physically adept in dealing with ‘K’ when he is found.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.