November 2019 – The Blade Runner Setting
“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.
“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.
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?
Other Movies Where the Main Character Was Brought Out of Retirement
The Fifth Element
The Eiker Sanction
If there are 4 or more bad guys the person with the hero has to kill at least one.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
WIld Wild West
The Crazies (2010)
Live Free or Die Hard
Sgt. Al Powell
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
From Russia With Love
Science Fiction movies where the woman's father or father figure died
The Phantom from 10,00 Leagues
The War of the Worlds
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Earth vs the Flying Saucers
Village of the Damned
A Crack in the World
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