Android Dreams: A Blade Runner Review

Author’s Introduction:

This series of reviews will attempt to not only review each film selected but also the “fan fiction” that has sprung up around it, an art form that I have followed for some time and have now decided to incorporate into my writings on film and the reaction it inspires.

It is now my pleasure to cover “Blade Runner”, a film that has had a tremendous impact on the pop-culture landscape over the years (leading to a recent sequel) and the fan fiction it has inspired along the way.  

I am indebted to the artists at both deviantart.com and fanfiction.net for their remarkable work which has in turn inspired me to cover them, and I would highly recommend both sites for the intrepid fan who may wish to explore the worlds of fiction and the artists they inspire across the great and incredibly busy/transformative highways of the world wide web.

If you’d also like to keep up to date with the blog in general, then please feel free to follow on Twitter @fanorbit, and on the Facebook page @fanorbit.

So without further adieu, here is my review of “Blade Runner” and selected fan fiction (warning: does contain spoilers)…

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”

Flame ignites as an eye blinks into existence. It takes in a myriad landscape of belching smoke and flying cars that dazzles as far as the eye can see. The eye is a universe, home to an infinite number of possibilities contained within an all too short lifetime. Nothing, however, compared to the replicant he will soon fall victim to in a cloud of hazy smoke.

The film of course is “Blade Runner” something of a dull thud of a film when initially released on June 25th, 35 years past, but a film that, like a rare and precious blade, has stood the test of time and lies lingering in our collective unconscious; its dazzling steel causing us to pause for reflection as a morbid future awaits in its flickering view.

When “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, the film had already undergone a somewhat tumultuous production, which one can find beautifully detailed and chronicled in the excellent book “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner” by Paul M. Sammon.  It is almost legendary in film history for this very reason, with star Harrison Ford and direction Sir Ridley Scott not getting on particularly well through the shoot, and Scott’s own obsession with detail and getting the light right causing delays and the budget to run high.  Eventually the film was taken away from him for this very reason, causing it to be reshaped in a form that Scott never liked, until he could once again place it on the fire and hammer it into a new and final shape, shrugging off the voiceover and adding in a bleaker ending.

The bleakness of the ending trails behind “Blade Runner” like fine sut, already adding to the fires of its reputation and causing ending analysis of what such a film means to begin with. Does it question what is it to be human? Or is it merely a reflection of a sci-fi dystopia that now looks closer than ever, as we hurtle towards a 2019 with a very uncertain future?

Back when the film was being made, Scott had already decided to make “Dune” his next feature after the high success of “Alien”, the film that single handedly launched his name into the stratosphere, and together with the later one-two punch of “Blade Runner”, would cement his name as a Hollywood star forever, shooting a variety in turn over the years as his career proceeded to explode.

Scott was in the enviable position of being able to tackle massive Hollywood films with the clout afforded a box office champ and by this point seasoned veteran of over 2000 commercials. A solid background in art and design further helped his own position, and would serve him well in crafting the ingeniously complex background detail of “Blade Runner”, a film that to me seems lived in as only the very best films can portray; detail popping out of every frame as Scott shines his spotlight on the grime of a future L.A.

“Dune” however collapsed, and Scott was busy looking for his next project when the prospect of tackling “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” came up as a potential next endeavour. Scott was obviously intrigued by the idea, and utilized the talents of two screenwriters to forge a script into existence. Both David Webb Peoples and Hampton Fancher gave the film very different core aspects. Hampton Fancher, – following many different rewrites that seemed to focus more on an “interior life” of morality and religion – gave the film its beating questioning heart, with a detective noir at its core; whilst Peoples ironed out the extra details and “drive” that made it into a cinematic tour-de-force, expanding the universe and allowing Scott to stamp his own indelible magnifying glass on a future world gone mad.

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Illustration by RicoJrCreation at: http://ricojrcreation.deviantart.com/art/BLADE-RUNNER-V2-674627438

The novel itself is a somewhat different affair from that of the eventual film, which this article by Ms. Cath Murphy, illustrates in intriguing detail. The books takes a slightly more absurdist approach as one man tries to replace his very real and yet very fake electric sheep with the real deal, all while hunting down “androids”, and dealing with a background religion called “Mercism” that joins people together in a technological virtual reality of communal suffering in order to promote empathy and “real” emotion.

The film would take the novel’s core concept – still of the man as a replicant hunter – but expand it in interesting and very dark ways, with Deckard possessing no real family (unlike the novel), no real senses of direction, and no outward religion with which to interact. Instead we are left with a core mediation on the very prospect of what humanity is, which it shares with its novel counterpart.

