On the face of it, dystopian movies are the hardest sell in cinema. Who wants to see a film telling you that everything goes wrong and we all live miserably ever after? But increasingly, it seems, that is what we want to see, looking at recent hit sagas such as The Hunger Games, Planet of the Apes, Divergent and now a Blade Runner sequel. The pill has to be sugared with spectacle and romance, but dystopian futures perform a function. They are the canary in humanity’s coal mine. They show us where we are going off-course and what we are afraid of – not in the future, but in the present. In the same way we are doomed to repeat history if we don’t understand it, perhaps we are doomed to end up eating each other if we don’t make Soylent Green.
Few people wanted to hear what the original Blade Runner had to say in 1982. The economy was beginning to come out of recession and Ronald Reagan was preparing to announce it was morning in America, but Blade Runner gave us a world where everything that could go wrong had gone wrong: environmental degradation, pollution, urban sprawl, corporate dominance, technology run amok – it’s the sum of all dystopias. No wonder audiences preferred the upbeat embrace of Spielberg’s ET.
Movies - Date - Blade - Runner - Age
But where most sci-fi movies quickly date, Blade Runner has improved with age. Of course, it was always a fantastic ride, superbly detailed and steeped in neo-noir atmospherics, but its deep, troubling ideas about technology, humanity and identity chimed with postmodern and cyberpunk theory, and launched a thousand PhD theses. One of the few student lectures I can remember was about the French theorist Jean Baudrillard, orders of simulacra, and how nothing is really real any more. In a down-with-the-kids gesture,...
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