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Blade Runners

The Blade Runners, a neo-noir film, directed by Ridley Scott first in 1982 seeks to show life in a futuristic dystopia City of Los Angeles. Using the odd angles, the contrast in color, smoke, high technology, and ‘more human than human’ characters, the film seeks to describe the experience of life in a post-apocalyptic and post-human world. Los Angeles of 2019 in the film is depicted by the technologically advanced metropolis designs with overcrowded city streets, full of Asian culture, and some elements presented so that the familiar features look strange to the viewer. Through a creative direction and photography, the film seeks to model a near-future world that is full of pollution, influenced by post-humanism, showing hyper-technology reality and human interaction with technology, and disturbing instances of rebellion. This paper will scrutinize major characteristics of a film noir such as post-humanist society, advanced technologies, gender roles, and other aspects such as cinematography, sound design, mise-en-scene, and editing, aside from raising questions and concerns about a futuristic world.


Subjectivity in Post-humanism

Humanism and post-humanism have been variously advanced in the film. According to Badmington, in the film, there are used voice-overs to both present and downplay human subjectivity through the person of Deckard (2009). In addition, human police who are expected to be blade runners are the emotionless creatures and an aspect that Deckard seems to lose along the way proves this. Blade runners are identified with the "emotionless" creatures and compared with the inhuman beings so that they can preserve the humans on the Earth. As a result, this identification with the replicants shows subjectivity to post-humanism.

The development of emotions in the replicants is a concept that waters down the uniqueness of the human species. It means that human beings can be manufactured, programmed, and developed over time, including developing the emotional responses which would make them indistinguishable, and all these transformations are made not for the limit imposed on their life spans. In the case of Rachael, her emotional responses may develop and she may become fully human not for limiting her life span, thus enhancing subjectivity in post-humanism. Rachael and Deckard seem to be escaping from humanism and the corrupted, crowded, and polluted world.

A post-human aspect that was also featured in the film includes the glow that is seen in Deckard’s eyes at his apartment. While previously we understood that the glow was associated with artificial beings, as explained by Rachael, the acquisition of the glow by a “human” is puzzling. Could it be possible that Deckard is a replicant?

The Human Body and Technology

The human body has been interfaced with technology in various instances. Just like a typical cyberpunk, the film Blade Runners involves post-human beings which are replicants. These designed beings are more intelligent and capable than humans; having implants that allow them to constitute their memories, thus making them more of “humans who are controlled by a higher technology”. These creatures have been developed and evolved out of closer interaction between technology and the human body (Brown, 2012).

Deckard, a presumed human, has to use the aid of technology to track down the replicants. For instance, the Voigt-Kampff is the only available machine that can be used to distinguish the identity of the replicants due to the limitations of the human eye. Moreover, the police relied on the Esper machine to see the otherwise invisible details, for instance, helping him to identify if Zhora is a replicant.

Social Impacts of Information Technology

The technician Tyrell, who has grown cold and obsolete aspect of the feelings, boasts about the genetic manufacturing of his “more human than human” beings which are the replicants. However, his ability to program a short life span for them shows the attempt of mankind to transform every piece of information possible into data and manufacture it. How else could be explained that the replicants could be designed and ‘controlled’ by fellow men, yet functioned in almost a similar fashion as men? For instance, Tyrell Corporation was assisted by the replicant with an artificial memory that made it easy to control and yet to work like other humans. Batty’s desire to have a prolonged life is in agreement with Cavallaro’s assertion that “many cyberpunk characters pursue the dream of self-reinvention driven by consumer desires that almost invariably entail exploitation and abuse” (2000, p. 77).

Race and Sexuality

In the film, the post-apocalyptic vision of race and sexuality has been addressed. Scott presented the replicants as beings that possess the human form and human ability but with more intelligence and capability. The only difference between the replicants and the ordinary men was in their emotional responses, which were again determined to have the possibility to develop; the difference concerning the fact that beings are non-distinguishable from humanity is eradicated. The blade runners were primarily endowed with the duty of “retiring” the replicants that had been banished from Earth.

