Why You Should LOVE “Blade Runner”

There are few movies which are generally considered to be “great”. By “great”, I mean a film that critics, directors, actors, producers, and fans consider to be a work that is original, influential, and a must see. Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 film ‘Blade Runner’ is one such film, and it is a must-see for any science fiction fan. The movie was a flop when it originally debuted, but it developed a cult following soon after. Critics, once dismissive, began to gush over the movie in years following. Today, not long after a definitive ‘final cut’ of the film was released to celebrated the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, ‘Blade Runner’ has finally achieved the place it deserves as a major work of film and science fiction. Media and culture website IGN recently rated it the greatest sci-fi film ever, and a poll by The Guardian found it to be the most popular sci-fi movie among scientists. Two of the most famous film critics in the English speaking world, Roger Ebert and Mark Kermode, both consider the movie to be a seminal work of the genre. And directors from Guillermo del Toro to Chris Nolan have cited it as a major influence on their careers. They all love ‘Blade Runner’. And you should too.

Here are a few reasons why.

The Look

Perhaps the single greatest success of ‘Blade Runner’, and the reason why the film is most celebrated, is the look and feel of the film. From the hell scape opening shot of Los Angeles circa 2019, with a skyline filled with fiery smoke stacks and endless grimy urban sprawl, Ridley Scott sets the mood early in some of the most carefully crafted visuals ever filmed. The city itself seems beset upon by endless rain and grey weather, a world in which pollution has darkened both the sky and the lives of the people who live below it. We met Harrison Ford, playing Rick Deckard, on a busy street filled with flashing neon lights piercing the dreary night as crowds in shabby but exotic dress shuffle this way and that. As the film unfolds, we are spoiled with lavishly constructed images of this fascinating world of a futuristic city this on its last leg. This idea of the “used future” goes against science fiction archetypes in which the future is so often pristine, clean, and orderly. Rather, this is a city whose structural beauty and urban decay can both awe and repulse. Even those not inclined to city life can’t help but be captivated by the stunning visuals of ‘Blade Runner’.

The Theme


The movie sets up a society that in which themes of urban decay, overcrowding, mega corporations, environmental pollution, mass animal extinctions, artificial intelligence and the nature of humanity are all explored brilliantly without barraging the viewer with slanted political messages. Rather, the film’s ambiguity on several matters seems to take Earth’s decline for granted, as a natural evolution of a world increasingly urbanized, industrialized, and pollution. It is interesting to note the film’s insistence on running against stereotypes and commonly established themes. By the end of the film, we come to see the androids as almost more human than the humans, and view them as the sympathetic characters of the piece. And further, Rick Deckard, the film’s supposed great masculine figure, is found to be incapable of killing the two male androids. One dies of his own accord, and the other is killed by a woman, coming to Deckard’s rescue. Deckard does manage to kill the two female androids, one of whom he shoots in the back as she is running away. The strong male archetype is hardly on display here. What message this may be conveying isn’t overtly apparent, because ‘Blade Runner’ has a habit of raising more questions than it answers. Perhaps this is the film’s weakness, but it is also one of its great strengths.

The Philosophy

‘Blade Runner’ is rife with philosophic questions concerning what it means to be human as well as various morality questions when it comes to designing artificial intelligence. What does it mean to be human? What exactly is a human? If we design a robot that looks, acts, sounds, and feels human, can it be considered such? What if such a robot can breath, eat, bleed, grow old, and die? What kind of life form is it? Can we treat these creatures in any way we wish, as slaves? Or must we afford them a degree of rights? Can they defend themselves, petition for freedom, or demand a better life? In our world in which artificial intelligence is increasingly moving from the realm of science fiction to the realm of science fact, we must confront these questions sooner or later. Robots designed in laboratories are more and more life like as the years go by, and they are getting smarter, too. So smart, in fact, that by 2030 we should have robots that are smarter than humans. If we put that intelligence into a mechanical body, and let it roam around, what exactly is it? Just a machine? Or something more? Fascinating questions, to be sure, and they prove that ‘Blade Runner’ is a film whose philosophic quandaries were ahead of their time.

