Question: An effective setting is one we can relate to our own world in meaningful ways
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 we can relate to our own world in meaningful ways. 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 asked what it will take before humanity is lost.
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. 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 is effective as we can relate it to our own world, as it is the rich corporations that are mostly responsible for climate change, and like in Blade Runner, while they can afford the luxury technology to ignore these effects, others are not so lucky. Relating this setting to our own world sheds light on the issues of consumerism in our society, and how short term gain can lead to long term destruction. This is meaningful as it provokes us to consider how our own unsustainable habits may not negatively affect us, but can be detrimental to those more economically challenged. 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 setting is effective as we can relate this to our own world as overpopulation is an increasing issue in the 21st century, with a cost of living crisis as is today. This is meaningful as it demonstrates that with a neglect to urban infrastructure like in Blade Runner, this can only get worse. By provoking us to relate the city streets to our own world, Scott has created an effective setting that describes how in selfish acts such as disregard for the future, humanity has become 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 setting is effective as we can easily relate it to our own world, as it symbolises the issues of commercialism that are so prevalent in society today. This is meaningful as it prompts us to criticise the way that people have a sense of valuing profits over anything else. 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 reminded of a similar contrast we have in our own world, with cities like Delhi and New York being dense and overcrowded, with ghost towns in other parts of the world. The city as clearly intended to host many more people, but the neglect to the environment has resulted in unnecessarily confined spaces, and this is meaningful as it makes us wonder if this is a similar case for our own world. Blade Runner’s city streets are effective as we can link the setting to our own world, which is meaningful as it teaches us 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. This is an effective setting as we can relate this to our own society as the shrinking middle class is also a huge problem that we are facing. This is meaningful as it encourages us to consider what will happen in our own world 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. This is an effective setting as we can relate this to our own world, as the fact that it is the creator of replicant technology who is part of the ruling class is comparable to our own reliance on technology, which is meaningful as it illustrates how our dependance on computers and AI is causing a disconnect from the natural world and potentially worsening societal inequalities. Tyrell’s pyramid is an effective setting that we can relate to our own world, which is meaningful as it exhibits how in prioritising technological advancements over human relationships, humanity has become lost.
We are presented with many effective settings throughout the Blade Runner, such as the city streets, high rises, and Tyrell’s pyramid. These can all be related to our own world in meaningful ways, and illustrate what it will take before humanity is lost Therefore, I fully agree with the statement that an effective setting is one we can relate to our own world in meaningful ways. 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.”