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November 2019 – The Blade Runner Setting

Updated on December 22, 2019
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Theatrical Release PosterThe Bradbury Building was one of the scene settings.A prop flying police car used in Blade Runner. "Prometheus", a film in the "Alien" franchise, refers to a corporation in "Blade Runner".
Theatrical Release Poster
Theatrical Release Poster | Source
The Bradbury Building was one of the scene settings.
The Bradbury Building was one of the scene settings. | Source
A prop flying police car used in Blade Runner.
A prop flying police car used in Blade Runner. | Source
"Prometheus", a film in the "Alien" franchise, refers to a corporation in "Blade Runner".
"Prometheus", a film in the "Alien" franchise, refers to a corporation in "Blade Runner". | Source

Introduction

“Blade Runner” opened in theaters in 1982. It opened to mixed reviews. Some reviewers didn’t like the movie’s grim portrayal and dark settings. Today the film is a Science Fiction classic. “Blade Runner” started the Sci Fi Noir and Cyber Punk genres. November 2019 is much different than what was predicted in “Blade Runner”. Flying cars aside that’s all for the good. This article contains spoilers.

The Plot

“Androids”, called “replicants”, are made by the Tyrell corporation. The replicants are biological rather than mechanical. They are physically and mentally equal or superior to humans. The backstory is there was a replicant uprising. To prevent future uprisings replicants are forbidden on Earth. They are sent to outer space, “off world”, where they usually perform dangerous tasks. By design replicants only live 4 years. If a replicant comes to Earth special police officers, called “blade runners”[i], find and kill them.

The main protagonist is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). He is a retied “blade runner”. He is out of work and despondent about his life. A plainclothes police officer, Gaff (Edward James Olmos), and speaks a sentence with words from different languages. The language is called “City Speak”. Gaff takes Deckard to his superior, who is Deckard’s former superior, Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh).

Four replicants, called “skin jobs” as a slur, were loose on Earth. Leon (Brion James), who critically wounded another Blade Runner (Morgan Paull), did dangerous manual labor jobs. Pris (Daryl Hannah) was a “pleasure unit”. Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) was an assassin. Batty (Rutger Hauer) was a soldier who was designed to act as an independent unit. Bryant wants Deckard to come out of retirement and kill the replicants. Bryant convinces Deckard by pointing out he is either a cop or one of the “little people”. The slang term for killing a replicant is “retirement”.

Bryant sends Deckard to meet Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). Dr. Tyrell introduces Deckard to his niece Rachael (Sean Young). Dr. Tyrell asks Deckard to perform the test he uses to detect replicants on Rachael. Ostensibly, the test is because he wants to see the test performed on a non-replicant. Deckard finds out Rachel is a replicant but it took him many more questions than usual. Dr. Tyrell was impressed with himself that he created a replicant that behaved more human than previous replicant versions. He achieved this by implanting false memories into Rachel.

Later Rachel comes to Deckard’s apartment to tell him her uncle lied about her being a replicant. Deckard gives her details about some of her memories. Rachael runs away and she is added to the list of replicants Deckard has to kill.

Deckard has classic confrontations with the replicants. The reason the replicants came to Earth was to find a way to get their life spans extended. Batty makes his way to Tyrell. It was a meeting of two geniuses and an entity and its creator. “Blade Runner” has what is arguably the most memorable dying soliloquy in movie history.


[i] It’s not mentioned in the movie but the term “blade runner” is a nickname given to people who smuggle illegal medical equipment.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Skyscrapers in Blade Runner's 2019.Los Angeles circa 2019
Skyscrapers in Blade Runner's 2019.
Skyscrapers in Blade Runner's 2019. | Source
Los Angeles circa 2019
Los Angeles circa 2019 | Source

Blade Runner’s 2019

The “Blade Runner” universe is the same universe as the “Alien” franchise and the 1998 movie “Soldier”. In 2019 humans will have a large human presence in outer space and will be fighting wars in outer space. In real world 2019 human presence is confined to a dozen people or less in low Earth orbit. Humans have not ventured out of Earth orbit since 1972.

Los Angeles, and by extension every other urban area, is in an eternal twilight because of pollution. Urban areas in the real world aren’t anywhere near that bad.

