Blade Runner 2049 was just released in theaters, 35 years after the original film. The original film was a box office bust; however, it has since obtained cult classic status. The film even played a prominent role in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Hopefully many people will be going to theaters to experience the sequel, and I expect just as many people will be watching the original for a quick refresher or for the first time. We can still use the first film to learn about the dangers of a dystopian future and the existential nature of humanity.
The original Blade Runner does stand up to the test of time. Like the original Star Wars trilogy, this sci-fi classic can stand tall in the annals of film history. Somewhat unique to Blade Runner is the focus on darkness. The film paints a bleak picture of the future and the human condition. Every scene is consumed by darkness and even when the sun is shining, the main character, Rick Deckard, remarks “It’s too bright in here.” There is also a constant rain among the outdoor scenes that creates a noisy and tense background stage for the action.
The main theme throughout the film questions whether the replicant androids are worthy of being treated as beings with a certain level of human existence or merely as tools and slaves. At one point in the film, the replicant Pris states “I think therefore I am.” Quoting Descartes’ requirement for existence. The replicants have a desire to continue living, while humanity views their creation as a threat to their freedom.
However, the film is very clear to state that no replicant would be able to pass the Voight-Kampff test. The Voight-Kampff tests a being’s emotional response to a series of questions and scenarios. Through this test, the film argues that humans all have a certain reaction to empathy and their unique ability to understand the feelings of others through their own memories. Because replicants do not have memories they are unable to demonstrate this unique empathetic response and fail the Voight-Kampff test.
Thematic questions about our own humanity are still relevant today. The film questions human existence, and asks the viewer to question his or her own humanity. One might begin to wonder whether or not they would be able to pass a Voight-Kampff test and what that means for their own life. Even if a replicant is not human by traditional standards, do they have anything to add to nature of humanity. The replicants in the film believe they have perspectives that are worth exploring and should be shared with others.
The primary antagonist replicant Roy Batty sums up this thought in a monologue near the end of the film:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
He has witnessed scenes that many people will never get to experience. Should those perspectives be lost forever, or valued?
If you are looking for a film to challenge your notion of what it means to be human, I would highly recommend Blade Runner. The film will make you think. After watching it for the first time this weekend I didn’t know how to feel, but now I can’t stop thinking about it. There are many other themes that make Blade Runner a timeless classic, such as the power of corporations, a police state, and urbanization and nature, among others. All of which could be worthy of their own story.
Will you go see the new Blade Runner 2049 film? Do you think Rick Deckard was really a human or merely a replicant?
Or never mind about Blade Runner, check out the new Star War: The Last Jedi trailer: