Warning! Warning! This following discussion contains extensive reference to Blade Runner along with other related movies, series and novels, contains major spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…
Welcome back, future thinkers. So, we’ve got another interesting retrospective for you this week where we are going to be looking at the production history of the film Blade Runner. Although we have sad news at the time of writing this so I’d like to dedicate this post to Rutger Hauer who passed away on the 23rd of July this year, the same year as Roy Batty was terminated in the film. Fantastic actor, he really made the role his own and even developed the Tears in the Rain speech you hear in the film, one of cinema’s most iconic monologues. Hope he rests in peace and let’s get on with the retrospective.
I say I don’t need to remind you about the plot of Blade Runner, the iconic Sci-Fi Noir and Cyberpunk film so I’ll move straight on to the discussion. Here I want to go through each step of the process and the troubles that came with making the movie from the conceptualisation/script, the preproduction, shooting the movie, the post production and initial postproduction before looking at how the film became a cult classic on VHS. This is all information that comes from cast interviews, behind the scenes and documentaries on the film such as the excellent and one of the most interesting film docs ever (at least in my opinion), Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner. This is meant to act as a way to present some of the excellence and problems the film faced in a written format. Now, let’s dive into things that you wouldn’t believe as we start this post by looking at developing the script.
Often scripts are written in two ways, the director works from the writer from the start (sometimes the writer is also the director) or the writer finishes a script, polishes it up and then shops it round for studios and directors. That’s usually how it goes but sometimes it doesn’t go that simply such as what happened with Blade Runner. When working with a director you will likely have to change some things and this will be picked up by media and then rumours get out of control. It all begins here with a simple script, a script or several scripts that didn’t make the cut, by the writer Hampton Fancher.
His original idea was to create a film that was more tightly set on character and dialogue within a few indoor locations. In fact, Hampton Fancher didn’t originally set to write the film but in request of an actor friend (Brian Kelly) who asked him to make a new project. When looking for this project he would stumble onto a book by Philip K Dick, the brilliant novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In his partnership with Kelly, they would get the rights to make a movie from the book for a mere $2000 (very low even with inflation).
This was, however, not actually the first time that the book was going to be made into a film, there was interest in the book shortly after it was published. This was by Martin Scorsese although he never even got to the stage of optioning/purchasing the films rights from Philip K. Dick. Later after the book was published in 1970 (the book was published in 1968), interest came again with Herb Jaffe having interest in making the book into movie but after getting his son to attempt adapting the novel, Philip K. Dick would quickly shoot down the script calling it “so terrible” that when Robert (Herb’s son) came to talk about the film, he asked him whether he would like to beat him up where they stood or back at his apartment. It wouldn’t be until 1977 until Hampton posed his script that Blade Runner would begin to get in motion and we are back to where we just were but the troubles of adapting the work were just beginning, it would be a long five years between working on the script to getting it on screen.
To say the least, it wasn’t just as easy as getting the script from page to screen as a lot of changes were to be made when Michael Deeley and Ridley Scott came onboard. Whilst Hampton wrote the first drafts of the script, it would turn out very different. Originally it was meant to be a more character based and would occur in a couple of rooms but as you know it would become to be something much bigger. Ridley Scott specifically had many ideas for the film after reading the script and book, even though originally he was set to do Dune in 1979 but dropped out due to needing to work on something to help him cope with his brother’s recent death (elements which can somewhat be seen in the film).
What began with broadening the film’s scope and locations at first to entirely changing parts of the script in order to fit the new story they were creating although some of the scenes they added ended up being cut in the final versions of the script when David Peoples was writer (such as a certain scene involving soap which is very familiar to the opening of Blade Runner 2049, the film’s excellent sequel). Much inspiration was also taken from Heavy Metal comics (which Ridley was a fan of) which would come to heavily influence the look of the film. With the film on the horizon and Ridley changing so much of Hampton’s original script (much of the reason was because of the cerebral tone Ridley wanted to create that just wasn’t the way Hampton wrote) that he became tired and would resist many of the changes that Scott and the producers wanted him to make. This would lead to Hampton Fancher being fired and David Peoples coming onboard (someone that would write their ideas for the script).
