Blade Runner as one of Cinematic Masterpieces

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

‘Blade Runner’ film by Ridley Scott is an adaptation of the book ‘Do Andriod’s Dream of Electric Sheep’ by Philip K. Dick. The story follows the main protagonist Rick Deckard, a retired police officer who retired NEXUS 6 replicants, living in a dystopian LA, 2019. Deckard is called out of retired life to hunt down Replicants living undercover in LA.

Throughout all of the film, representation is very prevalent. If one was to take a look at Deckard, usually the protagonist isn’t the anti-hero. However here Deckard is the anti-hero (a broken man), he is a Blade Runner, hunting down replicants and ‘retiring’ them. He isn’t represented sympathetically as it doesn’t matter if he feels reluctant to ‘retire’ these replicants as he will do it either way. During the start of the film, Deckard is always in the shadows with his face being illuminated by the shadow. This shows the film-noir aspect of him, as this is typical conventions of film-noir scenes. He is a loner and he likes to keep it that way which is shown through his lack of respect towards others, his facial expressions when in the office with Bryant and even before that when Gaff comes to take Deckard to the station. He wears very steam punky/cyber punky clothing, which at the time of production wasn’t a thing, the film is a kind of progenitor of cyberpunk. We know hardly any information on Deckard, no past life.

However we do see photos on top of the piano that indicate a past life, but nothing is learnt overtime. However just because there are photos on his piano doesn’t mean that these are real, there is a question about Deckard’s humanity as one time Deckard daydreams about a unicorn, and later at the end of the film, Gaff leaves a unicorn outside his door. This makes us question if Deckard is human as his memories could be planted like Rachels, with the spider story. Rachel on the other hand, when we first meet her, she is very Femme Fatale, which is shows through the dark clothing that she wears, hardly any makeup on the eyes. She was very snappy, defensive and cold which all adds up to her Femme Fatale side. At this point she didn’t know she was a replicant. However when she learns that she isn’t human, she changes, one could argue that she ‘becomes more human’. She starts showing more emotions, she has more dialogue. When Rachel ‘falls in love’ with Deckard, she is a completely different person, her hair is down and all natural (which is completely different to the start of the film where her hair is very tight and perfectly done). She becomes a soft person, unlike her initial Femme Fatale self. Rachel is an important character as she humanises Replicants to Deckard, she changes him completely, Rachel helps develop Deckard as a character throughout the movie.

In Blade Runner, a few different structures could be looked at. It is told in chronological order however there is also two stories being told. The Todorov narrative structure goes as follows: Equilibrium, Disruption of the Equilibrium, Recognition of the disruption, An attempt to repair the damage, New Equilibrium. Although the return to Equilibrium isn’t always the same, instead it’s the new equilibrium on its own. The normality (equilibrium) in Deckard’s case, is his quiet life. For instance one of the first few scenes where we see Deckard sitting reading his newspaper about to eat some food, that is his state of equilibrium. Then comes the disruption of the equilibrium, which is when Deckard gets a task given from Bryant.

This is when we find out he no longer works for Bryant or anyone. So he wants to leave and tells Bryant no, this is when Bryant says “if you aren’t a cop you’re little people”, basically saying to Deckard that only authority has that control, and if you aren’t with them you are below them. Which is what is the deciding factor for Deckard as here he has no choice and is forced into taking on this task, hence he is in a state of disruption of equilibrium, where he no longer feels comfortable. This then leads Deckard right to recognition, which is in the scene of the audio of Leon’s where he learns who the Replicants that he has to ‘retire’ are. The repair of damage is where Deckard hunts down and kills the replicants. The last stage of Todorov’s theory is facing these replicants and tries to ‘retire’ them. Although Deckard after this returns to a new normality with a what seems to be happy ending, the way we look at him is different. His tasks aren’t all so simple, essentially he is faced with killing things that seem to be more human than actual humans.

The fact that Deckard is killing these replicants is tragic in itself. As earlier on we see a dream that Deckard had of a Unicorn, skip to the end of the film and Gaff has left an origami figure of an unicorn outside his door. The fact that Gaff has left a unicorn origami there is very significant as this is a direct reference to his dream and it seems that these memories he is having aren’t real. This makes the audience question whether Deckard is a replicant himself. This is very prevalent during the first scene with Rachel when she ask Deckard if he has ever took the replicant detection test himself, to which he doesn’t answer. This starts the question of ‘Is Deckard a replicant?’. This classic Hollywood structure is an significant structure to use as the audience is use to this kind of thing, its very straight forward and follows this structure religiously.

