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‘Blade Runner’ and its sequel: Philosophical Sci-Fi Relevant Now, More than Ever?

It’s been 40 years since Ridley Scott’s enduring vision of a postmodern Los Angeles consumed with neon lights and a perpetual rain. Adapted from Philip K. Dicks novel `Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' the 1982 neo-noir masterpiece 'Blade Runner,’ still serves as a benchmark for sci-fi, and is often credited with the creation of the cyberpunk genre. Blade Runner 2049 offers more than just a sequel to its predecessor, adding layers of meaning to questions that have been previously pondered. Coupled with Roger Deakins’ breathtaking cinematography, Denis Villunueve’s sequel is a testament to the possibilities of digital filmmaking and the depths of one man’s artistic vision. Both Scott and Villuneuve delve deep into the philosophy of human life while portraying a potential future for mankind. One of environmental degradation, chaos, and overpopulation that could one day prove more reality than fiction.

The world of Ridley Scott's original 1982 'Blade Runner' 



The 1982 film, Blade Runner, is a classic in the science fiction genre, exploring the relationship between humans and technology in the once so distant future of 2019.

 The film is set in a dystopian Los Angeles where genetically engineered replicants, or artificial humans, are utilized as slave labor. However, as society progressed, new models of replicants were engineered with the hopes of colonizing off world planets. Known as “Nexus 6,” this new breed of replicant would ultimately turn on its creators, mutinying on an off-world planet. To prevent the destruction of humanity, futuristic police officers coined “Blade Runners” serve at the forefront of the conflict between man and machine. Their job is to eliminate or “retire” unauthorized replicants on Earth. Our story begins when retired Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is brought out of retirement for one last assignment. 


One theme that remains constant throughout the Blade Runner Franchise is the nefarious use of technology in the postmodern era. In Ridley Scott’s portrait of a society inhabited by both man and machine, the latter is treated without dignity; replicants act as a tool for mankind being both replaceable and disposable. Another essential theme in the world of Blade Runner is the blurred lines between human and replicant. Replicants were designed to be identical to humans in both appearance and behavior, which raises questions about what it means to be human, and whether or not artificial intelligence can truly be alive. In today’s world, the merging of man and machine is happening now. Artificial intelligence is used as a tool in our current era for a variety of purposes, both professional and recreational. From national security to cyber security, transportation, education, and even art, artificial intelligence is an essential part of our lives, now more than ever.


Luv taking Officer K on a tour of the Wallace Headquarters.


 Denis Villenueve’s, Blade Runner 2049 explores similar themes as the original, such as the blurred lines between humans and replicants and the ethics of creating artificial life. However, the French filmmaker adds new layers to these themes, delving deeper into the consequences of the first film and how they have affected the Blade Runner universe. Blade Runner 2049 offers a greater look into the realities of artificial intelligence and its relationship with mankind, leaving the audience with a  much more intimate experience.

Officer K sharing an intimate moment with AI, Joi, played by Ana De Armas.


 The 2017 film stars Ryan Gosling (Drive, La La Land) as “K” an active blade runner of artificial construct who unearths a long buried secret involving the first human-replicant birth. A secret that holds the potential to plunge what’s left of their society into chaos. In what may be the most notable line of the film, the character, Lieutenant Joshi, played by Robin Wright (Princess Bride, House of Cards) somberly states “The world is built on a wall. It separates kind. Tell either side there's no wall, you bought a war. Or a slaughter.” This quote refers to the divide between humans and replicants, and its artificial nature. If a child can truly be born of a replicant, what does this pose from a moral standpoint? Lieutenant Joshi’s statement suggests that this “wall” between man and replicant is artificial, created by those in power to maintain social order, therefore the publication of this news could result in a society shattering revolution. Agent “K” is then tasked with locating and “retiring” the child without question…. A life altering order that sends the protagonist on a dream-like odyssey through the Los Angeles of 2049, in search of what we’re all looking for but can so rarely attain, an identity.


The Blade Runner franchise offers two thought-provoking films that explore the central theme of the relationship between humans and replicants, and the moral and ethical implications of creating artificial beings that are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Through its complex and multilayered narrative, the films raise important questions about what it means to be human and whether the distinctions between humans and replicants are as clear-cut as they seem. It ultimately challenges the audience to consider the value of all forms of life and the importance of empathy and compassion in a world that is often hostile and unforgiving. Overall, Blade Runner is a powerful and enduring work of science fiction that continues to resonate with audiences long after its initial release.


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Tags: Artificial Intelligence Blade runner “Ridley Scott” Cinematography” “Film” “Cinema “Denis Villeneuve”


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