When Peoples came onboard is when the script shaped up to what it is today with many things being changed from Hampton’s draft in the ways Ridley wanted. The main problem was that Hampton wasn’t originally told this was happening, only finding out after most of the script had been completely changed. His project had been taken away from him in order to go for more what Ridley wanted (which would be the great film that we got when Blade Runner was released, minus the bad ending and terrible voiceover, although more on that later). Hampton was of course devastated and furious but would later go back to see that this was the best decision whenever he saw the film due to how different his and Ridley’s ideas were for the film, working out best for what Blade Runner would become.
Preproduction and Design:
This was only the first main hurdle of the production as many of the problems were only beginning with the film, there were to be many troubles to come. Whenever the script was finished, next they were to start building props and the setting that the film would occur within, right as the writer’s strike would occur. Usually you would find a writer’s strike would be a huge problem for most films when it occurs but for Blade Runner it would be exactly what the film needed. The strike would actually give Ridley and the Blade Runner crew enough time to design and build everything they needed for the movie, helping them to create the world of Blade Runner with enough time to spare after the filming was delayed by roughly nine months.
The design and creation of the world went rather smoothly for the crew even though it could be a main reason for the film going overbudget, (although more on that later). Art director David Snyder, Production Designer Lawrence G. Paul and Syd Mead the Industrial Designer (Visual Futurist) would be the three main people that would help Ridley Scott fulfil his vision for this world although it is interesting to talk about how they built the sets and the props. Blade Runner is the top example of creating a cyberpunk world and that is more many reasons. How the world feels alive but grim and dark, crime ridden. How it feels like the streets of a Noir movie making it feel familiar even with the future setting, due to them using the Warner Brothers backlot that was used was the same one that had been used to film 1940’s Film Noir and many other iconic films. Several actual locations would also be used (although more on them later).
For the set and the props, several workshops would be hired to create new vehicles, neon signs and other revamped trinkets of everyday life in the future such as the famous Voight-Kompf machine used in the book. The city had to be entirely redesigned to fit this new Sci-Fi world and the effort they put in really shows with the excellent world they created. How they created everything from streetlights that electrify those who try to vandalise them to light up umbrellas which light through the thick fog; from futuristic cars and trucks built from wood and scrap materials to the whole sets being decorated with bright neon light. The design of the world is immaculate and some of the best set design you’d probably see which was then refined when Blade Runner 2049 would be made roughly 35 years later. As you’re watching it you feel you are looking at a dystopian world, you fully immersive yourself in Los Angeles, November 2019. A world created that is iconic as that of Metropolis or Lv426. Another quick thing I will mention is that on the main set they actually used Vangelis’ temp music for when they filmed on the backlot, helping the crew to get into the atmosphere during filming.
Whilst I mentioned the design and script writing process, I have not yet talked about the actors although I think it is important before I jump into the actual production of the film. Whilst I will go into the actor relationship later, I want to look at why certain actors were chosen and why they are part of why the film works as much as it does. First of all, there is Deckard played by Harrison Ford. Originally Hampton Fancher wanted Robert Mitchum to portray the character due to his iconic roles in Film Noir influencing how he wrote the script (at that time called Dangerous Days).
Dustin Hoffman was also floated round as the character and many of the storyboards made at that time show he was considered. Other actors that were considered include Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Al (say hello to my chocolate blend) Pacino and Tommy Lee Jones to name a few people up for the role. As you can see by watching the film that this didn’t go ahead, Harrison Ford was given the role due to his praised roles in Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg and Star Wars. However, the studio were to use a fedora similar to Noir films although this idea had to be scrapped because of its iconic use by Indiana Jones to distinct both roles.
Next is the beautiful Nexus 6 android Rachel played by Sean Young. Whilst you would think they would pick her based on her acting ability but she was chosen for something that you wouldn’t expect, how her aesthetic fits Ridley Scott’s vision of an android. Although she had much competition from many actresses who wanted the role. Morgan Paull (who played Holdon, the Blade Runner shot by Leon) was hired to be Harrison Ford’s acting double during the test screenings for the film and would test with many lesser-known actresses who auditioned for the role of Rachel such. Many of the producers and crew working on the film didn’t think she was right for the part because she was young and they saw her acting as not great. She was, however, picked for the role of the android who was then couched for the role by Jane Feinberg.