Though not as sophisticated, or as dangerous, as Pris there is an industry for pleasure units.[i] These are robotic rather than biological creations. There are also robotic examples of living and extinct animals. These include robotic snakes. Owls are not extinct. A fungal infection in the 1970s has caused a major die off of amphibians. The die off is now past its peak. Frogs are relatively inexpensive.[ii]

In 1982 the tallest building in Los Angeles was the Aon Center at 858 feet (262 m). Today the U.S. Bank Tower, 1,018 feet (310 m) completed in 1989, and the Wilshire Grand Center, 1,100 feet (335 m) completed in 2017, are the tallest buildings in Los Angeles. Impressive structures but nowhere near the size of the Tyrell Corporation building. The Tyrell Corporation building was supposed to be 800 stories, about 8,250 feet (2,500) meters, tall.

As with many science fiction movies people drive around in cars that were antiques when the movie was made. In November 2019 owning a working antique car, such as the 1960 Imperial Crown, is a sign of affluence rather than poverty. Flying cars were in the experimental stage when Blade Runner was made and they are still in the experimental stage today.

There is not anything close to “City Speak”. In America people whose second language is English tend to speak their primary language when they are speaking with people who have the same primary language. They speak English when speaking to others.

Deckard uses technology similar to what was used in filming the 1999 movie “The Matrix”. The voice recognition Deckard uses to research the photograph seems advanced but is inefficient. A point and click from a mouse or other peripheral are much faster than voice instructions.

Cell phones, omnipresent in 2019, are conspicuous by their absence in “Blade Runner”.

In “Blade Runner” a woman is gunned down in the street and civilians and police are laid back about it. In Los Angeles 2019 if someone is gunned down in a crowded street, by someone in civilian clothes, civilians will scream duck or run and police are likely to treat the killer as an armed and dangerous suspect.

[i] Daily Star, “Sex robot factory ‘looks Like Westworld’ after producing ‘hyper-realistic’ dolls”, by Davis Rivers, November 9, 2019, last accessed 11/10/19.

[ii] Carolina Biological Supply sells 100 frogs for 4427.40, https://www.carolina.com/catalog/detail.jsp?prodId=146394&s_cid=ppc_ms_products&scid=scbplp146394&sc_intid=146394&msclkid=9f094345b94f185407a71e8dd14e74b0&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=SC%20Shopping&utm_term=4577541784564688&utm_content=All%20Products, last accessed, 11/10/19.

Controversy and Trivia – Contains Spoilers

The version released in theaters had voiceovers of Deckard similar to some Film Noir movies. In the voice overs Deckard would share his thoughts. Many, including Harrison Ford, didn’t like the voiceovers. At one point he said the voiceovers were written by “clowns”.[i] The voiceover was removed in “Blade Runner, The Final Cut”.

Another question is whether Deckard is a replicant. There are some possible hints. Replicants and Blade Runners aren’t supposed to have feelings. The movie depicts Deckard and replicants as having feelings. After Deckard kills Zhora his voiceover says; “The report read ‘Routine retirement of a replicant.’ That didn’t make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back.” Rachael asked Deckard if he ever took the test to see if he was a replicant.

Deckard being a replicant creates apparent plot holes. Having a replicant, that doesn’t know it’s a replicant, hunt and kill other replicants makes sense. Why would they implant so much emotional baggage in a Blade Runner that isn’t supposed to have emotions? Why would they have the Blade Runner replicant go through the theatrics of being reluctant to take an assignment? Replicants, that aren’t aware they are replicants, are the latest technology. Why would they create a Blade Runner that was a markedly inferior fighter to the replicants it was going to hunt? Deckard fought each of the replicants in hand-to-hand combat and was outmatched in each fight.

Plot holes aren’t show stoppers in movies. In Blade Runner they have pictures and videos of the fugitive replicants yet a Blade Runner, Holden (Morgan Paull), administers a test to Leon. Leon looked as he did in the available images. Deckard made a current picture of Zhora even though she looked as she did in the available images. Why would Gaff, who spoke fluent English, talk to Deckard in “City Speak” and wait for someone to interpret for him? Deckard’s knowledge of replicants seems to be lacking considering his job and expertise.

