An Analysis of a Science-Fiction Movie

By Samantha Ricker

All movies must follow criteria that typifies them into a specific genre of film. For example, a romantic movie must create a chemistry between two characters. A good suspense movie must include a plot with several twists and turns in it. There are three criteria that can be used to judge whether or not a particular movie is a good science fiction film. These criteria include: a source of conflict; beleivable characters, images, and story; and well developed, visually appealing special effects. The movie Blade Runner has traditionally been categorized as a science fiction movie. It can be categorized as such because it does indeed follow the specified criteria.


The first criteria for a science fiction move is a source of conflict, or a clash between good and evil. In the Star Wars triology, unarguably three of the best science fiction films ever made, there was the everpresent struggle between the Jedi, the defenders of all that was good, and the Empire, frequently reffered to as the Dark Side. Blade Runner does contain conflict between good and evil, however the good and evil are not as clearly defined. The viewer would assume that the "good" in Blade Runner is the character of Deckerd played by Harrison Ford. Deckerd was a "Blade Runner" (otherwise known as a bounty hunter) called out of retirement to exterminate escape Replicants. Replicants were human-like androids designed by the Tyrell corporation. At one point in time they were used to perform tasks unfit for humans to do. In other words, they were slaves. They performed these tasks until they were deemed no longer neccessary. Four of them escaped from their enslavement to planet earth. It was Deckerd's job to retire them before they caused any harm. It is ironic that the fact that he kills three of the five replicants does not neccessarily distinguish him as "good." Instead it is the fact that he does not kill all of them that qualifies him. The fifth Replicant, Rachael, had always been unaware that she was a replicant, therefore she developed greatly into a human-like being with many positive qualities. Although it is his sworn duty to destroy them, Deckerd cannot find it in himself to retire her. He more or less saw her as the human she thought she was and he develops feelings of love towards her. This is somewhat awkward for both of them as can be seen from the uneasiness in their faces in this clip from the movie.

The Replicants had to be retired because they were extremely powerful and intelligent beings that were not afraid to cause harm when neccessary. They were developed by Tyrell, the main cause of evil in this film. From the picture, one can see that Tyrell looked harmless, more like your average grandmother. He was not a large burly man who could kill with his hands. Instead, Tyrell killed through the power of his mind. Tyrell went too far with his experimentation by trying to create human exsist something that no one will ever be able to create properly and therefore should never attempt it. By creating these replicants, he doomed them to their miserable exsistance. This in turn spawned the venge that they felt for humans. It is poetic justice the Tyrell met death through the hands of one of his own creations.

The replicants create somewhat of a grey area in the battle between good and evil. Yes, they were often simple killing machines, who could easily take a life without remorse. However, a question arises whether they really came back to earth to seek revenge or merely to get away from their enslavement. Roy Batty speaks of the horrors of their enslavement in his soliloquy at the end of the movie. One cannot blame them for yearning to escape the turmoil that they lived, human or not human. Perhaps they were not neccessarily "evil" but merely naive of the fact that they did not have to kill in order to survive and only doing what they thought was neccessary.


A second criteria for a science fiction film is a certain amount of believability. Believability should be included in the development of the characters, the story, and in the visual aspects. Even if the characters are not human, they should pocess human characteristics in order to make them endearing to the viewers. Star Wars again exemplifies this point. Two of the most enjoyable and human like characters were the androids, R2D2 and C3PO. They didn't even look like humans let alone sound like them, yet the viewer could still understand and relate to what they were feeling because they were believable emotions. The Replicants also pocessed human qualities. It was obvious that Roy felt strong emotions, perhaps even love for his fellow replicants. After Deckard killed Pris, Roy leaned over her and kissed her showing that he may have loved her. He also showed these feelings for Pris and Zhora in this clip of him breaking two of Deckerd's fingers, one for Pris and one for Zhora. Although this act seemed quite inhuman, the motivation behind it seemed quite believable. He also showed many human emotions during his soliloquy as he talked of the horrors he had endured.It was obviously very difficult for him to take these nightmares and they effected him much in the same way it would have effected any human. He also exhibited human qualities when he saved Decker from falling off of the building. He couldn't see another person die.

Pris also showed human qualities.Pris was very naive. She seemed to be the least developed of all of the Replicants and therefore was very much a follower. She also had a certain sort of innocence. This can be seen in this image of her. The way her head is tilted, the fact her eyes are hardly visible, and the small grin all suggest this innocence and naievaty. Again, all of these human characteristics that the non-human characters showed makes them more believable for the viewers.