The actor Rutger Hauer, who sadly pasted in July of this year, was basically cast on the spot. Wearing a jumpsuit to his original meeting with the crew, the casting director, Jane Feinberg decided he was right for the role as soon as they first met them and so right they were. Rutger is Roy Batty, you picture him when you read the book, he plays it perfectly and brings so much to the character. He really gives the sense of an android developing emotions. In one way a grown and wise adult and in other ways a child just grasping with the idea of death. Although I will talk about him and the rest of the acting as we go along, I just wanted to talk about this briefly. He is the perfect “antagonist” for the film and really brings the ideas from the film and even the book across in an excellent performance.
The other androids Brion James was cast as Leon, Daryl Hannah as Pris and Joanna Cassidy was cast as Zhora. The main android that was initially hard to cast was Pris where screentests with Morgan Paull were undertaken. Around four actresses were tested for the role and would each take their own spin on the role choosing their own costumes and style of performance, another from Daryl Hannah was Stacey Nelkin who whilst wasn’t cast as Pris was to be another of the androids from the book.
This, however, didn’t go to plan and her role had to be cut when production began due to her character not being able to fit in the overall story. Daryl Hannah, who got the role, was able to perform the gymnastic stunts that you can see throughout the scenes which she is part of. Although even though she was cast, she wasn’t the first choice as the lead of the band Blondie, Debbie Harry, was originally offered the role. Although Joanna Cassidy had no main problem getting the role, as did Leon, she brought her skill with handling her pet snake for the character of the assassin android.
Another notable cast member that I will talk about in this section is Edward James Olmos who plays Gaff, another Blade Runner. When he took the role, he decided to create his own language called City Speak which is made up of multiple different languages such as Japanese, Hungarian, Spanish, German, French and Chinese to the English language. This was used for the actual script’s dialogue and is a very creative choice to flesh out the world and the characters. Although all the cast are very good in their roles such as actors I haven’t mentioned, William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian, M. Emmet Walsh as the very Noir esc Captain Brett, Joe Turkel as the replicant creator Eldon Tyrell of Tyrell Corp, Morgan Paull as Dave Holden and the great James Hong as geneticist Hannibal Crew.
The Troubled Production – Getting Behind, Going over Budget and Fighting for Artistic Vision:
Whilst much of the production for Blade Runner was success with some great dailys (which are the shots collected at the end of the day), there were some problems with the overall production that were felt by the crew. The first of which was having to change the pillars in Tyrell’s (played very well by Joe Turkel) office. Ridley wanted the pillars the opposite way round from how they were placed so all of them had to be flipped, on the first day of filming the film. This wasn’t, however, the only problem because as it went along, Ridley Scott would take around 20 takes for a single scene which was against the normal convention for shooting at the time. To say the least that Ridley Scott was a perfectionist especially visually which can definitely be seen in Alien and Blade Runner among his many other films.
The eye for detail and visual perfect can be seen as both a positive and negative for the film. The positive is the presentation of the final cut of the film (more on the theatrical cut later) whilst the negatives are the film going over budget and going behind schedule. The set direction whilst magnificent took a while to properly organise each of the scenes, especially those shot on the backlot. Tyrell’s office in particular took a long time to polish in the way that he wanted it to meet his vision for the shot (which paid off in the best way possible). You can see his great eye for the picture through the lighting, the fog of the scene which is present throughout the movie and gives it a great dystopian flavour to the world, how everything in the set is decorated (as I have already discussed). This is also due to the fantastic work of Jordan Cronenweth who Ridley hired even though he was going through Parkinson’s at the time. But whilst the visuals are perfect and that had its own positives and negatives, there were also problems with the cast, crew and investors.
Due to the money that was put into Blade Runner, there was a lot of tension between Ridley Scott and the producers/investors. By the time that they got to shot the scene within Tyrell’s office with the Voight-Kompf test, it was already five days behind schedule and this wasn’t the last time that this was going to happen either as by the end of shooting, they were weeks behind schedule and overbudget. In many ways the same way the film was made would probably not be done now in a unique film of the budget that it had. Although impressive and even with a very experienced director like Ridley Scott behind it, how he clashed with the studio and the crew to get the film wouldn’t have been as much of his favour and he probably would be fired by the new studio system that is in place today.
Now that I’ve talked about the investors/producers problems with Ridley’s direction at the time, let’s talk about the problems cast and crew had during the filming of the movie. First of all there’s Harrison Ford who was unhappy at the time of filming due to the long nights of shooting where he would get little direction by Ridley himself who instead focused more on the visuals and Sean Young in most of their scenes. Whilst this was mainly so that Ford could make his own portrayal of the character due to how he was well coached by directors such as Spielberg.
His main problem was that was not what he was used to and would have preferred to be more hands on with the way the film was shaped and Ridley’s vision. He also had certain issues with Sean Young at the time due to her inexperience as an actor which lead up to the love scene (which is also dubbed as the hate scene). Whilst it is more misconstrued that they absolutely hated each other, they just didn’t have perfect chemistry with each other (with Sean Young criticising Ford telling her where she should be in the scene) although would try to cheer each other up when they could to relieve tension.
Although that wasn’t the only tension on the set as the crew members had a problem with the filming of Blade Runner. Working long nights for a British director, a lot were exhausted by the end of the production of the film. Setting up some days to shoot one or two scenes within a short period from dusk to dawn. They weren’t seeing daily’s footage and therefore didn’t know how the film was coming together at that time which gave no motivation for some to continue which lead to certain crew leaving during the film (which was counted by the crew in frustration with the hold ups during filming). The first of which was during the first scene of the movie, where Leon shoots Holden, in which Ridley complained about the cups and pens on the table and wanted them changed so the set designer (at the time) had to buy a lot of variations for Ridley to decide upon for the film. There were, however, several more with some leaving due to their duties being fulfilled although this left many other crew worried whether they were to have a job the next week when the call sheets were released.
The tensions would rise until they were at their boiling point, with the peak being after Ridley stated in an interview that he preferred the British crew to the American one. Although this is mainly due to how he had to adjust to what he could and couldn’t do along with how he enjoyed the attitude of the crew from the UK more when directing. This was the point where people became unhappy with Ridley and so a little protest was made between the crew. They wore T-shirts such as “Yes, Gov’nor”, My Ass!” and “You soar with the Eagles when you fly with the turkeys”. After finding out about this, Ridley and a couple of close colleagues decided to make shirts with the slogan “Xenophobia Sucks” which they presented in front of the orchestrator of the protest when he was getting out of his trailer. This really helped diffuse the situation and give every enough moral to finish the gruelling production of the film.
There were also smaller problems that were actually included within the film itself. The first of which is the scene where Prim runs into the truck and smashes the glass of the window when she runs away from J.F. Sebastian. Daryl Hannah actually smashed her elbow when she tripped in that scene and it made it into the final film that we see today. Although whilst we are on her, there were also some other problems. In the fight scene where Pris grabs Deckard by the nose, Daryl Hannah actually grabbed Harrison Ford by the nose in the film, there is no effect work, that actually happened and was shot many times before the scene was finally right. She also had to get close ups meaning that she had to do it further times to Harrison. To say the least, it makes the fight scene so much more realistic and brutal but left Harrison Ford with a bloody nose.
There were problems trying to shoot the action scenes with Joanna Cassidy as Zhora. Whilst there was no main problem with the actresses herself, it came more in one scene that was cut during filming and the scene where her character gets shot. Within the scene that Deckard goes to the bar to find Zhora, there was to be a scene where she would perform a dance with her snake which involved already planned choreography and stop-motion animation. This was cut during filming due to how behind and going overbudget the film already was at that point. In a sense it’s a shame not to see the scene but in the end, it really would have taken away from the pacing and dated the film due to how stop-motion was at the time. Ridley Scott was fine with cutting it anyway but it’s an interesting scene that was never filmed (although that happens all the time in the film and television industry).
The other scene involving Deckard shooting Zhora involved a stunt double although took long to set up and could have been very dangerous. Because of lacking a likeness to Joanna Cassidy, the stunt double had to wear a horrible wig which can be seen in the theatrical cut. She also ran through fake glass which was still painful and lead shards to go everywhere in the process. Later, however, to help fix the scene. Ridley got Joanna Cassidy to do some green screen work for the final cut which helped the double look more like the character. An example of how changing a scene with green screen can actually be beneficial when used in the right way.
Whilst Rutger Hauer found most of the production fine and greatly acted the role, there was one problem that involved the scene between Deckard and Baty on top of the Bradbury Building (more on that in a bit) where Baty has to jump across from building to building. Originally this was a fixed set although when the stunt doubles tried to make the jump, they kept failing until the point where they were running out of time (this was near the very end of filming and so it needed done that night). Akso as a side note, in the scene where he squeezes Tyrell’s head a head was actually sculped which cost $20,000 although this was hardly used as they made a use of blood bags that burst when Rutger pressed on his temples.
Eventually Rutger Hauer gave the idea that he could do it if they got it on wheels and moved it a bit closer. This was also the time when they had problems with the dove in his hands not flying up at the right moment. So they moved the set, which was very difficult and brought it to the studio. This allowed for Rutger to make the jump and complete the scene. Fun note on this scene, Rutger Hauer actually added the Tears in the Rain speech to the film during a reading of the script (something he made up previously for the movie). Whilst it was a shock to the writer of that time, David Peoples, it is an excellent edition and now one of the most iconic monologues of all time.
A last thing I’ll mention about the production stage is their use of the Bradbury building. Whilst they were allowed to use the building, they weren’t able to use dirt or mud to dirty up the floor and building. Instead, they used cork to make it look like mud which looks incredible authentic today. This would then allow them to easily wash away the mess when it would rain or they would wash it away with water. This was incredibly important to how they had an hour to clean up every day they used the building. Another thing to mention is that it was too dark so to get around this, they shot each exact part of the building that they shot at the time. It’s just some fantastic improvisation which can be seen throughout the use of the backlot or any other location used in the film which really makes the visualisation so realistic and believable even to this day.
This left little time and money for the special effect establishing shots made for the film such as flying scenes and the opening of the film. What they did at that time is incredible and still holds up to this day even with the little money that they had. A lot was done with minitures whilst others were done with well hidden green-screen. Special effects shots were then paired together through the use of negatives from high detailed film prints and lens flairs were then used onto of that. Philip K. Dick was also shown a number of the special effect shots by Ridley Scott and the producers when he wanted to see what they did with his book. What he saw astonished him as it was exactly what he had imagined when writing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I won’t go into much more of the specifics but here is an example of it below.
Post-Production – The Initial Cut, Test Screenings and the infamous Theatrical Cut:
As you know there were many problems with the post-production during the editing and reshoots this all starts with Ridley Scott being released from the film. Although he was later hired back this was the first instalment in studio involvement the cut would see. They originally wanted to oversee the editing rather than Ridley Scott and Terry Rawlings do it. Of course they got to do it and the workprint cut was formed which was pretty much the same as the director’s cut except without the unicorn dream sequence (which is something that is cool thematically but I don’t find the idea of Deckard being a Replicant makes sense). This would also include the fantastic Vangelis music throughout which is the same throughout each other version of the film.
Whilst they fought for their artistic vision for the first cut of the film, once it was shown to the crew and the public. This is where things would go sour as whilst Ridley and crew knew there were things to be changed when a few of them watched the cut previously, the public were very negative with many not understanding what the film meant at all. In essence, the film was being that no one understood what it meant. This would be done in the wrong way, through the use of a voice over. Although the main problem wasn’t that they were including a voice over, it was done for the wrong reasons and Harrison Ford was not happy.
Originally there was a voice over in Hampton Fancher’s script for Blade Runner, then known as either Mechanismo or Dangerous Days, it was cut pretty quickly as it didn’t fit the way the film was going. Instead of being used to get the mind of the character, it was going to be used to explain the movie to the audience, this is where the problem was. Several voice over scripts would be written for Harrison Ford which he consistently mocked and asked for changes for throughout recording. He would then come in each time it was changed and record the new lines where this would happen again (to say the least, Harrison didn’t like doing it).
This all came to a point where a writer had typed them out right before he had to do them based on notes made and so he had to record them. The weirdest thing is how infrequent it is at points and it explains basic fact we have just seen. This all culminates in the most laughable use of voice over just after Baty gives the Tears in Rain speech and deactivates, which just takes all the atmosphere from the film. This, of course, was done entirely without Ridley Scott’s supervision who was back in England working on prep for Legend.
