I've been thinking about bringing a new segment to this site, one that focuses on certain specific aspects of science fiction films that I like and focus on the individual subjects that peak my interest in the genre, like the worlds, technology, and cultures. I thought it might be kind of interesting to explore these different avenues through a series of images depicting what makes these movies so damn enjoyable. So why not start off with one of the most loved science fiction movies of them all, Blade Runner. In this first segment, I'll focus on the world that Ridley Scott created and the painstaking detail that he put into making Blade Runner the stunning achievement that it is today.
Director: Ridley Scott
The world that Ridley Scott's Blade Runner inhabits, is a place covered in darkness, painted in film noir aesthetics, and lit in neon bloomed fluorescents. Set in the city of Los Angeles in the year 2019, this alternate future for the planet Earth is a bleak and undesirable place, one that seems perpetually cast away from the sun's warm glare. This moody environment, filled with looming skyscrapers plastered with vivid flat-screen full motion billboards and cast in a constant shroud of night, is one of films most elaborately constructed worlds.
Everything is fully realized from the cluttered smog filled streets to the graceful motions of the flying cars as they soar across the city's beautiful facade. This is one of the most breathtaking and visually compelling future worlds that I've ever seen and what makes it so authentic is the fact that it is both magnificently ravishing and overtly worn and exhausted.
You can see the age on this world and feel the existence of so many hard years that the city has toiled through in order to grow into this oversized giant that it is. The growing pains have shown in the deteriorated architecture on the surface level, the concrete now worn and chipped by the struggles of the every day man. The haziness of the atmosphere adds to that tired and forlorn presentation that is on exhibition in every frame of this film. As the film opens up and shows us the overall heights that this city has risen too, we notice that there are two separate sections of the metropolis with two totally different tones to them.
These two entirely different worlds collide in this film, yet they work so well off of each other. We notice that the upper levels of the city are heavenly, free of smog and soot and illuminated by the warm glow of passing hover cars as they float across the landscape. The lower street levels are the exact opposite as they are lost in a combination of smoke, harsh lighting, and overbearing shadows, all with the congestion that comes with a population that is bursting at the seams. The gap between living situations is never commented upon, that if the people living in the high rises are better off then the street level citizens. It is all left for the viewer to decide.
What is very apparent with the society that inhabits Blade Runner, is that we get an unmistakable feeling that this is a time of great over population, when the world is practically choking to death from the overwhelming presence of its polluted residents. The sheer size of the world and the mammoth buildings that outline the cityscape for miles, presents the notion that civilization as a whole needed to build skyward in order to facilitate the growing numbers that skyrocketed as the generations began piling up.
Ridley even gives us some visual cues on how the world has come to where its at now, by showcasing over and over again the corporate logos that practically cover most of the buildings and all viewable surfaces. The signage overload might suggest that the world has now been taken over and run by corporations, fueling an economy that just couldn't sustain itself without a big brother like takeover.
Another noticeable theme throughout Ridley's film is the undeniable interpretation of an international presence, mostly an overload of asian cultures and customs. We see this from the restaurant that Harrison Ford's character frequents at, the numerous neon signage that is all in japanese, and the general feeling that you are in a futuristic version of Chinatown but on an epic scale. The closest real world place that I can think of in the world that resembles Ridley Scott's Blade Runner society, would be the overall presence of the city of Tokyo. It's neon bathed lights seem a perfect inspiration for what drove Ridley to make Blade Runner's all-embracing style.
The presence of this asian invasion seems to show that the super power that was once the United States, has now been overwhelmed by its competitor's ever growing economy, making more of a global community throughout the world of Blade Runner. This could have resulted from many things, one possibly being the advent of technology and the unifying of cultures that the creation of such devices tend to do by bridging the gap between the east and west, and the entire world for that matter. Was the world of Blade Runner forged by the creation of our very own internet and the subsequent iterations of such technology? Who knows, but it isn't as far fetched as one would believe.
One of the great things about Blade Runner, and one of the most intriguing, is that they never give you the reasoning for why the world is the way it is. There could be a million and one reason for how the world ended up the way it is, but we're left in the dark on its origins. We are just given a few clues and then left to our own imagination to fill in the missing pieces. In my opinion, that's a great way to invest us in the creation of this world. We now have a stake in it and in doing so, we believe more in the reality of it all.
There is also a great sense of paranoia in Ridley's world, that reflects a lot of the main staple points in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The idea of an oppressed society is nothing new in science fiction, seeing that many of the genre's greats have used Orwell's writings for their inspirations. The dystopian world is one of the most overused themes in many a science fiction tale, but what Ridley does with this familiar idea, is to meld it within the archetypes of film noir idealogy, creating an entirely new form of film sub-genre, Sci-Fi noir.
This fresh take of Sci-Fi noir, combining two totally different mediums is nothing entirely new. It was done before in director Jean-Luc Godard's magnificent Alphaville in 1965, but what Ridley Scott does for this sub-genre is to bring it into the real world. The city in Ridley's Blade Runner is living, breathing, and teeming with motion. There seems to be a purpose for everything in this world and each frame that we're given opens up a whole other portion of the metropolis just as thriving as the last.
The grim and grit of the street level shots in Blade Runner, capture the sights and sounds of downtown New York City in its most darkest of days. These images of something very real in our own history and our own world, come flashing back to mind when viewing Ridley's vision for Blade Runner. We instantly believe that this world could in fact be real because of our relation to the images and the fears that we share that this is what our society could end up turning into. These ideas are what make science fiction movies so great. These vivid understandings are why I enjoy the themes that are presented in the genre so much.
Ridley Scott's unique vision for Blade Runner is without a doubt one of the best conceived ideas in science fiction films today. The overall look is consistent throughout the film and it never takes you out of the moment. You see the city from the eyes of its inhabitants, feeling what they feel and experiencing what they experience. That's a testament to the work that has gone into creating this unbelievable vision.
The worlds that science fiction films are able to create and bring to life are just astounding and the various amalgamations that continue to creep onto the silver screen, never cease to amaze. I guess that's why I enjoy this genre so much and why I felt the need to enlighten anyone who's willing to listen, about one of the greatest visions of them all, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Check it out if you haven't already, and if you have.. give it another watch. It never gets old.