Bladerunner is a cult classic Science Fiction film. What is a Science Fiction Film you ask? What makes Bladerunner a Science Fiction film? Moreover, what makes it a classic? Once we know that, we can move on to take a look at the portrait of society that Bladerunner paints.
To know what a Science Fiction (SciFi) film is, first both Science Fiction, and film must be defined.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary:
Science Fiction n. Fiction in which actual or potential scientific developments form part of the plot, film n. 4.a. a motion picture.
Now, is Bladerunner a SciFi film? According to the definition, yes. Bladerunner fits the definition. Of course, like with any film, just because it fits a definition, doesn't mean it is a good SciFi film.
Now that we now the definition of a SciFi film, we need to ask what is a "good" SciFi film? What criteria are they judged by? Well, here are a few criteria that came from a discussion by my e309m class, check it out, and feel free to post something:
First, special effects: Special effects should be just that, special. The unbelievable should look natural. If there are alien races, they should look real, the space cruisers should look like the marvels they are. There is no doubt that the setting of the film, the flying "spinners" and even the actions of some of the characters are a result of special effects. Here are some pictures of the spinners and the set.
Second, society: Usually, due to the nature of Science Fiction, the setting is in the future. Bladerunner is no exception (although there are). It is set in the year 2019, in Los Angeles. In Bladerunner, not much is discussed about society explicitly, but we can infer much about what has become of man in the year 2019.
Third and finally, science related plot: Replicants, and their related technological developments, are some of the most promiment characters in the film. Replicants are artificial humans that are a result of developments in genetics. These are the ultimate test tube people. The genetic makeup of these individuals is manufactured by a company called the Tyrell Corporation. Four of these so called Replicants are the antagonists in Bladerunner.
Bladerunner lets the viewer in about what the future might be like by invoking its past. It is revealed to us that few of the remaining creatures on the planet are natural. Most are replicants created by the Tyrell Corporation. In light of that knowledge, we need to ask, "what is left of our natural land space?" We see the city, and don't see many trees and grass. Does this tell us that we have destroyed mother earth? Many environmental issues are raised by the need for replicant animals.
There is a great campaign to move "Off-World." J.F. Sebastion, even mentions that there is a medical reason for his remaining on Earth. So it is made to seem that there seems to be some sort of exodus from Earth to o ther locales. This exodus looks like the common course of action once available. Is this a result of what has happened on Earth? For example, destruction of natural habitats, overpopulation, pollution of atmosphere. These are current global problems right now. There is a lot of smoke and rain throughout the film. The opening sequence shows smokestacks going off.
It does not seem that these radical changes in our environment are due to some bigger force such as a new government. Most SciFi films have an extreme form of government. Bladerunner seems to have a government much like our own today. It supports capitalism, and this is clearly illustrated by the existence of the Tyrell Corp. Is this an extreme form of a capitalist government? What issues are raised by this possibility? This form of government will be, for all it's great life, what destroys our home?
We can raise many questions like these for many aspects of Bladerunner. The answer to these questions are questions in themselves. Does this mean we should change? Is this what ultimatly will happen to Earth at the rate we are going? The importance of these questions raised by Bladerunner is that the answers apply to the here and now.