Another thing that was added was a happy ending where we see Deckard and Rachel racing off into the sunset over another sappy voice-over where it basically explains that they will be okay. This is instead of the dark ending where they just exit the door and wonder what happens next. To say the least it was a terrible choice but it was to appease the studio from the test screening. Although when they tried to get footage for the driving car, most of it was unusable. This lead them to call Stanley Kubrick to see if he had any extra footage from The Shining driving scenes. He of course agreed that they could use unused footage they took which was edited into the theatrical cut of the film. It was then the theatrical cut was made and now it was about to face the multiplex, something that wouldn’t fare very well for the film.
Initial Reception and Box Office:
With everything that happened between the conceptualisation to the pre-production and re-edit of the film, it was finally time to release the film to the audience. The was much buzz on opening release but audiences were mixed which meant that word of mouth for the film would quickly die out after a $6.1 million open weekend ($21.1 million or £17.3 million without inflation). This was to be one of the big box-office bombs of 1982 with another being classic Sci-fi Horror, The Thing although ET was a big box-office cash cow that was released around the same time which most people at the time went to see (another reason could be seen as audiences just not wanting to watch a darker film although that’s another topic for another day). For a film that went over budget, it wasn’t going to make even its initial budget back (never mind advertising costs). Reviews were not the most positive either with a lot praising the visuals and spectacle of the film but finding the film inferior to the book or didn’t make sense. Although, this wasn’t the end of Blade Runner as a year later it would find its audience.
From Cult Classic to Classic – The Aftermath, Final Cut and Blade Runner 2049:
After the original mixed reception of the film, Blade Runner was a film that wasn’t going to go away easily. The first film example of cyberpunk, it soon gained a cult following which would build up over roughly a year. The theatrical cut was released in Europe with some more violent scenes not in the US version which was also released on a criterion laserdisc. This following would grow until one of the major events that gave the film new life, they gave the original workprint to a midnight screening for the movie after they got in contact with the studio. This was a version no one had seen before apart from crew and test screeners. There was no voice over or happy ending and so it quickly gained word of mouth leading it to gain a director’s cut in 1992.
This was not done by Ridley himself but under notes it made (excluding the happy ending and voice over and including the unicorn scene). This would lead to a game (which itself helped resurrect the Adventure games genre), comics and inspire manga and anime such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell and later the final cut was released in 2007 as a box set with the other cuts of the film included. Then in 2017 after years of speculation Blade Runner 2049 would be released, a sequel to the original film. This time incredibly well received but didn’t make much money back, the film was directed by Denis Villeneuve (one of my favourite directors), written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green with Cinematography by the master Roger Deakins and soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (originally going to be by Johann Johannsson).
The film is a great continuation to the original and I would say personally it is on par to it and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (although both have a lot of differences in plot and ideas presented but I prefer the book in how the plot unfolds). There is also a comic and anime series that is currently developed as a prologue to the movie telling the story of collapse of society and the rise of androids. To say the least the film has rose above its original setbacks to become a classic in itself which has inspired Sci-Fi as we know it today so let’s discuss that in our final section.
The Importance of Blade Runner and the Future for Cyberpunk:
No matter what you think about the quality of the film itself, to say the least it is so incredibly revolutionary in shaping what Science Fiction is in the current era. Although there was the idea of cyberpunk with books such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Neuromancer, it wasn’t yet visualised with Blade Runner helping to do that, going to set a trend for Sci-Fi media in the future. There’s media I have mentioned such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell, there’s books such as Altered Carbon made into a cyberpunk series of its own, Cowboy Bebop has cyberpunk and noir elements similar to Blade Runner and there’s Cyberpunk 2077 which is coming out in April 2020 along with many other cyberpunk novels and films. You could take films such as Wall-E, Children of Men, Total Recall, the Terminator franchise (although only the first two are good), Robocop, Upgrade, District 9, Matrix and many others. Although, I have already made a post on Cyberpunk which you can check it out here.
