Consider the implications of the past and how what happened then impacts what will likely occur in the future and you have a pretty good synopsis of Ridely Scott’s impressive tale, Blade Runner. Based on the marginally successful novel by Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) Blade Runner opened up a whole new universe of questions that most folks hadn’t even thought to ask.
Much of the power inherent in the story comes, of course, from the sizable and ingenious mind of Philip K. Dick. A science-fiction writer active from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s, Dick’s focus was often on people he knew well, and he invariably put them into a dazzling fictional world spun from the fabric of his own imagination. As Dick himself once said, “In my writing, I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.”
Mind-numbing existentialist or graphic myth-maker, Dick was able, over the course of his long career, which included 44 published novels and nearly 120 short stories, to ask substantial and riveting questions about the universe. Fortunately for all of us, his questions, while often unanswerable, provide the grist of real drama. They probe and prod. They all but command us to look deep into our own beliefs… not for answers, but for a navigable path we might take.
Ridely Scott’s adaptation of this dystopian tale is riveting. Based on a script by David Peoples and Hampton Fancher, Blade Runner explores the very essence of what it means to be a human being. As the story opens, the Tyrell Corporation (aka Big Brother) has been manufacturing replicants for use in tasks deemed too dangerous for humans. Mostly, it seems, they are employed to work in off-world colonies (in itself a telling comment on capitalism and the power of desire). The plot follows special police operative Rick Deckhard (the Blade Runner) who has been hired to hunt down and kill these rouge replicants.
It seems these replicants have a limited lifespan (about 4 years). Consequently, a band of them have returned to Earth illegally hoping to find a way to extend their brief lives. Their quest, obviously at odds with Deckhard’s, drives much of the conflict and action. This conflict is further intensified when Deckhard appears to fall in love with one of the replicants and winds up killing her accomplice. He then muses in a superb voice-over, after Batty dies:
“I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want: Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.”