On June 25, 1982, the movie Blade Runner was released in the USA. This movie played an important role in the field of culture. Its dark atmosphere impressed many people and many of the movies depicting the future.
When the blade runner, played by Harrison Ford, walks in a quarter of a mega-city, he finds itself surrounded by very high buildings full of colored advertisings in a Japanese style. The crowd is very intense, multi-cultural also, like are the different shops.
The lack of space and the noises surrounding produce an oppressive atmosphere. It looks like all the people are individualized, lost in a unlivable sprawling city that killed nature. It looks like the future.
But is Blade Runner a sci-fi movie, or an anticipation? This is a really important question. Is Blade Runner a real possibility? Will the world, like an Asimov's vision (notably in The Caves of Steel), be an over-crowded city?
Or is it just a question raised in our epoch, because this tendency to the world mega-city is an impossible capitalist dream?
Of course, we communists do not think that a world like the one seen in Blade Runner could exist. Capitalism is not able to develop the productive forces in such a level; it can only collapse much before.
Blade Runner is here interesting, because it shows the Earth as it would be if, and only if, capitalism maintains its course and could maintain its course. The aesthetic of Blade Runner is so fascinating, because it is like an extrapolation of capitalism. It shows real capitalism, but in a distorted way.
A lot of movies and of comics deal with this; Blade Runner had a major influence, but it would have been produced anyway. Manga like Akira or anime like Ghost in the shell show us such kind of world too; in fact, now this is a common truth to imagine the future world like this in “futuristic” movies and comics.
What we see here is at the same time realistic – this tendency exists, as long as capitalism exists – and reactionary, because it produce an anti-capitalist romanticism.
On one side, such a criticism shows how the world would be if the reactionary values become totally hegemonic. On the other side, it is more a call to “go back”, then something else.
It is interesting, what concerns this point, that nowadays Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner, is selling his artistic value to capitalism: after great productions like Thelma & Louise, Alien and Blade Runner, he does now want to do a Blade Runner 2, that can only be as bad as bad can be.
This would be exactly like the last movie directed by Ridley Scott, which came out this year and consists in an horrible “prequel” of Alien: “Prometheus”, a catastrophic looting of the Alien saga, with a scenario based on Erich von Däniken's conception that aliens are at the origin of human beings (Erich von Däniken is, with this conception, really popular in the nazi subculture).
We can see here a major change in capitalism's cinema, in the ideological superstructure of imperialism. In the 1970's-1980's, talented authors could produce great movies, with a lot of compromises.
Now, movies are remakes, or prequels; capitalist authors are unable to produce stories, talented artists are put aside.
And what could have been understand mostly as a left criticism – the future as an horrible city controlled by monopolies, or even one single monopoly – has turned more and more those last years in a romantic criticism of reality.
From Avatar to Prometheus, not to speak about the openly fascist Hunter Games or the production of zombies / apocalypse movies (28 Days Later…, The road, etc.), the general trend of capitalism is to produce movies openly reactionary, calling to individualism and pessimism, or even directly to survivalism.
We will certainly see the same with the remake of Total Recall, or of Soylent Green. The reactionary tendency dominates and asphyxiates any possibility of affirmation of the necessity of revolution.
It is true that even Blade Runner contains such a dimension; it is dark in an unilateral way. The masses play no role.
Nevertheless, the end of the movie is a calling to life: the last replicant – a robot looking like human, and apparently nearly feeling like them – doesn't kill the Blade Runner (which is a robot-chaser).
This scene is full of poetry; the robot frees a bird and does not kill the Blade Runner, speaking in a poetic manner; it is a call to life, to beauty.
At the end, the Blade Runner runs even away with a replicant which becomes his girlfriend, driving in a pastoral landscape (the movie is not clear about it, but there also a lot of evidences that the Blade Runner is also a “replicant”, a robot himself, without knowing it).
It is necessary to see that it is sad here that the movie moves away from the general poetic aspect of the original novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Written by Philip K. Dick.
The novel depicts indeed a world where animals were all killed, and where hidden robots are discovered and killed because of their total lack of empathy for animals. There was here matter for a real ecological tale, which was not seen at that time.
What caused maybe problem also then is the conflict with Philip K. Dick. Great author of novels full of craziness and criticism of bourgeois societies, Philip K. Dick was greatly paranoid, finishing his life believing he is in communication with aliens...
Which does not mean he was sold to capitalism. It is interesting to see here that he refused an offer of $400,000 to make a novel of the movie: “[I was] told the cheapo novelization would have to appeal to the twelve-year-old audience.”
Unfortunately, he died two months before the end of the movie. What he would have said is speculation.
But seen from now, both the novel and the movie are interesting (contrary to what pretended in France at that time Philippe Manœuvre, who rejected totally the movie in the review Métal Hurlant / Heavy Metal, saying it was merely bullshit. Which is a mere joke when we know Manoeuvre, ridiculous television presenter specialized in old school rock music sold to the capitalist music industry, for example with a a jury for the reality show called Nouvelle Star).
Both deal with important questions; both are modern. Blade Runner is still, 30 years after, a milestone for a reflection about mega-cities and moral values.