An interesting trivia about “Blead Runner” is like the protagonist in the classic Western “High Noon” Deckard has to deal with four antagonists. As with “High Noon” a woman kills one of the antagonists. In a departure from the standard formula, of the three replicants killed, a woman kills the man and Deckard kills the women.


[i] International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/trivia, last accessed, 11/10/19.

What do you think of the voiceover?

See results

Other Movies Where the Main Character Was Brought Out of Retirement

 
 
 
 
Space Cowboys
The Sing
Demolition Man
The Rock
Star Wars
Rocky IV
Unforgiven
The Fifth Element
The Eiker Sanction
Lockout
Deep Impact
The Natural
In some cases the person is not technically retired but has been away from the job they are called to do for some time.

If there are 4 or more bad guys the person with the hero has to kill at least one.

Movie
Character
Movie
Character
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Benji
WIld Wild West
President Grant
The Crazies (2010)
Judy
The Tournament
Father MacAvoy
Live Free or Die Hard
Justin Long
Die Hard
Sgt. Al Powell
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The Wizard
From Russia With Love
Tatiana Romanova
These are characters who wouldn't be normally involved in killing.

Science Fiction movies where the woman's father or father figure died

The Phantom from 10,00 Leagues
Armageddon
The War of the Worlds
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Pacific Rim
Forbidden Planet
Earth vs the Flying Saucers
Cherry 2000
Village of the Damned
A Crack in the World
The Nest
 

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Robert Sacchi

Comments

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    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      A dystopian future makes for interesting movies but no one would want to live in such an interesting setting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 months ago from Houston, Texas

      It was interesting reading this because this is a movie that I missed seeing. I did watch the Matrix, however, which you mentioned. Blade Runner does seem like it would be dark. I hope that pollution does not wipe out our animal species such as portrayed in this movie.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      Yes, it seems one thing a futurist can accurately predict about the future is their own embarrassment. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      9 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Robert

      I remember wayching the movie a long time ago and enjoying it, but not too much of the plot.

      I think it was enjoyable for the era it was made in, but trying to predict what things will be like forty years in the future?

      I've realised I can't even predict one year ahead let alone forty!

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      10 months ago

      Thank you both for reading and commenting:

      Luis G. Asuncion - Harrison Ford is a talented actor. In Air Force One there was the feeling, "why can't we have a president like that",

      FlourishAnyway - I remember reading in "Jurassic Park" they averaged one mistake a minute. A lot of it depends on what to expect. Many movies require the viewer to check reality at the door. The complaint with many of the recent remakes, sequels, and reboots is they seem to rewrite the franchise canon. How the audience feels about it tends to show up at the box office receipts.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      10 months ago from USA

      I really liked how you not only superbly summarized the movie plot but also truly analyzed it, finding inconsistencies and then drawing parallels to other movies in certain ways. Movies are totally not my thing. Although I enjoy them I often get stuck on the believability factor, an error that occurred in the film, etc. you did a masterful job here.

    • Luis G Asuncion profile image

      Luis G Asuncion 

      10 months ago from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines

      I remember Harrison Ford in the film Airforce One... I watched that several times.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      10 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liz Westwood - The time going by fast sensation could be for a number or reasons. One possible reason is the number of previous years. It's like the first day at a job being the longest. The longer at the job, the more routine things become and the less memorable days tend to be.

      Mary Norton - Glad the article sparked your interest.

      Pamela Oglesby - The futuristic setting, for 1982, and the Film Noir feel makes for a different than usual Sci Fi movie.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I saw the original movie but I have not seen the most recent one. I liked reading your review and all the additional information provided in your article. I don't like scary movies very much, but this sounds like a movie that would keep my attention.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      10 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not seen this movie yet so will check it out. From your article, I'll be well prepared to watch it. I usually get scared of movies like these but will still check it out.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      It's alarming how quickly time is catching up with us! I have a theory that it speeds up as we get older.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      10 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. It's interesting how many of the future settings in science fiction movies are now the present. I was thinking about writing a "Blade Runner" article. When I was reminded the setting was November 2019 I put the project on the front burner and in high gear.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      I like the clever angle of comparing life now with Blade Runner predictions.

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