Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blade Runner - Analysis of the Movie: Rel. to 'A Space Odyssey'; the hidden plot


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Blade Runner' page; "Blade Runner poster" by John Alvin,[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Blade Runner is a 1982 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young. The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in the year 2019 in which genetically engineered organic robots called replicants — visually indistinguishable from adult humans — are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation as well as by other "mega–manufacturers" around the world. The plot focuses on Rick Deckard (Ford), a police special operative known as a "blade runner", who reluctantly agrees to take on an assignment to hunt down some replicants who have left an off-world colony, and appeared in Los Angeles.[b]

The relationship of Blade Runner to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey

There are visual and other similarities between Blade Runner and Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, as described below.


Visual references to 2001: A Space Odyssey in Blade Runner, include the view of one of Leon's eyes that we see on a video screen (above left screencap), while he's being interviewed by Holden - this is reminiscent of one of the views of one of astronaut David Bowman's eyes that the 2001 audience sees (above right), while Bowman is in the stargate. The two small white spots in Leon's eye are allusions to the small bright spot near the pupil of Bowman's eye, which is a result of the brain injury Bowman suffers when he hits his bare head on the Discovery One spaceship airlock wall (see screencaps below), after he is 'ejected' into the airlock from his EVA pod.

Above left: When David Bowman is blown out of his EVA pod into the Discovery One emergency airlock, his body travels at a high rate of speed to the other side of the airlock. Above right: Bowman, who is not wearing a space helmet in this scene, then hits his head on an unpadded portion of the airlock wall. As explained in the Space Odyssey analysis, this results in Bowman suffering a brain injury.

A fundamental correspondence between Blade Runner and A Space Odyssey is this: Some of the events the audience of A Space Odyssey sees taking place, after astronaut David Bowman hits his head on the Discovery One spaceship airlock wall (such as those that take place in the 'hotel room' shown at left), comprise parts of a dream Bowman experiences before he dies from his brain injury. Similarly, some of the events the Blade Runner audience sees transpiring on the high-rise roof near the movie's ending, and the events that take place after this, comprise a dream sequence Deckard experiences just before he dies, after falling off the roof (see below).

Above left: Deckard hangs onto the rooftop ledge with just one hand. It is just after this that he falls to the ground below (though we are not actually shown Deckard falling - we are instead shown Deckard's dream of being saved from falling by Roy). Above right: Roy appears to save Deckard from falling. However, as just indicated, this is only part of a dream Deckard has begun to experience - in reality, Roy did not save him.

Above left: One hint that part of Blade Runner consists of a dream is when Leon says to Deckard, "wake up - time to die!" Above right: Another such hint is that Roy is seen holding a dove near the movie's ending. Even a replicant wouldn't be so quick as to be able, in reality, to catch a bird in his hand.

Blade Runner's hidden plot

Top left: These flying police cars in the movie, which are called spinners, suggest that one or more persons in the police department are themselves 'spinners', in the sense that they distort certain information. Top right: Bryant, Deckard's former police supervisor, is giving Deckard a 'spun' version of events early in the movie, when he tells Deckard that the four replicants he (supposedly) wants tracked down and killed, had committed mutiny on another planet and then escaped to Earth. The hint we're initially given that Deckard is being subjected to distorted information, is that if one listens carefully and compares the conversation Holden is shown having with Leon early in the movie, to the recorded version of this conversation that is later played for Deckard in Bryant's office, small differences in what is being said are noticeable. Above left: In the recorded version of Holden and Leon's conversation, being played in Bryant's office, we see Leon's face on a screen (shown), and Holden, who is conducting a Voight-Kampff test on Leon to try and determine whether or not he's a replicant, sounds as if he's saying to Leon, "So you look down, you see a tortoise. It's crawling toward you." Above right: In the actual conversation between Holden and Leon shown earlier in the movie, Holden (shown) can be heard wording his statement as, "You look down, you see a tortoise, Leon. It's crawling toward you." The implication of this is that the recorded version of the conversation has been altered from the original. The playing of the altered tape in Bryant's office, during his and Deckard's session together, is a hint from the Blade Runner filmmakers to the movie's audience, that some of the information being given to Deckard by Bryant himself, is false.[c]

