Keith Eubanks II

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Finding Ridley

In Dreams on October 31, 2008 at 10:44 pm

With a blog title like this it only seems appropriate to begin with something on Blade Runner.  I’ve been immersed in this world for over a year as I developed a course on Science Fiction Literature and Film. Phillip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is central to the course which is focused on utopias and dystopias and why the “perfect world” is -in the medium of science fiction- never a place anyone would want to live.  Early philosophers have had much to say on the subject, as anyone that has read Plato’s Republic will attest, but the argument certainly doesn’t end there. The creation of this class began an incredible journey that ended on the Warner Brothers backlot where Blade Runner was filmed and a personal encounter with many of the creative talents that brought Blade Runner to the screen -including Ridley Scott.

In June of 1982 I saw Ridley Scott’s second feature film on its opening weekend.  Two hours later, as the credits began to move across the screen, I realized I had seen an important film.  Blade Runner is visually stunning. This is due mainly to Scott’s perfectionism and attention to detail. What he created is a very realistic and plausible future and a film that is so rich in detail it can not only withstand repeated viewings, it compels them.  I recommend Paul Sammon’s Future Noir-The Making of Blade Runner to those interested in a more detailed account of the film’s production.

Beneath the effects and complex imagery, however, is a philosophical commentary on our humanity.  The Tyrell Corporation’s motto of “more human than human” -referring to the manufacture of replicants- stands in stark contrast to the lack of humanity evident in a world that manufactures slave labor for hazardous off-world colonization.  The inspiration for for Dick’s replicants was the result of some research he was doing at UC Berkeley.  He was reading the journals of Nazi officers that had worked in the death camps and came upon a disturbing passage. The writer was complaining that he was “kept awake at night by the cries of starving Jewish children.”  The lack of empathy was horrifying and Dick came to the realization that there are those among us that are in fact less than human. In fact, they may have to be killed.  The problem -or paradox- is that in killing them we might become just like them.

The Voight Kampf test in Blade Runner identifies the difference between androids and humans: A complete lack of empathy. Ridley Scott, in the film version of Phillip K. Dick’s novel, takes an artistic departure in his representation of androids.  The recently released “Final Cut” further complicates the issue.  – to be continued

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