DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?

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Just like the waves of the ocean, the Cyberpunk genre has always come and gone in relevance in the pop-culture world. The more recent reason behind this being the release of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, although that did crash and burn pretty hard at the start.

But the genre, as we know it today exists thanks to a handful of extremely important works of media that existed many decades ago, when science fiction was a hot topic in the creative world. Out of these most influential works, Blade Runner takes a special place.

A movie released in 1982 directed by Ridley Scott starring Harrison Ford, Blade Runner is an adaptation of the popular novel from 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It tells of a futuristic world, where technology has advanced so far that humans are able to create humanoid androids called replicants that are virtually indistinguishable from regular humans. But when these replicants malfunction, it’s up to blade runners to swoop in and ‘retire’ them.

Set in 1982’s vision of 2019, Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford himself is a blade runner, who is commissioned to find a group of missing replicants who have gone rogue, killing a few people in the process. But things start to become a little complicated when the true nature of the replicants are revealed.

Only human

Throughout the story, the audience, through the lens of Deckard has to grapple with the question, what truly makes us human? When a replicant, an artificially created entity that thinks, feels and believes it to be human, is it right to be treating them as anything below us. Does sending them to retirement by blasting a hole in their heads simply because they exist an excusable act?

Of course, Deckard doesn’t have the answers to him. He’s too busy trying to complete his mission. But exploring any further would lead to spoiler territory.

Cyberpunk

Besides the philosophical musings of the movie, Blade Runner is famous for its aesthetic, incorporating everything you would expect from a cyberpunk world in the future. A gritty, polluted and overpopulated city that never ends or sleeps, rampant crime and depravity, neon lights, holographic billboards, futuristic cars and more, it’s all here in Blade Runner.

Being a fan of grungy environments, I immediately fell in love with the appearance and aesthetic of Blade Runner, which has been copied and mimicked over and over again in movies ever since, even to this day. While I’m glad we don’t have to live in a 2019 similar to the likes of Blade Runner’s setting, I can’t help but wonder how interesting it would be to visit a city similar to the likes of this movie.

A filmmaking masterclass

Of course, all this wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the amazing skill of the cinematographers and special effects designers. In a time where there was no such thing as CGI, or digital video editing, it is reported that the crew had to shoot the movie, rewind the film, and shoot again to obtain a lot of the effects and illusions that appear on screen. In fact, Blade Runner is considered to be a masterclass in filmmaking and creating special effects.

Don’t miss out

Although a movie over 40 years ago, it’s impressive how well Blade Runner has managed to not only stay relevant, but also remain a massive influence in popular culture as well as cinema even today. The movie has aged like fine wine, and in an era where AI is advancing in leaps and bounds, it isn’t long before we have to face the question that Deckard himself faced while chasing down the replicants.

If you haven’t watched Blade Runner, I highly recommend that you do. It’s not only one of the greatest movies of all time, it’s also a compelling, human story that doesn’t hold back. It’s a movie that you cannot and should not miss out on if you haven’t experienced it for yourself.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage