Question: An important text features settings that encourage us to criticize human society.
Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner is a sci-fi film set in a dystopian future, where the line between humanity and artificial intelligence is blurred, and society is dominated by advanced technology. Beings called replicants who look and act like humans are used for slave labour on Off World Colonies. The titular Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, is tasked with hunting down and “retiring” killing 6 replicants who have escaped in pursuit of a longer life span. As viewers, throughout the film we are presented with various settings that encourage us to criticise human society by asking us what it will take before humanity is lost. From the city streets to the industrial high rises, to the ominous Tyrell pyramid, we are reminded of the challenges in our own modern technological world, and reliance on AI.
The city streets of Blade Runner are dark and gloomy, and it is always raining. Scott insinuates in the film that this is a result of climate change, and booming advertisements reveal that only the poor or disabled people are left in this environment, with the rich having escaped to the Off World Colonies. It is likely the rich corporations that caused this uncomfortable climate, and while they have escaped it, countless others were not so lucky. The smoke has been backlit to draw attention to the pollution, and the whole atmosphere has a blue tinge to it which has connotations of technology and modernism. This setting encourages us to criticise human society, as it sheds light on the issues of consumerism in our own world and how short term gain can lead to long term destruction. We are provoked to consider how our own unsustainable habits may not negatively affect us, but can be detrimental to those more economically challenged, and those in future generations. There is also a clear issue of overpopulation in the film, likely due to a lack of remaining safe living spaces. There are many wide shots of the cramped streets, and the marketspaces are surrounded with people huddling around them. The ambient noise adds to this with the constant hum of distant voices and the frequent sounds of sirens and vehicles. This prompts us to criticise human society by highlighting the consequences of neglecting urban infrastructure. One might imagine their children growing up in an environment similar to Blade Runner’s city streets. By encouraging us to criticise human society in presentation of the city streets, Scott reminds us of the challenges in our own world exhibits how in prioritizing technological advancements over human relationships, humanity has been lost.
While Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles, the backdrop was inspired by an exaggeration of downtown Hong Kong, with tall high rises and bright advertising everywhere. There is also copious advertising, from Coca Cola, to Pan-Am, and airline that has ironically gone out of business. This represents the issues of commercialism that are so prevalent in our own society. We are encouraged to criticise the way that our own society also often has a sense of valuing profits over anything else, in turn causing humanity to become lost. Establishing shots from small planes reveal fiery explosions erupting from tall buildings, and low angle shots from the ground emphasizes their imposing nature. Ironically there is no more sense of power associated with these entities as they are mostly empty. These empty high rises contrast the cramped city streets, and we are prompted to criticise how the rapid urbanisation present in human society will interfere with our living spaces. The city as clearly intended to host many more people, but the neglect to the environment has resulted in unnecessarily confines spaces. By encouraging us to criticise human society in presentation of the high rises, Scott emphasises how in prioritising commercialism over quality of living, humanity has become lost.
In addition to the city streets in Blade runner, Tyrell’s towering pyramid is another setting that encourages us to criticise human society. It was inspired by the ancient Aztec and Mayan pyramids, and houses Eldon Tyrell, the creator of the replicants. This symbolises the extreme wealth and power of the ruling class. The shrinking middle class is also a problem in our own society, and we are encouraged to critique it by considering what will happen if we too are left with a rich and powerful ruling class, and a poor lower class with no method of climbing the ranks. The interior of the Tyrell pyramid also contrasts the blue tones of the city streets and high rises, with a warmer and more natural orange hue. While blue conveys the corporate controlled environment, the warmer tones evoke a sense of humanity and freedom. The wide shots of his spacious living area suggest that he remains in a comfortable environment. This symbolises how Tyrell may not be experiencing the negative effects of climate change, despite the fact that he is likely a large source of the problem. The fact that it is the creator of the replicants who is part of the ruling class encourages us to criticise society by suggesting that everyone’s reliance on AI has caused humanity to become lost and replaced with artificiality.
We are presented with many contrasting settings throughout the Blade Runner, such as the city streets, high rises, and Tyrell’s pyramid. Which provide valuable insight into humanity’s flaws. Therefore, I fully agree with the statement that an important text features settings that encourage us to criticize human society. As stated by Ridley Scott, “I wanted to make a film about the human condition, and what we will do to humanity and out world.”