If we treat the replicants as those who are of another race, then the film seeks to show an unfamiliar version of racial segregation that is considered to be ongoing in the world today. The creators of the replicants had ‘ill’ motives when making them, forcing them to do odd and very risky jobs. Replicants were also designed to be emotionless beings, hence designed to have a limited connection with other beings, and in the instance that it was discovered that they could develop emotions, their life spans were restricted to four years at the most. The fact that they underwent the transformations and the Voigt-Kampff tests made them “inhuman” with the requirement to be “emotionless” in another way they will be retired without an aching conscience.

Gender in the post-apocalyptic world of Blade Runners resonates with that depicted in film noirs. As typical cyberpunks and film noirs, the males are mostly prevailing over the females. Rachael has been used to embody the innocence of the female, while Pris and Zhora represented more alluring and treacherous, sex-oriented females (Cavallaro, 2000). Deckard feels obligated to Rachael, thus he lords over her in his quest to prove his love for her.

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Several motifs can be identified in the Blade Runner. The first one concerns the Unicorn which is mostly associated with Deckard, Sebastian, and Gaff which indicates hope and symbolizes peace and love. It is possible to infer that the Unicorn, which Gaff left for Deckard, was a way to show that Rachael had been permitted to live, or Deckard was a replicant and Gaff could access his dreams about the Unicorn.

Second, there have been various ties between animals and actors in the film. At a later instance in the film, Roy Batty howls like a wolf as he confronts Deckard. His imitation of the wolf could be indicative of his behavior. The owl, being another animal, could have been used to represent Rachel’s mannerisms. Rachel seems to have been endowed with wisdom from Tyrell, as well as later gaining more information from Deckard. Zhora’s association with Deckard with the serpent indicates her cunning. She is intent on distracting Deckard from his mission. The protagonist, however, does not have any associations with an animal totem and thus could be identified as a different type of being. Alternatively, lack of association with the animal could be an advantage for him to have more free space in which he exhibits a wide range of characters.

The red light in the eyes is also a motif that is permeated the film, as long as it is treated as a key aspect of the movie. The Voigt -Kampff test is used to distinguish replicants from ordinary humans by measuring their reflexes from the eye as they are being asked questions that supposedly evoke emotions. A revelation about the relations between Rachael and Deckard tells that the glow in the eyes is distinctive for the inhuman or artificial creatures. Besides Tyrell's owl, the glow is seen in Rachael, Pris, and Roy. However, the appearance of the glow on the protagonist's eyes is very interesting, since it could indicate the possibility of Deckard being a replicant. The use of the eyes as identification of emotion and nature of men could indicate the possibility of the eyes to be used for studying the innermost of the person, which can serve as the observable elements of the human body.

Memory implants also make a very important feature in Blade Runner. From the film, it becomes very explicit that the replicants have their memories recorded on chips. Rachael, for instance, describes her memories about the garden and mother from the photograph for Deckard seeking to prove her humanity. Batty, talking to Deckard in the rain, says that all the life he lived can be forgotten in a short while. One cannot but wonder how central memory is to human existence and how chaotic it can be if the memory is not reality itself.

Problem Areas

Several issues are debatable within the film. According to Badmington, (2009: 483), photographs were not intended to evoke the past but were meant to serve as authentication and storage of history, just as they were intended for the replicants. Moreover, the photographs are the justification that the replicants are human, at least from their perspectives, a fact which shows the central role of memory for people constructing the meaning around their lives. It is of concern that the accuracy of the memory is under question. How the accuracy of memory can be proven?

Alternatively, the question of racism against the replicants, as seen by their unquestionably brutal retiring, arises. Why must they be killed if their emotional responses were developing and their probability of being human was high? How did it come that they were manipulated into hard and risky labors for men, and yet horribly dispatched?

The identity of Deckard as a human is also questionable. First, he felt emotional as he executed his errands of retiring the replicants, a trait that he should not possess being a blade runner. Moreover, he was told by Gaff that the former had done a man's job after Batty had died. As such, it is only but natural to question the identity of the blade runner since there were mentioned six replicants who had escaped and only one had remained yet unaccounted for. In this context, however, the argument of Taylor (2008, p. 3) that post-humanism is a state in which we already exist is invoked. Following this analogy, one could thus argue that the existing humans are different from the replicants in the way that they have more alterations than ordinary people. A very important question arises concerning the limit of human possibilities and the existence of any elements that distinguish a human from a post-human.