In this way, Roy Batty, aka Rutger Hauer, really gives the film its beating heart; his Roy Batty a classic example of a “villain” you can arguable root for; a creation of man that yearns only for more life, nothing else. It is his core concept of life itself that gives the film its wings in a world portrayed with very little light or life within its dark interior. Rick Deckard is a shell of a man, and Ford portrays him in an extremely underplayed way, a complete 360 from his Han Solo and Indiana Jones personas, both of whom yearned for life and all its adventures.

One almost gets the sense that Deckard is living through his own perceived purgatory and wants nothing more than the grave where he can finally rest; content to have solved one more case, and let the rain drown him in this smog ridden and polluted world from another future.

That Batty becomes the more sympathetic of the two characters – a child-like, lustful thing that merely wants to help his friends and survive – is a major achievement, in a film which came out literally the year following Harrison’s smash hit “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and “Stars Wars” previous to that. We almost expect to be won over by Ford’s trademark charm, but here none of it is on display, and he portrays a man with his soul ripped out, only to find potential redemption when he finds Rachel.

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Illustration by TomatoBisque at: http://tomatobisque.deviantart.com/art/Rachael-676312457

Rachel in this case being the classic femme fatale who lures Deckard in, slowly but surely, as he attempts to find his prey, who are, perhaps, the last vestiges of humanity in a Los Angeles being drowned in by its own ambition – rain forming from clouds that cast shadows on pyramids; themselves shrines to the marvels of capitalism, consumerism, and mankind’s greedy quest to create machines in his own image. The creators and destroyers of worlds.

Rachel is the Angel sent from above to tempt our hero, as Tyrell initially watches with amusement as Deckard fails to detect that she is in fact not of the natural world, but a product of men with a God complex, who would seek to control that which they cannot and turn the natural world upside down in the process.

As Rachel and Deckard grow closer, it’s clear that they don’t really possess any romantic feelings, but are merely trying to seek out what little humanity is present in this drenched and lifeless world, fanning the flame that will draw them like moths to a new and better life. This fits even more when you consider that Ford and Sean Young, who played Rachel, didn’t ultimately get along either, and this lack of chemistry becomes evident in the film the more you watch it.

As the film progresses, and Vangelis’s dream-like score carries us further into the realm of electronic bliss, Deckard dreams of unicorns as Rachel lures him further. We see that his own dream world is a portend of his true reality: a replicant android who will live to see old age as she potentially withers. Or so Scott would like you to believe. Debate over this very issues rages to this today. Is he a replicant? Scott would claim so, Ford would say no, and I remain undecided.

bladerunner_by_fresno77-dbatuok
Illustration by Fresno77 at: http://fresno77.deviantart.com/art/Bladerunner-683316884

Deckard, much like a robot, slaughters his enemies in cold blood as a replicant woman runs away from the cold gun he employs – his only real weapon and companion. The only benefit this gun gives him is amply demonstrated when Roy Batty, in a very careful and methodical manner, breaks his fingers, leading him to lose his only advantage. He then scrambles away like a rat, until Batty’s angel emerges to take his own final stage in the spotlight; yearning for the light, but leaving it in the realm of electric dreams as he fades into eternity.

This classic scene embodies the entire film, Batty giving a very moving and startlingly gentle soliloquy, dreaming of past glories and events that only he could have witnessed – a sentient being not of this world, yet tied to it, journeying into the cosmos like a new born, only to be struck down by his earthly masters as he seeks the light from which to grow to old age.

He dies as the dove emerges, a symbol of peace that he holds onto, desperately craving his own inner peace as he contends with his mortality – aware that he has lived a lifetimes worth in a few short years and taken the life of his own true creator. He has been hunted, he has been the hunter, and as his electric spirit emerges to take flight, the dove flies into the open heavens, taking with it the promise of hope, as Deckard struggles to find his own.

He does however find it in the form of Rachael, the one last true salvation he has for a better life, and someone who can heal the scars of all the replicant lives he has taken in order to remain entrenched and entombed in a world where morality remains a sketchy prospect. His only life as a hunter now comes to an end as the unicorn emerges for the last time, and the door shuts on him and us…for the time being anyway.

2049 however…is a different story.

Time to die…”

blade_runner_by_grobi_grafik-db9uy15
Illustration by Grobi-Grafik at: http://grobi-grafik.deviantart.com/art/Blade-Runner-681688265

Fan Fics

This section is dedicated to fan fics that I have picked for various reasons, including difference in style, and how they contribute something new/interesting to the existing universe.

There are however many more out there, and I would encourage you to check out more “Blade Runner” fan fiction here and also here for some more really interesting examples of where fans can expand and add really interesting things to an established universe.

