“Did you get your precious photos?”
That’s what Roy asked Leon. Look past the futuristic wizardry and you’ll see that photography has a significant role in this cult classic. That’s what I noticed when I recently watched the fully remastered Blu-ray version of Blade Runner.
Back in 1982, when released to theaters, I was in high school. I was mesmerized by the flying cars, the glittering city and the technology. But it wasn’t the near-human replicants, the video phones or gravity defying vehicles that were the most memorable. For me, it was the futuristic voice assisted computer that analyzed photographs in the movie’s pivotal scene.
Understand that our current technology has far exceeded Deckard’s computer. With simple flicks of the mouse replacing cumbersome voice commands, all of us photographers do sophisticated image processing that would blow the minds of the fictitious characters in Blade Runner. Oh yeah and if we wanted to issue voice commands, we can do that too, via Siri. In fact, our portable smart phones are all that Deckard would have needed.
We’re a mere 4 years from when the movie is supposed to take place. What other technology “predictions” haven’t worked out as planned? The biggest is flying cars, though honestly even back in 1982, I never thought that would happen. Genetically engineered animals and humans, probably not for at least 20 more years? Off world colonies? Other than the Moon and Mars, that may never happen.
But when it comes to computer technology, the movie was quite conservative. We already established that a PC with Photoshop or even a smartphone will blow away Deckard’s computer. Video calls? We can do that from our cell phones too. Yup, the movie has sorely under predicted the power of the hand-held computer.
And our ubiquitous hand-held devices have other story line implications. We no longer print our photographs but carry them electronically. Blade Runner’s entire representation of photography no longer fits our modern world. The movie was set 37 years in the future from when it was released. If we re-made Blade Runner today, set for Los Angeles in 2052, much of the story will need to change.
Scaling up our current technology, I suppose in 37 years, all the surveillance will automatically identify and track any perpetrators. The power of images and photography scaled up to an infinite and scary degree. Blade Runner’s quaint notion of printed paper photographs is as far-fetched as flying cars. But don’t get me wrong. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching this classic.
The movie opened to mixed reviews but most of my high school buddies and I loved it. Only a few didn’t. Wikipedia has an extensive entry and indicates that the movie has stood the test of time. Several noteworthy groups have included Blade Runner in their greatest movie lists.