Tales of the Future

Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually indentical to a human – known as a Replicant.

The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence to the genetic engineers who created them.

Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets.

After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth – under penalty of death.

Special police squads – BLADE RUNNER UNITS – had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicant.

This was not called execution.

It was called retirement.

(Blade Runner, 1982)


In the summer of 1982, Ridley Scott’s vision of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep hit the theatres. While this film was a commercial disappointment at the time, it introduced a wide audience to the new genre of cyber-punk, left an immeasurable effect on popular culture, and has since become a film classic.

In 1993, Blade Runner was entered into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry due to its cultural and artistic importance (Blade Runner, Wikipedia, n.d.).

Blade Runner is, without a doubt, my favourite film. Because of its visual, sonic, and philosophical richness, I never grow tired of re-watching this masterpiece. If you have not already seen it, I encourage you to treat yourself to a unique cinematic experience.

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Philip K. Dick is a Hugo and Nebula award winning American science fiction author who published novels and short stories from the 1950s until his death in 1982. Dick lived in Marin County, California (near San Francisco) and was a member of its counter-culture scene. While some of his stories involve the exploration of space, all of his stories are concerned with the exploration of the human condition and the nature of reality. Unfortunately, Dick died before seeing the completed version of Blade Runner.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick's original novel

Dick can be considered one of the grandfathers of the cyberpunk movement which differs from traditional science fiction. Science fiction traditionally took an optimistic view of advanced technologies (e.g. robots: Isaac Asimov and space travel: Arthur C. Clarke), used the threat of alien invasion as a political metaphor (War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells), or presented a utopian and often militaristic vision of the future (Star Trek). The principle characters of science fiction also tended to fall into narrow categories: scientists, explorers, and political and military leaders. Cyberpunk turns all of this on its head: yes there is advanced technology, but it doesn’t necessarily improve quality of life nor is it shared equally. The principle characters concerned in these stories tend to be average people of little global significance or anti-heroes and the vision of the future is often dystopian.

This is where we find ourselves in the world of Blade Runner. The world of Los Angeles, 2019 is a bleak world where advanced and seemingly wondrous technologies co-exists with the older, more familiar technologies of the 20th Century.

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Blade Runner is a story of modern day, corporate slavery. The protagonist of the story is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a special type of police detective – a blade runner, who is responsible for finding and “retiring” escaped replicants. A replicant is an artificial biological human being which is created, not born. Replicants are used as labourers on off world colonies and are illegal on Earth.

The story begins when six replicants steal a shuttle and return to Earth. Deckard is assigned to find and retire or execute these six individuals.

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Philosophical Ideas

A central theme in the work of Philip K. Dick is the question: what does it mean to be human? According to Dick, our defining characteristic is the capacity for empathy. In the story, it is this quality that separates the replicants from human beings: we have the capacity for empathy while the replicants do not. Another element of the human condition explored by Dick and this film is the role of memory in shaping our identities. The film explores the ominous manner in which memories can be fabricated in order to manipulate and control individuals.

Spoiler alert: do not read the rest of this section if you have not seen the film.

Early on in the film, we learn that Deckard is an alcoholic, but it isn’t until after he retires a replicant that we learn this is how he copes with the nature of his work. As the film progresses and he is forced to kill, his humanity is gradually stripped from him. Alternatively, as Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the leader of the renegade replicants, witnesses the death of his friends he develops the capacity for empathy and sees value in all life.

The film’s climactic scene shows our two principle characters at their extremes. A dying Roy Batty stands over the helpless Deckard, who hangs off the ledge of a skyscraper. As Deckard loses his grip, he uses his last, spite-filled act to spit in Batty’s face. And in this moment, Batty has an epiphany and saves Deckard. The two men sit down facing each other and Batty gives one of the most memorable speeches in the history of film. With his dying breath, Batty describes the amazing things that he has seen in an urgent attempt to convey how much his life means to him. This is also his epiphany: in his final moments, the value he places on his own life extends out beyond himself to encompass all life and by conveying this to Deckard, he manages to redeem Deckard who then breaks free of the dehumanizing system which he has been enforcing.

