Rutger Hauer in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982)

Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? describes a darkened, post apocalyptic future where the majority of mankind has left Earth to settle colonies on other planets. Animals are either endangered or extinct, giving way to a burgeoning industry in artificial life. Both android animals and humans have become so life-like that it is next to impossible to differentiate them from the natural life forms they mimic.

 

For a novel written as early as 1968, Dick seems to have envisioned, with much social commentary and metaphor, many developments that resemble what has already come to pass and what still may arise. The subjects of environmental degradation, psychoactive drugs and the unchallenged power of large corporations are more relevant than ever.

Director Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, is the film version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It made Dick’s proto cyberpunk world come to life in a polluted, dark, sleazy Los Angeles of 2019.

All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.

–Roy Batty in Blade Runner

As is commonly the case with a film adaptation, the story is simplified. Not an action flick, Blade Runner focuses on identity and what it means to be human, while largely ignoring interesting topics concerning the environment, collective virtual reality and the casual use of mood altering drugs in Philip K. Dick novel.

Since Warner Bros is planning to produce a new Blade Runner film – much to the chagrin of many fans of the original – I wonder if these topics will be tackled in the new version or if it will tread the now-familiar ground it broke in 1982 and stick with themes of artificial intelligence.

As a sci-fi buff I look forward to seeing a new Blade Runner and am pleased that it will not be a remake, but rather either a sequel or prequel. I also wonder how much of Dick’s or Ridley Scott’s visions will dictate the world the film inhabits as opposed to the environmental and technological consequences that are unfolding right before our eyes in 2011.

 

15 years after its release, Blade Runner was the most assigned movie in science fiction study courses on North American college campuses. Now that an additional 15 years have nearly passed a brainy sequel should be welcome rather than a 2-hour video game sequence like the Matrix sequels. But seriously, what are the chances of that?

Additional resources:

CBS News – “Blade Runner” sequel in the works?