Happy Blade Runner day!
Friday 1st November 2019 marks the real-world date when Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic was set – but there’s not a replicant in sight.
When Blade Runner was released it transformed the way science fiction films depicted the future. Starring Harrison Ford as Richard Deckard, a ‘blade runner’ who hunts and kills rogue human-like robots (known as ‘replicants’), the film was also notable for correctly predicting certain elements of our then-future society.
Blade Runner’s visions of a multicultural metropolis – where weather patterns are devastated by environmental ruin, advertising displays loom down at you from giant electronic billboards, and people can speak to each other over video phones – proved to be prophetic.
But many of the other cyberpunk specifics failed to come true. And while we’re likely all grateful we can cross off ‘robot fugitives’ from our list of 21st-century worries, some of the film’s neat inventions might just have come in handy.
Here are some of the things Blade Runner didn’t get quite right about the future we’re now living in…
One of Blade Runner’s very first images, introducing audiences to the film’s menacing techno-future, is a car flying hundreds of metres above the ground.
Despite being an enduring cliché of hypothetical future technology for decades, along with jetpacks and houses on the moon, hover cars have simply never taken off.
But never say never. The technology is improving, and many prototypes have been developed in recent years. Unlike the slick Blade Runner models, these are closer to helicopters or small aircraft in design.
While it’s fair to say that moody trench coats never quite became the 2019 fad Blade Runner thought they would be, they’re hardly the film’s worst offenders.
The replicants dress more eccentrically. Pris (Daryl Hannah) wouldn’t look out of place at a Halloween party, with extreme, panda bear make-up, black clothes and a collar – putting the ‘punk’ in ‘cyberpunk’.
Rachael (Sean Young), the replicant with whom Deckard embarks on a troubled romance, sports a fierce padded shoulder – a look that has mostly been left in the 1980s.
Dysfunctional designer JF Sebastian (William Sanderson), meanwhile, wears ugly dungarees. While dungarees are have made something of a comeback over the last few years, it’s safe to say no-one dresses quite like this.
Included partially as a nod towards the film noir genre (which inspired the film), Blade Runner is chock-full of people smoking cigarettes.
Despite the fact that smoking has been outlawed in many of the public places seen in the film (such as offices and police stations), there are also far fewer people smoking at all – thanks to better education about the health risks involved, and the popularity of vaping.
By the time of Denis Villeneuve’s masterful 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049, smoking has nearly died out – we only see one lit cigarette throughout the whole runtime.
Although Blade Runner correctly guessed we would have the ability to talk to computers, and to talk over video phone, it couldn’t have foreseen the ubiquity of mobiles.
As a result, characters are seen using old-fashioned phonebooths to communicate with Skype-like technology.
In our world, phone booths only really exist as relics and illicit urinals – but can still be seen on Doctor Who!
The planet is dying; Blade Runner knew this much. To paint a picture of a ruined, over-built Los Angeles, the film takes place in never-ending rainfall – a monotonously wet environment without sunlight or greenery.
The reality is possibly more horrifying – while it certainly doesn’t rain all the time in LA, the area has been hit by drastically changing weather conditions. From temperature spikes to forest fires, the landscape has been ravaged by climate change in a completely different way.