Sep 28, 2009

Blade Runner

Examining The Impact Of The Future

If you watch a lot of science fiction movies, you have seen movies that have been influenced by Blade Runner, even if you didn't know it. Blade Runner is arguably one of the most influential films, visually, in science fiction history. The Blade Runner "look" has been copied and emulated in many different movies, comic books (including manga and anime), graphic novels and TV shows. If you have never seen the film, or don't know what it is about, consider this an important lesson in your education of popular culture.

Blade Runner...what is it?

The film, based on a short story by prolific writer Phillip K. Dick, is about a Los Angeles in 2019 in which it is always dark and rainy and the city's inhabitants live in poverty and grime from heavy pollution. Artificially created beings called replicants have been created to be slaves to mankind, but after a violent replicant rebellion on a colony on another planet, replicants are banned on earth. Since replicants are almost impossible to tell apart from humans, a special police unit has been created to identify and eliminate them: Blade Runners. A small group of replicants make it back to earth and kill one of these elite police officers, forcing a retired Blade Runner back into service to kill them. Harrison Ford, fresh from Star Wars, is Deckard, a disillioned Blade Runner who is reluctantly drafted back into action. During the film, the question arises as to if Deckard is a replicant himself. If he is, he is then hunting his own kind.

The film's biggest impact has been its production design. Rainy, trash strewn streets illuminated by the glow of neon signs and flying cars, run down city streets crammed with people...this is the world of Blade Runner, influencing directors of TV shows, video games and movies who emulated the gritty, noirish world created by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner's director. The film has won and been nominated for many awards and honors. The movie is a classic example of neo-noir, a popular genre in film, graphic novels and video games.

In movies there are two terms that use the word noir: film noir, and neo noir. As an artist you should at least be familiar with these genres so you can recognize them; you may even want to create your own noir comics or paintings.

Film noir is a term used to describe films that have a low key, high contrast appearance; very dark shadows, bright spotlights, drifting cigarrette smoke, slightly tilted camera angles. The genre also defines movies that have characters who have less than honorable motives for what they do, or are facing hard choices and danger that force them into impossible situations. The hard boiled private eye movies of the 1940s and 1950s are considered the birth of the film noir genre, and they have been copied ever since.

Tough talking men, dangerous women, violence, mystery, suspense, all of these are characteristics of film noir. The "heroes" are not always nice people, and they don't always do nice things. Happy endings are rare, and good guys and bad guys can be very hard to identify. A lot of these films were inspired by 1940s authors such as Raymond Chandler (my personal favorite author), Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain among others.

Neo noir describe modern films that have these elements, but have updated themes, technology, style and other references that are more modern. Blade Runner is one of the best examples of the neo noir film genre. It's dark, mysterious style and futuristic look has influenced everything from manga and anime to TV shows, movies and even books. Many film historians consider it one of the the most visually influential films in history.

Blade Runner
's flying cars are a major theme of the film, and if you watch the movie Fifth Element you will see its influence. Another element are plumes of steam and smoke rising from sewer
grates and being ejected from flying cars. Wet, rainy streets that reflect the multitude of neon lights crowds of people holding umbrellas with lighted handles, Oriental signs everywhere, all these are signature Blade Runner motifs.

When you read manga, or anime, you will be able to see elements inspired by Blade Runner. If you have not seen this film, do yourself a favor and see it, but make sure you see the correct version; there have actually been several. The most recent one is the definitive director's cut. For more information about Blade Runner, check out the links below.

The Wikipedia Blade Runner Page - A very detailed examination of the film, its making, controversey and its impact

Internet Movie Database (IMDB) Blade Runner page

Blade Runner: The Final Cut - Excellent site that features video clips from the film. Be sure to check this one out!

The Home of Blade Runner - An extremely detailed website with all things Blade Runner

No comments: