Watching the original before Blade Runner 2049: The one sci-fi film you should make a shrine of
Before Denis Villeneuve and Ryan Gosling bring Blade Runner 2049, we watched the original from 1982, starring Harrison Ford and our faith in science fiction has never been stronger.hollywood Updated: Oct 05, 2017 16:39 IST
The best kind of science fiction, I have found, doesn’t shoot for the stars in search of grandeur, it searches for the humanity within us. Some of my favourite films and television shows in the genre have been ones that tried to explore the intricacies within our souls.
Inception, even with the distracting and often confusing jumps through the world of dreams, essentially makes us want to feel paranoid about our thoughts. Are they really our own?
Interstellar, despite the stunning spaceships, black holes and loud church organs, challenges our idea of love. Why do we feel it and what if it is something more real than what we previously thought, enough to move mountains and bring long lost daddies back to their daughters?
Arrival, even with its intelligent heptapods and mechanics of communication, raises a question we rarely ask ourselves: How much pain is worth a fleeting moment of pure happiness?
Blade Runner, I have now realised, is the one behind it all. It was the beginning of filmmakers’ realisation that the real purpose of science fiction is to find ourselves, even if the stories are set a billion miles away from Earth. The film, while talking about sentient robots and a depleting planet, asks: What makes us human?
It’s 2019 and the Earth is turning into a wasteland. Humans’ love of slavery has not faded away and has led to the rise of artificially intelligent robots created in the image of man. The robots, called Replicants, have now begun to realise the injustice and have rebelled against the humans. They are now barred from entering Earth but a few still manage to get through the cracks.
Harrison Ford plays a retired Blade Runner, a special kind of cop assigned to hunt down the Replicants. The police asks him to return one last time and find four of them currently hiding among humans.
Ford’s performances as Han Solo or Indiana Jones never managed to leave a mark on me, but as Rick Deckard, he fit the role like a glove. His transition from ‘has-been cop’ to ‘man questioning his own humanity’ was one of the finest performances I’ve seen him give. His empty glares, his dismay at realising the truth and the utter frustration at the world, seeping through every inch of his skin, were all essential in making him one of the best sci fi heroes.
What worked for me was the music and the visual aesthetic. This was my first time watching the film, but it all felt so familiar. All the neons and the rain felt like a forgotten dream. I have seen it all before, in Akira, The Matrix, Ghost in a Shell, Dead Leaves and a host of other films. To realise this is where it all began was like finding the source of a long river, a shrine that perhaps began an entire religion.
The film not only inspired the future but also borrowed heavily from the past; the femme fatale under the protection of a neutral cop, the cop caught between evil heroes and heroic villains, and stylised shots of light entering through windows - it was all straight out of noir cinema.
The music is nothing like I had ever heard before. The futuristic synth mixes into tablas and jazzy saxophones and is confident enough to have a mind of its own. It plays all through, setting the mood rather than following it, and makes sure it brings neon restaurant signs back into your mind every time you hear it.
The film, I believe, took too long to realise it had all the right ingredients for a sequel. With Blade Runner, Ridley Scott asked: What really makes us human, and why is a sentient robot doomed to such a small life while we reign over them like gods - both questions we’ve asked God many times. With Blade Runner 2049, we hope Denis Villeneuve guides us into the light.
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First Published: Oct 05, 2017 16:36 IST