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Friday, July 13, 2007

Blade Runner: Dark portents of the future

There are many science fiction movies that take on interactions with aliens such as ET, Aliens, etc; there is another breed that takes human conflict on a galaxy wide scale such as Star Wars, but there are few movies that take humanity in its home in the future, and portray it in such a dark canvas. Blade Runner is a classic movie set in the society of the future (set in 1982, it looks at Los Angeles of 2019). Looking at where we are now, 2019 does not seem to be like this, but maybe 2039 could be. Blade Runner is a movie that takes a look at the future, and takes all our fears of the future along with mad uncontrolled technological development and delivers an astounding gripping film. Many have called this film as the greatest science fiction movie of all time, and it could be reckoned among the top ones at any point of time.
The movie is loosely based upon a maverick science fiction author; if you have ever read any of Philip K Dick's novels, you will know what I mean. The movie was based on his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. With all the current discussion around cloning, stem cell research and the mixed attitudes around this, it seems unlikely that society will so easily accept the notion of creating beings that resemble us and are yet mechanical; but with a mind of their own, Asimov's Laws of Robotics not figuring anywhere.
This movie had a major production history in terms of difficulty in getting made, and with further collection releases, for more details refer to the Wikipedia entry. It was directed by Ridley Scot (fresh from the euphoria of Aliens in 1979) and was another classical movie in the sense that it was not much of a success initially, only gaining name and applause over the years.
The movie is about the common fear, of robots who are indistinguishable from humans and who are guided by their own thoughts, and thus can be very deadly for humans. And about the blade runner (Harrison Ford) who is almost retired, but is brought back to kill (retire) these robots (replicants). The Tyrell corporation, a leading corporation developed robotics technology to the advanced level of the NEXUS 6 series, where they were able to develop androids identical to humans, but with a designed life of 4 years (as a mechanism to control them). They were being used in off-world colonies as slave labor for dangerous tasks.
These robot slaves do a mutiny in one of these worlds, and an order is passed that any replicants found on earth will be executed (retired) by units called blade runners. No questions, no worries, just a quick execution for any robots found on earth.
Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired blade runner who is brought back for another mission when 4 of these replicants make their way to earth after hijacking a shuttle from an off-world to earth. He has to hunt these 4 - Roy Batty (the leader of the 4), Leon Kowalski, Zhora, and Pris. They are on their way to earth to somehow extend their life span of 4 years (going to be over shortly). Deckard also discovers that Tyrell's secretary Rachael, is also a similar robot, showing the true sadistic nature of her creator. She does not know that she is a robot, and she was been implanted with memories from Tyrell's niece in order to make her feel human (although she retains her life expectancy of 4 years).
In the meantime, Roy and Leon are trying to make their way to Tyrell, first using an eye designer called Chew to direct them to Sebastian (who plays chess with Tyrell and can thus get them to directly meet Tyrell). In the meantime, Rachael is humiliated by Deckard, she had come to his apartment to convince him about her humanity, but he exposes her replacement memories to her, thus showing her that she was also an android. In the most human of emotions, she cries at this disclosure.
Soon after, in an incredible chase at the ground level of this dirty city of the future, Deckard shoots Zhora, but shoots her in the back, something that he regrets (even though he has only retired an android). His feelings towards these replicants somewhat change when he is attacked by Leon, and in the nick of time, Rachael saves him by shooting Leon. In another sequence, Roy and Pris convince Sebastian to take Roy to Tyrell, which he does (through the chess game that he normally plays). Once in, Roy asks for an extension to his life, and when denied, he eventually crushes Tyrell's heads in a quick gesture and then kills Sebastian.
As the story reaches onto the last stages, Deckard reaches Sebastian's apartment after a phone call and after a bitter battle, shoots Pris. By this time, Roy has returned, and begins the last bitter fight, over empty apartments and roof-tops. Deckard is getting beaten by the superior power of Roy's robotic self, and after a series of escapes and fights, finds himself hanging onto dear life from a beam. Roy, is also hanging on for dear life with his 4 year limit just about over, and his life form dying away. In a last minute demonstration that the androids have human qualities, Roy saves Deckard and then dies. Deckard returns to his apartment and finds Rachael over there, and they move out to an uncertain future, given her 4 year limited life span. One question remains, was Deckard also a replicant? Never answered clearly.

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