The use of cinematic codes in ‘Blade Runner is also very important, especially though symbolism. Deckard knew about Rachels memories about the spider because that is a fitted programme in replicants, however remembering the fact that Deckard knew about Rachels spider memories, Gaff knowing about the unicorn memory/dream makes the audience question if anything about Deckard is true, especially his humanity. Animals are also extremely rare now, to the point where having an animal is a sign of high status, for example Tyrell, he has an Owl/bird which look very much real, the Owl/bird blends in with his very gold like room that signifies wealth. Also all animals have a correlation to the character that they are with: Tyrell and eagle like sight, he creates these replicants he has the wisdom, the eagle has big eyes and big eyes signify more wisdom as the eyes are the window to the soul, however this is false wisdom. The snake scales that are in the movie could be interpreted as rebirth, as the replicants are trying to escape death and they have a desire for human morality. The first time we meet Roy Batty he is more like a wolf through his wild like behaviour, but then associated with a dove because he is finally free once he dies, a dove is very innocent and really Roy Batty is at the end.

This all shows the significance of the animal symbolism as it runs through the full of the film, it connects with each character of importance, and it shows the development of characters. The use of mis-en-scene within ‘Blade Runner’ also adds to the cinematic codes. Looking at the scene just before Deckard is about to eat, this scene shows the commerce vs nature theme through mis-en-scene: The shot is looking down at what seems to be a building with an automated voice; “a new life awaits you on the off-world colonies, the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.” This itself shows the theme of commerce vs nature, as basically the world has been ruined and it is no longer a place where opportunity and adventure is around, as the world has been ruined by technology. The use of the voice against the very dark and glum background makes the thought that technology has ruined the world, very much true. As darkness of the shot with the bright lights against the idea of what ‘golden land’ looks like, contrast each other. The darkness with artificial lights shows a lack of natural light, taking away the natural feel to Earth. The fog/smoke gives a very industrial atmosphere to the place. This shows the worries at the time that people were having about Technology taking over and destroying the world.

The use of the word ‘gold’ here, is important because gold has connotations of wealth, happiness and of course money, trying to manipulate those who live on Earth into going to the ‘off-world’. The main theme song at the start of the film is very sci-fi like, use of a synthesizer fits with the film genre very well as when first hearing the music, it paints a clear picture. The main theme has a very cold, futuristic feel, much like all other main theme songs in sci-fi films. This could be looked at as the coldness of Deckard, as at the start of the film he feels no sympathy for the replicants. To then looking at the love theme song at the end of the film, its jazzy, more upbeat, more Film-Noir/Romance than Sci-Fi, has a warm feeling to it as it is associated with love and romance. This is a contrast to the theme song at the start of the film and its more natural, human made rather than machine made, this shows the transition of how Deckard feels towards replicants.

‘Blade Runner’s main Genre is Sci-Fi, however it dips in Film-Noir. What makes Blade Runner interesting is the Atypical conventions: Advanced tech(empathy detector, spinner cars), Dystopia, not unusual however destroying the world and going backwards, Humanizing robots, moral ambiguity(making the audience question if the protagonist is on the wrong side). Although the main genre is Sci-Fi, Film noir is a big genre in ‘Blade Runner’, this can be seen through the typical conventions like the dark and brooding atmosphere, the man hunts, the crime element (protagonist being a detective), Rachel being the classic black widow/femme fatale at the start… But the film also has atypical conventions such as, although being a broken man, Deckard is dragged along and it isn’t his choice, it’s the choice of Bryant. Deckard doesn’t get saved, he is saved. Also in the end he ‘gets the girl’. Having two big genre’s like Sci-Fi and Film-Noir widens the audience as many could like different aspects of the film. Because of the Film-Noir aspect of the movie, it changes the narrative structure from a boring, old Sci-Fi, in to something with more depth, more meaning.

Apart from the two main genre’s, ‘Blade Runner also dips into other genres: Romance; between Rachel and Deckard, from two different worlds, faced with challenges at every turn, conflicts between love interest, giving a very Romeo and Juliet feel to their love. Thriller; constant peril, tension and ‘edge of the seat’ suspense, psychological questions and themes that also ties to Film-Noir. Horror; horror tropes, body horror, the scene at the end where Batty forces a nail through his hand, great gore and extreme violence throughout the film. All of these smaller genres contribute to the progression of narrative structure as they all add to the overall end. ‘Blade Runner’ also kind of created the subgenre as an in an article by IndieWire said “As the role of technology plays in our daily lives has grown exponentially since the ‘70s and ‘80s, the theme of the cyerpunk movement have permeated all aspects of popular culture. As a result, the international film market has increasingly gravitated toward this futuristic setting defined by technology…”

The film, although it flopped in the cinema is a cinematic masterpiece. When looked at now it was very ahead of its time. The representation of Rachel through the film, starting her off as a Femme Fatale to then becoming more and more human although she is a Replicant was very successful because this progressed the character of Deckard as well as herself. The Todorov theory, when applied to ‘Blade Runner’ helps develop narrative structure and character, and runs perfectly through it. The use of symbolism through eyes, animals… gives the story a backstory and much more depth as each thing has a meaning to it and ties together. Even the use of music in the film, showed narrative structure and enhanced the film-noir aspect of the film. Overall the film has contributed to genre today as it has shifted the way Sci-fi is made, it created a stand of cyberpunk which is very relevant today.


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