Another matter on which Deckard's receiving false information from Bryant, is that he's being told Zhora (top left) is a replicant who was trained to be part of a murder squad, and Pris (top right) is a "basic pleasure model". Later in the movie, it becomes evident that things are not exactly as Bryant described, in particular, when Deckard finds Zhora working at an entertainment venue (above left), and then later, when Pris violently attacks Deckard (above right).

Top left: Sebastian has made the mistake of allowing Pris to enter his apartment, gaining Roy entrance to it. Top right: Pris pretends to comfort Sebastian, shortly before he is killed. Above left: Roy later goes to Tyrell's residence, and kills Tyrell. Above right: Still later, at one point while searching Sebastian's residence, Deckard isn't sure whether he's looking at a mannequin, a replicant, or one of Sebastian's other creations - until it turns out to be the replicant, Pris, who physically attacks him (as indicated above).

The basic hidden plot in Blade Runner is that the blade runners themselves are replicants (they are a more advanced model than the Nexus-6 replicants), and the four Nexus-6's (Zhora, Pris, Roy, and Leon) did not escape from an off-world colony; instead, it is actually the case that these four were specifically sent to Earth, to kill Deckard, Holden, and possibly other blade runners. Deckard was told that Pris was a pleasure model so that he'd approach her less carefully, than he would if he thought she was a trained killer; then, she'd be in a better position to attack him. (Deckard approached Pris somewhat tentatively only because upon seeing her, he wasn't sure whether or not it was a live person he was looking at. He didn't fully recognize her from the image he'd seen in Bryant's office.) By misinforming Deckard on the full nature of the two female Nexus-6's, Bryant was trying to set Deckard up to get killed.

The reason the authorities are using replicants to do away with the blade runners, is because the public, not to mention other blade runners, would get suspicious if one or more blade runners were found out to have been killed by human beings. The authorities have to make things appear that the blade runners are being killed in the line of duty.

Leon shoots Holden (left) after the conversation between the two men has gotten to the point, where it is evident that Leon suspects that Holden knows, that he is a replicant. If Leon had killed Holden right at the beginning of the conversation, or before it began, it would be obvious that he was sent as an assassin. Leon knows the conversation with Holden is being taped, and he has to make things appear such that he has a good reason to shoot Holden. As indicated above, Holden and the other blade runners are themselves replicants.

The single best piece of evidence, as far as what we see happen in Blade Runner, that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant, is something which occurs near the end of the movie: Deckard, starting with just three fingers of one (injured) hand placed on a protrusion from a high-rise ledge (above left), hoists himself up onto the ledge (above right). This suggests that Deckard has a certain level of 'super-human' strength; although based on his actions throughout most of the film, he doesn't appear to be super-human to the extent that the Nexus 6's are. The fact that Deckard lives long enough to experience his dream sequence, after falling off the rooftop and hitting the ground below, is further indication that he is not human; for a human being would have died on impact with the ground, as the building Deckard falls from is quite tall. It must be the case that Deckard and Holden are replicants of a series of which Rachael was only an experiment. The blade runners are more advanced than the 6's in that they are more like human beings. Also, they don't have limited life spans - this is why it is necessary for them to specifically be destroyed.

a. Poster for Blade Runner: The film © 1982, 1991 The Blade Runner Partnership; poster artwork © 1982 The Ladd Company.
b. Wikipedia, 'Blade Runner'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. We're going by the 2007 "Final Cut" version of the Blade Runner DVD for this analysis. It stands to reason that Ridley Scott had corrected for all undesired audio and video that might have been in earlier version(s) of the movie, for this final release, so any differences in it in what's being said between the two versions of the conversation between Leon and Holden, can be assumed to be intentional on Scott's part.

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