According to Yuen (2000), cyberpunk uses cinematic expressions from the near future cities which are “characterized by decadence, anarchy, and fantasy” on one hand, and “a mistrusted, high-tech hyper-reality” on the other. The Ridleyville of Blade Runners is expressive airing the view about the intertwined past, present, and future. Moreover, the choice of a city that is sprawled and polluted is the motif that Blade Runners uses with a close connection to the fact that the City of Los Angeles in 2019” is populated by Asian peoples. Also, the Asian culture has been captured by a mix of Asian designs on the landscape including the Sushi bar.

In the film, there was used an effective combination of rain, lightning, contrast, and backlights convey the mood of sadness and depict the characteristic dystopian city of the future. The film employed the use of neon lights in the cinematography to highlight the characters and light up the streets to their expectations. The dull colors of the crowds and environment, as well as the use of blue color, were used to depict an uncomfortable overpopulated environment. In addition, various colors and reflecting techniques were used in some instances, for example, while showing the glow in the eyes of the replicants and the clones. The cinematographers also employed soft lighting at the front to illuminate faces, while at the same time they used a hard backlight, which created contrast and exemplary scenes. The cinematography was given in contrast to the typical one that is used in conventional movies since the Blade Runner sought to present an unfamiliar dystopian city of the future.

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According to Scott’s representation, viewers are introduced to a futuristic noir city that is overcrowded and dirty. Smoke is heavily emitted from towers and lights are also crowded. Moreover, the people in Blade Runner are constantly dressed up and the weather is barely warm, the place feels suffocating, dumpy, and worn out.

Moreover, the film tries to depict a futuristic city that is characterized by a higher level of technology. Cloned animals and human replicants are presented in almost exact looks, and they function as ordinary humans have been made by scientists, the transport is advanced as shown by flying cars, and the buildings are designed in more sophisticated designs.

On a general note, the film’s mise-en-scenes generally depict gloom, dampness, crowding, high technology, and clones. It shows an ever-foggy background with a lot of smoke in the air, sophisticated buildings with neon lights all over, minimal space for the crowded people, crowded houses, and uncomfortable habitation.

Sound Design

In the movie, sound and silence have been creatively used and alternated to create an effective atmosphere for the dystopian futuristic world. For a larger part, the music is rough and “old”, which thus emphasizes the uncomfortable and greasy feel of the future cities. With the sound, it is almost possible for one to feel as though they are in a very polluted, overcrowded, and messy city. The screams during the action, for instance, the death of a replicant made the film more real and lively and effectively represent the chilling environment. In essence, the film maintains a proper balance of sound throughout its viewing. The use of the narrative, through voice-overs, said by the protagonist Deckard, is a distinctive feature of most tfifilmirs.


The editing of the film is proportionate to the mood or level of activity ongoing at that particular scene. For the climax, for example, there are used the shots of shorter durations create a more tense feeling in light of the action and the danger surrounding Deckard and Batty, the main protagonist and antagonist, as they confront each other. In some instances, the film utilizes longer takes, especially when there was not many activities are observed. Aerial footage is also used, especially in giving a general view of the City of Los Angeles that Scott develops in his film. There is also lots of use of camera angles as it should be in the film noir.


The Blade Runners paints a futuristic dystopia by presenting a familiar world in a strange and newly constructed manner, in which pollution, high forms of technology, and overcrowding are the key highlights. The position, existence, and uniqueness of humankind in Los Angeles in 2019 have been highly compromised, as long as the post-humanist ideas are mainly advanced. Having employed the creative use of contrast, mise-en-scene, voiceovers, and hyper-technology devices like flying cars, and genetically-engineered people, the film successfully constructs the environment of cold-hearted, crowded, and violent people in a dull and miserable world. Some aspects of the movie, however, raise concern. In the film, the “more human than human” creations of the Tyrell Corporation could evolve and develop emotional responses, leaving a viewer wondering if it would be possible to distinguish the creations from the native human species. If not, then where does the presumed ‘uniqueness’ of the human species go? Are there any possibilities that the future may present more opportunities for technologically manufactured beings rather than naturally reproduces beings? Or should we drop our quest to distinguish the human from the artificial and agree with Taylor that we are already in our post-human state? Lastly, the greatest question of all times arises; with the advance in technology, how human is human?

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