The Acting

One of the best reasons to see ‘Blade Runner’ is to watch Dutch actor Ruger Hauer’s performance. He plays Roy Batty, one of the male androids and the leader of this rogue group of androids. Some of the most beautiful lines in the movie were made up on the spot by Hauer, ad-libbed by an expert actor. His death scene is moving every time you see it. Harrison Ford does what he did so well back then, by shrugging into a role effortlessly, and playing a frumpy, disheveled anti-hero whose motivations are self serving and whose morale compass tends to swing this way and that. Backing up these two is a fantastic cast, from Sean Young playing Deckard’s love interest, to Edward James Olmos, portraying a bitter cop who nips at Deckard every turn, never passing up an opportunity to badger him. There isn’t a bad performance in this film, and that is a testament to the excellent casting that Ridley Scott did for this seminal work.

The Music


Lastly, I have to mention the film’s soundtrack. Crafted by Vangelis, this 80s-tastic music is filled with synthesizers and is very much a product of its time. But don’t let that turn you off. The music is at times moving, haunting, foreboding, and very much sets the tone for this world of high technology and low life. You can almost feel that cynicism of the ‘Blade Runner’ world in the dour tones of each track. If you want a treat, sit down and listen to ‘Blade Runner Blues’ (Seen Below), a prominent track throughout the movie that sounds like some kind of futuristic jazz. The sound is both haunting and inviting. It will leave you a bit unsettled but always wanting more.

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‘Blade Runner’ is an incredibly important film both for sci-fi fans and film lovers in general. Its looks, its theme, its sound, its characters and its story are compelling and very much relevant today. Countless movies, shows, and video games have been influenced by Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. Those would include Ghost in the Shell, Total Recall, 12 Monkeys, Gattaca, Batman Begins, Battlestar Galactica, Deus Ex, and Mass Effect, among countless others. This is a movie which stands the test of time, which asks questions of its audience, which entertains but also inspires. Be warned, though, this movie takes a few viewings to settle in properly. You must understand the whole story to truly appreciate the nuanced nature of the film’s progression. But trust me, you won’t be sorry for the effort. You should love ‘Blade Runner’.

- Steve E. Brown

Good Behavior: How To Convert Your Girlfriend To Sci-Fi

Beams of light race across limitless regions of space, transporting you from your dull drab existence to galaxies harboring untold mysteries lurking just over the horizon. Suddenly, you awaken from your break time cat nap and race home from work  to snuggle with your significant other. You’re hoping to explore new cultures and ideas through the medium of Science Fiction film or Television.

Then, without warning, those famous last words.

In the beginning avoid well known Sci-Fi Titles. Including "Star Trek"

“Science fiction is not my thing”
or maybe that old gem.
“I can’t get into science fiction”

Stabbed, you’re heartbroken and slighty disappointed, not just at the situation but in them on a personal level.

We’ve all been there. The struggle to make others understand the power and wonderment of ScifFi. It’s an endless uphill battle. It can be particularly troublesome in our beloved genre.

Therefore, I come before you today to give you some pointers that have helped me break the stigma for a few lucky ladies.

Before we can even begin to look at our battle plan, we must first understand the weapons in our arsenal. One of the greatest strengths of SciFi is it’s complexities and variations as a genre.  In almost every sense of the word, many genres have been bent to add more science fiction elements to it. That is to say, simply. SciFi has something in it for everyone, whether they know it or not. In that sense, most of your job is to simply know what your significant other likes or looks for in a film, book, or TV show. At that point connecting them with the right material is key.

To give a few examples:

-If she is big into human rights, non racism, cultural subjugation. You might want to suggest a genre bending film that explores apartheid in South Africa. “District 9″ (2009)

- If she’s into serious character drama films, or films that explore the devotion of humanity and the complexities of interpersonal relationships, “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica” would be a great choice

- If she’s into film noir, the clear choice would be “Blade Runner”

In breaking a life long ignorance mixed with a stigma which is constantly reinforced by society, the process must gentle and subtle. The way you present the material is equally as important if not more important than what you present.

As a film critic, I can say this with absolute certainty. Most moviegoers don’t understand how profound mood and the conditions which brought one to a film effect their opinion of the film as a piece.

"Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" (2004)

 

That said here are your tips:
1. Suggest the film as important to you. “I’ve been wanting to watch this, id love you to watch it with me”. This way they don’t feel you are trying to indoctrinate them and can enjoy the ride.

2. Stay away from “Hard” Science Fiction. This also applies to extremely well known titles that have been dubbed “nerdy”. I find that in the beginning the stigma and resistance double with the nerdy known titles. This includes but aren’t limited to: “Star Trek”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Star Wars”. I usually find it best to start with films that blend genres. Romance / SciFi (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), or Hidden SciFi (“Wall-E”). Stick to those which occur on Earth or the near future. It gives them the connectivity of other genres while showcasing the possibilities of SciFi. “Children of Men”, “Minority Report”, “A.I.” “Gattaca”, “Inception”. Not one of the tricks in my bag but it’s often been suggested that if said person loves a particular actor, director, or writer to show them a SciFi film they’ve done.

3. Afterward, If THEY tell you they like it then suggest another. “If you like this then I’m sure you’ll like this too “. If they don’t tell you they like it then lay off of the topic for the time being. About a month later, Rinse and Repeat.

Fret not fellow geek. Most people love Science Fiction they just don’t know or understand it yet. Some just want to avoid the stigma and don’t realize how much they are missing out on. They don’t understand the unique ability of the genre to both transport you to untold mysteries, but also explore complex issues on a human level. Nudge, don’t push, crawl not run, nurse her interest gently and you will have her shouting “Frak!”, in no time!

- Brandon M. Brevard

Nerdgasm: The Gee Whiz Factor

“The gee whiz factor is an essential part of SciFi” Gavin Scott (Screenwriter of Mists of Avalon) exclaimed at the Writer Guild of America Foundation’s panel on Science Fiction. He continued, “without it, all of the rest wouldn’t matter”. That very thought played on repeat as I geeked my way through the multiple and utter nerdgasm, aptly named “Tron: Legacy”. Ribbons of light dancing on a 6 story screen, florecent discs jumping from the 3D screen, rich colors, Jeff Bridges to the 2nd power, sinister villans and olivia wilde in tights. My knees knocks just thinking about it.

It was around the time that a double disced acrobat kung fu dodged an eye popping 3D IMAX flying disc in slow motion that I realized, my nerdy sense was tingling. Yes it happened, they made a dark man blush. Shortly after, I hobbled from the theater giddy, yet saddened by drab everyday existence. Curious, I wandered when the last time it was that I felt this feeling of elated wonderment. My time as a film critic has left me synical and skeptical of films. Discecting every frame, line and cut. It left me pondering when were my most memorable moments stnned by the gee whiz factor?

1. “Back to The Future II” – Hover board Scene

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsMr0Rqk6tU]

 

2. “Terminator II: Judgment Day” – Liquid Metal Scene

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5gGV1WB-xg]

 

3. “Lost in Space” – Jupiter Escape

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjHCeCKfWyM]

 

4. “Starship Troopers” – Klendathu Drop

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN7OdT1lQQ0]

 

5. “Battlestar Galactica” – Escape From New Caprica

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HIGlMDanw4]

 

6. “Star Trek” (2009) – Opening Scene (Attack of USS Kelvin)

YouTube Version Below is Recut

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43wdoWbDmA4]

 

7. “The Fifth Element” – Leloo Fights Mangalors

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP8fpaMCtto]

 

8. “The Matrix” – Neo Bullet Dodge

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc4cBiSXoCs]

 

9. “Sunshine” – Capa’s Jump/ Surface of The Sun

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clG_1sqOsBs]

 

10. “Inception” – Hallway Fight

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6XkEEzjVFA]

 

Compiling this list made me almost nostalgic. It takes me back to the particular moment that my knees knocked first seeing each. It’s these moments that I remember why I love film. It’s these moments where movie magic resides. It’s these where there is nothing to say but “Gee Whiz”

- Brandon M. Brevard

 



Stigma

“I don’t like science fiction”, she exclaimed from the balcony of her downtown L.A. apartment. Echoing the words I’d heard countless times before.  Unbeknownst to her, yet suspected by me, in just a few short months, “Avatar” would be one of her favorite movies of that year. I can’t say I was surprised though. Because, unfortunately for me, my beloved genre has a taboo, a black mark, a stigma if you will.