It helps that in a science fiction film the plot is not so incredible that it is impossible to believe. It helps if the plot could relate to something in today's society of even in the past. The basic plot of Blade Runner was good versus evil. There was nothing entirely out of the realm of believability. Also, they manage to place the story so far into the future that with a little imagination, it could happen. Technology in today's society is advancing at a very rapid pace.

One other reason why the story was believable, was because visually the film was reallistic. The film incorporated many images that could have come from today or the past along with futuristic concepts. Decker's apartment, for example, included a normal looking piano that could have been built in the 20th century. The cloths and the hair that Rachel wore looked as though she came out of the forties.

Her hair was in large rolls, and her dress was somewhat drab. The coat she wore in the very last scene of the Director's cut version could have been worn by Greta Garbo. This shows how history repeates itself. Even in today's society we incorporate fashion styles from history.

Even the futuristic ideas still resembled items of the past and present. The design of the Tyrell Corporation building was extremely futuristic. The Tyrell building does not emulate a typical New York City Sky scraper in any way, yet it vaguely resembled a building. The transportation vehicles incorporated both new and old features. They resemble cars and yet, they fly without any steering mechanism. This mixture of both old and new visual concepts helped to give Blade Runner a sense of believability. This visual concept also ties in the third criteria for a science fiction movie, well developed visual effects.

The Tyrell Corporation Building

It is obvious that the Tyrell Corporation building does not house your average "Fortune 500" business. The shape of the building is highly irregular and untraditional. There are no straight edges or right angles anywhere to be seen in its structure. The walls are slanted and crooked. Perhaps this outer structure is representative of the business deals that go on behind the walls. These deals are most likely ones that are against the law, as crooked as the walls, and definitely not "traditional." There is also nothing that appears to be a means of stability for the building, such as a cornerstone or a foundation. This may imply that it is the upper-management type, those who normally are the foundation of a business, are behind the shady deals signifying a lack of strength in this corporation. One can also notice that there is nothing on the building that remotely resembles a window or a door. Perhaps the management does not want anyone looking or getting either in or out of the building. They wouldn't want anyone looking or entering into the building for fear that someone may discover what they may be working on or any untraditional business deals in which they may be involved. The lack of windows and doors would keep the workers more focused on what they were to be doing, and it would also keep information from being leaked out. Of course, it is hard to imagine that anyone would want to look out of the building, for all that they would see is a very ominous yellow-grey sky. The sky and the unpleasant design of the building suggest that the time when this picture takes place is a time where technology rules all and people no longer appreciate the beauty of anything. This world has become cold, drab, and unemotional.

Visual Effects

Well developed special effects are also needed in a movie in order to be considered a good science fiction movie. The special effects do not have to be totally awe inspiring to make a good impression. They can be small, ingenious inventions, futuristic in quality. The vidio player, for example was unique.

It was known as an "esper" and with it, Deckard could scan from left to right, enlarge, or get close-ups merely through audio command. Perhaps this type of invention in today's society would insure that more VCR's wouldn't flash 12:00. They also used video phones,such as in this scene between Deckard and Rachael. An interesting fact is that both these items, the esper machine and the video phone, will possibly be incorporated into everyday life reasonably soon. This again ties in the believability factor mentioned earlier.

Another interesting special effect was the transportation vehicles that they used.

The spinner somewhat resemble a car and could be driven on the ground. It could also be flown as seen in the image. The most interesting characteristic of the spinner is that there isn't any sort of steering apparatus involved. Just like the esper machine, the spinner is controlled by verbal commands. This is truly a man's vehicle because there would be no need to ever have to pull over for directions.

Most of the special effects incorporated into this movie were smaller than one would expect. They don't quite compare to some of the awesome sights in the Star Wars movies, however, the Blade Runner effects are unique and well developed.


Science fiction movies must follow at least three criteria in order to be a part of that particular genre. These three criteria include: aconflict between good and evil, a certain degree of believability, and well developedvisual effects. The movie Blade Runner does manage to incorporate these three criteria. There is a conflict between the good of Deckard and in some cases the replicants and the evil of Tyrell and his corporation. There is also conflict between Deckard and the Replicants. The characters in the movie, even the ones that were not human, had many humanistic and believable qualities. Many of them were able to feel love as well as hate. The story was also believable and could possibly happen (granted with a lot of imagination). Visually, the movie was also believable. It did this by incorporating old and new concepts, from the clothes they wore to the vehicles they drove. The believability of the visual aspect of the movie helps to create the well developed and interesting special effects.Blade Runner, in conclusion, is a good science fiction movie, perhaps not the best ever made, but it does follow the criteria. It also incorporates a fourth and lesser known criteria as does the ever-popular Star Wars trilogy: Harrison Ford as one of its stars.

Written by Samantha Ricker

Copyright Samantha Ricker, 1998.

Image artwork by Syd Mead