There are some who would decry fan fiction, but I think it’s a perfectly valid form of fiction writing that expresses perhaps the highest admiration possible for the source material, and that can often add things that I would never have expected,  and that gives give the film’s universe extra dimension that really blows me away.

So, without further ado, here are three that I thought really added something interesting to the “Blade Runner” universe:

Bones

This beautiful poem by Hawki takes on the general “planet-verse” of “Blade Runner” and conveys to us the feelings of despair that must permeate such a world, already entrenched in endless darkness and rain. The title relates to the very human framework that supports us all but can also connect us to the replicants, both species drowning in a world where humanity is at a premium, and most simply huddle for comfort against the endless night. It evokes images of death, of despair, and of a general urge to escape that which may cannot. It is almost Dickensian in its sense of a world where the poor are unheeded and those that can escape to a better place where they (literally) live far above those who cannot escape to the same promise of freedom. This poem illustrates to me alone why “Fan Fiction” is something to be marvelled at, not frowned upon, and I urge more writers out there to try their hand at poetry if they so wish.

Frailty

A beautiful little short by clickytheclickster2.0 with a tragic end, which takes on the character I have not yet examined in any great detail in my review (more to come at a future date however). J.F. Sebastian is one of the key figures in “Blade Runner”, a tragic man with a clear gift and ability to create beings for his own company, but without the ability to cure his own disease which ages him prematurely. Much like the replicants, he is in a race against time, and provides a thematic framework with which to examine a different facet of the God complex, which is so present within the film as a whole. As a person who is clearly lower on the ladder of a society in which you are little people, if you’re not a cop, he exists within a shell of a building wherein he is kept company by a society of little clockwork men, all of his own creation – one smaller God, creating older life which nonetheless has a purpose and some kind of “meaning”, in this case to provide company and welcome.

The idea for this short was apparently born from the (unused) idea in the film of there being a sixth replicant, who was actually called Mary, and for whom they did actually audition actresses for, and for this reason alone I thought it would be interesting to examine the story further and why I think it so aptly demonstrates some intriguing and quite emotional (I feel) aspects of the overall film itself.

As we begin this story, which is set pre-movie, we see Sebastian constructing, or reconstructing a replicant he has stolen from Tyrell’s labs, scrapping parts as it where from his older God friend, which whom he frequently plays chess (no analogy there then).

Upon creating his new life form, the two proceed to have a brief if charming short life together, whereby J.F. finally understands the true meaning of humanity in a machine, as this woman becomes his one true “human” companion, if not for a short while. He tragically tries to resuscitate her, but it becomes clear that she knows she is dying – a fault as he oh so technically refers to in her heating system – which results in her simply wanting a warm bath. He happily obliges at which point she tells him that she will dream of him, and it’s clear that for the briefest of moments, the two of them find true joy and meaning in each other, and J.F. finally has a taste of a “real” life.

It’s a beautifully done little short, and adds a nice extra dimension to J.F.’s character. Rather than simply being a toymaker, he is instead given life as a human being with real emotional needs who craves the simple, human need of companionship, just as the replicants crave more life.

When she tells him that he is falling, only for her to shatter out assumptions and simply announce that he must be tired, it’s a charming moment of realization for both them and us, as we perhaps subconsciously realize that the android is still innocently naive, perhaps even still one-step behind and has much to learn about humanity in general, just as all replicants do.

Highly recommended, and I think shorts like this exemplify the power of fan fiction to flesh out characters more fully and add touching little moments that really add up to more of an emotional connection to the story and characters in hand.

What it is

For the final fan fic I had a really hard time picking one to go in the third slot (as it where). I decided on three as that seemed appropriate, and for this final one I wanted a narrative tale that would evoke real atmosphere and dimension to aspects of the film, and explore our main characters a little further. I think this particular short by Stephensmat does all of that and more as both Rachel and Roy actually meet in the flesh (so to speak) and have a communion of sorts; perhaps appropriately in the midst of a howling thunderstorm, where primal urges are unleashed and humanity is declared. This particular sequence sold me on this fan fic the most, a real show-stopper which demonstrates Roy’s lust and yearning for life, as he howls into the night; daring the Gods to break him as he claims his spot on the dying Earth for all eternity to take measure off. Even Rachel is stunned as Roy, in a simple act of defiance, urges her to join him, as together they rail against the system and plant the flag for replicants and their desire to be more than their masters made them.

Roy simply wishes freedom for them both, and as Rachel discovers her true identify, she begins a journey that will lead her into Deckard’s arms, as the pair then convene after she saves him: the hunter, now being rescued by the hunted, an ironic twist in a film leading towards a highly unusual and unexpected outcome.

As the two convene in Deckard’s apartment, Deckard dreaming of unicorns, and Rachel pondering the nature of her reality, we get the sense that these two beings really are truly alone and the last hope either has for a normal life.

They almost go through the motions of love-making and sex, as if it where the only thing left to cling onto in a world where humanity is drowning. The carbon filters, as so eloquently offered an explanation for the rain, serve as a metaphor I think for the filtering of carbon based lifeforms in this particular system; Rachel and Deckard exercising their right to humanity as they cloister together in the one last refuge either has for survival; Rachel now assuming she is prey for Roy, who is now steadily becoming more unstable, his own End of Days approaching, and Deckard now faced with the inevitable fate of having to face him, and potentially face his own Apocalypse as Rachel’s future becomes increasingly uncertain.

Will she stay or will she go? These questions are raised and more as the two characters are beautifully explored in their time together, one pondering the journey of her (short) life so far, and the other simply trying to survive in a job he hates and which will likely get him killed eventually.

Still, he doesn’t feel he has a choice, and even though the death of Tyrell is ultimately a footnote in a world where thunderstorms are 24/7 (beautiful metaphor there I thought) he still has a job to do and people to answer for, and even if Rachel can survive and make it out while he can’t, it’ll have been worth it. He would have saved one more life, especially one who has saved his own so unexpectedly before.

As he goes off to the job, she waits for him…wondering if he’ll return, or whether she’ll journey off on her own to pastures new.

The choices is hers, and we are left with the beautiful ending, whereby she just knows that he will return, and the two of them can eventually leave for the life of their dreams and beyond.

There were of course many more fan fics I could have chosen, but these are the ones that I felt capture something unique with the “Blade Runner” universe, and which I feel are beautifully written with real atmosphere and heart. Honourable mentions go to a novelization being written of the film, which is an ongoing story, and the other “The Prodigal Son” an account of Roy’s story from the Off-world Colonies to home. Many more can be found of course, and I’ll provide links below to some of my favourites, which I hope you will enjoy.

More to come in my next review, and I hope you see you next time for our further delving into the movie/fan universe, and beyond…

‘Till next time…fan it up!

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Illustration by Jonny Seymour at: http://baronvonchuck.deviantart.com/gallery/

Author’s note: The header image of the illustrated eye is by mahmusx, whose work can be found here: https://mahmusx.deviantart.com/art/Blade-Runner-682937551

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that the rights to “Blade Runner” do not belong to me nor to the artists behind each piece, and I do this as a fan of the work and the work it has inspired.  I could not have not done this without the support and permission of each artist who contributed such fine and beautifully written/illustrated work to the world of “Blade Runner” and fandom in general.  

Update: review has been altered to include an alternative source for fan fiction and to change the original story and author urls for one work accordingly, based on the suggestion of the author in question.  Several mistakes have also been rectified.  

Update: review has been revised to include social media links and to rectify several mistakes.  

Update: review has been revised to include a spoiler warning and to provide a more cohesive terminology with regards to revisions in the updates.  

Update: review has been revised to make the last artist’s illustration link clickcable.  

Update: review has been revised to make several of the links in the intro clickable.  

Update: review has been revised to correct the incorrect capitalization of the word “universe”.  

2 thoughts on “Android Dreams: A Blade Runner Review

  1. Very interesting read. Nice background on the film (some of which I didn’t know) and interesting analysis. I also like the concept behind this kind of blog, of linking fan-works with the mother work. It’s not an approach I’ve seen a blog do before. And hey, appreciate the shoutout.

    The one piece of analysis I question is the idea that Deckard and Rachel have no feelings for each other. Now, there is some evidence for this, given how awkward some of their interactions are, but as crummy as Deckard’s life is, fleeing with Rachel rather than ‘retiring’ her would make it a hell of a lot worse, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that the romance is entirely absent. I agree that they’re both kind of making do, but it feels like this is the best thing they can get in the hellscape of 2019. After all, we don’t see any kind of ‘natural’ human relationships in the film. Roy and Pris have their ‘thing’ (which is awkward and clumsy, likely due to their lack of emotional experience), Sebastian has his dolls, Tyrell’s niece is only referenced, never seen, etc. So as vapid as the romance is between Deckard and Rachel, it’s still perhaps the most genuine one in the film.

    But, all in all, very interesting read.

    Like

    1. Very interesting reply, thanks for the analysis on that Hawki. After having seen the sequel and what they do with it, you have a valid point, and I think maybe I was more or less going for what you were talking about, but perhaps phrased it wrong? I’m not sure, but I very much agree with what you’re saying and thank you for the kind feedback.

      Like

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