Blade Runner (1982), rising director Ridley Scott’s follow-up to his hit Alien (1979), is one of the most popular and influential science-fiction films of all time – and it has become an enduring cult classic favourite. But the enthralling film was originally a box-office financial failure, and it received negative reviews from film critics who called it muddled and baffling. It also wasn’t encouraging that it faced Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) during its opening release. It received only two Academy Award nominations without Oscars: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Visual Effects. The evocative, inventive, stylistic film has improved with age and warrants repeated viewings. The dense, puzzling, detailed plot of the film is backed by a mesmerizing, melancholy musical soundtrack from Greek composer Vangelis – undeservedly overlooked for an Oscar nomination. Stylistically, the film was arresting with fantastic, imaginative visual effects of a future Los Angeles conceived by futurist design artist Syd Mead, and influenced by the vision of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). [Mead had also been production designer for the same year’s visually-pioneering TRON (1982), teamed with famed French futuristic illustrator Jean “Moebius” Giraud.] Another inspiration for the film was the 1974 science fiction book by novelist Alan E. Nourse titled The Bladerunner, set in the year 2014 about people who sold medical equipment and supplies to ‘outlaw’ doctors who were unable to obtain them legally. Many films have attempted to duplicate the dystopic, cyberpunkish look of Blade Runner, including Batman (1989), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Strange Days (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999), and I, Robot (2004). The ambitious, enigmatic, visually-complex film is a futuristic film noir detective thriller with all its requisite parts – an alienated hero of questionable morality, a femme fatale, airborne police vehicles called “Spinners”, dark sets and locations in a dystopic Los Angeles of 2019, and a downbeat voice-over narration. The film mixed in some western genre elements as well, and is thematically similar to the story in High Noon (1952) of a lone marshal facing four western outlaws.
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