It’s reared it’s ugly head since around my 4th grade days. I remember nerding out with one of our best buddies to Star Trek: Voyager when it started. Even then, in elementary school we were called nerds and geeks, by people that had never seen a frame of the show. Such, is the life of a Nerd. Ridicule by those that don’t think critically. Many geeks, as we grow older and awkwardly search for our places in the world, a.k.a. high school, hide this inner Nerd deep down. Never to be seen or ridiculed by any other than those few close friends. Because back then, being pegged as a “sci-fi weirdo” slotted you as a creepy, awkward, socially handicapped, geek, who preoccupies themselves with the fantasy of far off worlds to compensate for the fact that they can’t adjust to the world in which they currently reside. Unfortunately, I can’t say this thinking’s absolutely false. There are some of us Sci Fi nerds out there like that. But in my personal experience from starting this blog, I can say with 100% certainty that a vast majority of sci-fi geeks are cool, contributing members of society that have it together. Many of them are those that hear, “you don’t seem like a nerd” on a regular basis.

The fundamental question to be asked is why? Why is this a collective unconscious thought in our society to prejudge an entire genre. A genre which most, who commit the ridicule haven’t taken the time to investigate the origins of said stigma. To investigate we will take a stroll down memory lane and rewind to World War II. “The Greatest Generation” had endured a war regarded by most to be the bloodiest and most horrific war in human history. Many men promised themselves, As major Dick Winters (Band of Brothers) did; that if they survived the war they would spend the rest of their days in peace and quiet. They did. With the war over and a Veterans Home Loan in their bank accounts, they fled in droves from the crowded loud inner cities and staked their claim in the quiet suburban life. Tranquility was the name of the game, a white picket fence, a stay at home wife, a dog, and 2.5 kids. It was perfection. That is, for those that lived through a terrible war. Their children, on the flip side, knew only peace and tranquility. They yearned for something greater, something captivating, something more exciting than their suburban existence. Hollywood studios knew this and they cashed in. It was these days that studios like Paramount and 20th Century Fox could still legally own movie theatres. The studios would release a couple of big money / Academy Award contenders a year (Films are known today as “Tent poles”). Then, for the rest of the year, they would need to continue making a profit to pay for the theatres and tent pole features. Enter: The B movies, those movies that would cash in on teen angst, cheap thrills and escapism to win over suburban youth. Sci Films like, “Invasion of The Body Snatchers”, “The Blob” and “The Day The Earth Stood Still” are key examples of this. With an entire genre being treated as B it’s no wonder that it began to build a subtle distaste on the tongue of the American people. For nearly 20 years these films were simply “Alien-of-the-week”. It wouldn’t be until the early 70s, after the manned space flights, that Sci Fi as a genre would be taken seriously. Films like Solaris and 2001: A Space Odessey took the genre seriously. Star Wars, a science fiction fantasy, changed the landscape of American film forever. It effectively ended, American New Wave and gave rise to flashy action adventure Sci Fi.

"Flight of The Navigator" (1986)

 

Pausing for a moment to get nostalgic, this is the era in which I grew. I’ve always found it curious when kids of my generation say they don’t like science fiction. Little do they know that our childhood era was the first resurgence of science fiction. Many of the films we grew up with and have come to love are science fiction. They just assume that because it’s not a bunch of stuffy, old guys spouting off technical terms, that it’s not science fiction. Examples include but arent limited to; “E.T: Extra Terrestrial”, “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”, “Flight of The Navigator”, “Short Circuit”, “Batteries not included”, “Jurassic Park”, “Small Soldiers”. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the hypocrisy here burns deep in my soul. With the same breath someone will exclaim they don’t like science fiction and then tell you they love films like, The Matrix, The Terminator, Avatar, Star Trek (2009), Lost, Inception, I Am Legend, or Transformers. All of which are science fiction and in some cases, classic Sci Fi

The Stigma is ingrained deep into our culture, it’s an uphill battle. We here at Astra Nova are determined to break this Stigma one ignorant soul at a time. Because here we are all about Social Commentary, We are all about star gazing, We are all about asking ” What if”? We are all about Good Science Fiction For Good People.

- Brandon M. Brevard