But apart from specific cyberpunk that came after the wake of Blade Runner, it also inspired the way film sets were made and stylised. This came to prove the inspiration for how sets are created to be realistic detailed and have a strong sense of atmosphere, especially within the Sci-Fi even to this day with films such as Upgrade, Dredd and Ex Machina. Even though worlds can be enhanced with CGI (such as totally in Wall-E or Alita), it is still used as a main example of how to effectively use light sources and darkness to add texture and to hide that a set is being used.
An example could be seen as Children of Men where the whole world features broken down and absent buildings each detailing the world of the dystopian future. How it looks from the use of Neon lights, broken down buildings, how the fog comes into to the camera work and use of lens revolutionised film and its presentation. Whilst films such as Alien or Star Wars would bring lived in ships and brand-new worlds, Blade Runner would bring a dense new world to Science Fiction. The use of technology, how everything has its use in the fictional 2019 Los Angeles, it’s an example of bringing a lived in and trashy aesthetic of the world.
It’s about exploring a world in a dark way filled with advertisements, fog and corruption. It shows a world where androids can flee and kill, have thoughts of their own and object to their slavery. Whilst Alien showed what space travel could really be like, Blade Runner pictures a world after World War 3 where fog lingers the streets and people flee off to other worlds to live a better life whilst others are stuck on Earth such as Deckard or J.F. Sebastian. It takes a brilliant look at whether we are that different from androids and our experiences and actions are what really makes us who we are, not our blood (which is also discussed much more heavier in the book which has a more grey sense of mortality although I might compare them further in another post).
Much of it is a blueprint of creating human like androids but it is also a cautionary tale about what we do with them and to be careful as they can inflict more pain then they can on us with a lack of human empathy in the process. But there’s also a tale of a filmmaker who took the death of his brother and tried to make a film that adapted the story about the future but also looked at the grittiness of morality along with our view of technology and those around us painting his influences and that of the crew’s into a film, that man is Ridley Scott.
In the background it’s a tale about envisioning a world and creating it with the help of others. Getting over problems to make a film that was new and different even if the audience didn’t appreciate that at the time, even if it took until 2007 to see his complete artistic vision come to screen. It’s a story about working together through problems but it’s also a story about having something to say and overcoming the problems to tell that story. That is the importance of Blade Runner and why it is not just a great important Sci-Fi film but also a very important classic film that will be remembered for years to come.
Thank you for going through this journey of the production of Blade Runner with me. I meant to get this post out ages ago but stuff got in the way and I couldn’t get this done as quickly as I should have. I think there’s something really important about looking at film-making and the problems that crew have to face in order to get across their creative vision and tell a story. This goes for both movies and series. Filmmaking is a hard thing and unless you are willing to work with others and do your part in the best way you can, then the final product will turn out bad.
This is why I wanted to talk about Blade Runner and how it got turned from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to the fantastic film we have today which inspired a generation of not just Sci-Fi but film-makers. It in a way is the first Sci-Fi Art-film and the problems it faced really helped shape it into what it is today. Although I usually talk about concepts and break down Sci-Fi media, I think it’s important to dissect film and look at the behind the scenes at what shaped it in the first place whilst looking at the final film itself (in which I watched the European Theatrical and Final Cut in particular).
Anyway, with that final note, I hope you enjoyed this descent into the troubled production of Blade Runner with me. It’s one of those great examples of a film that could have gone so wrong but the troubles it faced made it a better and more interesting film. It’s one of those true examples of resilience and in the end, fulfilling artistic vision even if that was around 35 years after initial release. It is a production that truely had its ups and downs and that’s why I love looking into its production and backstory, so I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed the writing and research. I love looking at topics like this as not just a Sci-Fi addict but also a film fanatic. But let me know what you thought of the post. Are there any scenes you wish I covered? Do you feel I looked at the topic in enough detail? Let me know, future thinkers, in the comments below…
Next time, I want to go back to another concept, that of pre-crime involving the dystopian futures of government control and the repression of the public. It should be an interesting one and I can’t wait to talk about it. There should also be a review of the War of the Worlds Interactive Experience up on the site right now if you want to check it out. I also have a special project cooking up that should be out and will run monthly with the retrospectives. Stay tuned for that Future thinkers and until next time…
Michael McGrady, Signing Off.