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Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

A large part of the lasting appeal and influence of Blade Runner is the incredible detail Scott put into every aspect of the design and appearance of this film. The visual style of Blade Runner has been copied by many other films since (Total Recall, 2012 – also based on a story by Dick), but it also borrows heavily from German Expressionist cinema and Film Noir (the Americanized version of German Expressionist cinema). At the beginning of Blade Runner, we see a futuristic cityscape which owes as much to Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis as Syd Mead’s designs.

The dominant style in the film is from the 1920s and can be seen in the prevalent use of Art Deco architecture. However, one of the landmark buildings in the film is pre-Art Deco; J.F. Sebastian lives in the famous Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. The fashions are also from the 1920s through 1940s and are reminiscent of the clothes worn in classic Film Noir detective films such as Humphrey Bogart’s The Big Sleep (1946).

The music of Vangelis also adds a timeless quality, both futuristic and reminiscent of 1920s through 1940s.

Los Angeles 2019 is depicted as a multicultural and multilingual city of extreme wealth and deprivation. Finally, it is this combination of highly detailed futurism, grounded in our past and dealing with fundamental questions of our nature that make this a timeless classic.

To learn more about the making of this film, its influences, and how it has shaped cinema since its release, I recommend the book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. For a quicker read, the British Film Institute (BFI) has an excellent article titled: Blade Runner: anatomy of a classic.

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For reasons best not explored here, there are now several versions of Blade Runner in circulation. Each of these versions is worth watching; however, the definitive version (the only version over which Ridley Scott had final say) is Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

This video was posted to YouTube by WarnerBrosOnline on Sep 6, 2012.

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Further Reading & Viewing

books & articles
  • Blade Runner (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  • Bradbury Building (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  • Dalton, Stephen (2015). Blade Runner: anatomy of a classic. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  • Dick, Philip K. (1968) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Toronto, Random House.
  • Sammon, Paul M. (1996) Future Noir: The making of Blade Runner. New York, HarperPrism.


images video
  • Deeley, Michael (Producer), & Scott, Ridley (Director). (1982). Blade Runner [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros.
  • WarnerBrosOnline (2012, September 6). Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Trailer [Video file].

About this page

This page is intended to demonstrate my usage of HTML5 and CSS3 for responsive layout. In addition to being styled for different screen sizes, this page has been styled for printing: click "print preview" in your browser to see how a print out of this page will appear. The page was created using nothing more than hand-coded HTML and CSS. Some of the new CSS3 features included in the design of this page include:

  • keyframe animation
  • flexible box layout
  • flexible images
  • border-radius
  • box-shadow
  • text-shadow
  • transitions
  • gradient

Flexible box layout allows you to designate different blocks (divs) as columns or rows. In the case of columns, you can specify what percentage of the screen that section should occupy. In the case of rows, you can specify the order in which rows appear. The benefits of this layout technique are: the percentages can adjust for display on different screen sizes and the layout can shift from column to row depending on screen size. For a large screen, you may wish to use columns then switch to rows for a smaller tablet or phone screen. Try resizing your browser to see the effect. Warning: you need to be using an up-to-date version of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari to do this. When coding this, you will need to use a prefix for different browser support:

  • -webkit-flex-direction: row;
  • -webkit-flex: 8; flex 8;

You can read more about the flex property at w3schools.com and Web Development & Design Foundations with HTML5 7th edition, by: Terry Felke-Morris.

Flexible images are natural companions to flexible box layout. This feature allows images to resize from their original dimensions to smaller images as the display area is reduced.

The scrolling text at the top of this page was created using keyframe animation with HTML and CSS – no JavaScript was required. In addition to animating graphics, keyframe can be used to animate text. In order to do this, you must create a block or div for the text and prevent overflow. Then offset the text so that it appears out-of-frame (to the bottom or side), this will be your 0% position. Then designate the location of the text at 100%, the duration of the effect, and whether the effect should execute once or continue on a loop. The computer will calculate the speed of the text and animate its movement across the div. There are many examples of this technique online, but the most helpful example I found is: Stackoverflow.

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