N: Some aspects of Blade Runner
are darkly prophetic of the world we now inhabit. L.A. 2019 is a
futuristic city filled with a multicultural society trying to live
in a polluted atmosphere with huge billboards advertising what appear
to be drugs. Genetic research has created something that touches
on the very essence of what we consider socially acceptable. What
elements of the "future vision" of BR do you now
see as becoming or have already become reality?
PS: You've just named a clutch of them. Ubiquitous adverts.
Rampant drug use - sanctioned drug use. Have you seen any
of the TV commercials that are currently running on the American
networks, the ones that are used to advertise prescription drugs
like Nexium? That's an acid reflux treatment. And it's a prescription
drug, not an over-the-counter medication. Those adverts are funded
by global pharmaceutical companies, and they're all over the airwaves
now. There certainly weren't any commercials like that back in 1982!
also predicted LA's teeming multiculturalism, although it focused
on the wrong ethic group - Runner indicated that Los Angeles
would become dominated by Asians, when in fact it's the Latino community
that's achieved that distinction. So far. As for LA's smog problem,
well, that's actually lessened since 1982. On the other hand, BR
predicted profound weather changes in LA. Changes brought on by
industrial pollution, which in the film took the form of acid rain.
We may not have acid rain here yet, but LA most certainly seems
to be receiving less and less rainfall each season, which some climatologists
claim is directly related to global warming. Then there's the overcrowding
and homelessness you see in BR. That's probably the most
obvious prophecy that became a later reality. I mean, just cruise
through downtown LA some night to see how close we are to 2019 here
in 2002! Finally, there's the way BR nailed the police corruption
we constantly suffer from in this city; the L.A.P.D. portrayed in
BR seems to have a dangerous contempt for what Captain Bryant
calls "little people". All I have to say is, does the
name Rodney King strike a bell?
But that's the worth of social commentary in science fiction. The
way certain SF books and films present alarming futuristic societies
by simply expanding upon, or extrapolating from, contemporary cultural
N: You are very well traveled - how
do you think Blade Runner is perceived around the world?
Indeed, how much has it influenced the world? When visiting the
Akihabara ("Electric City") area of Tokyo I was stunned
with the juxtaposition of large futuristic electronics stores with
the large market around the corner - small, downbeat stalls selling
electronic components - so very reminiscent of Animoid Row. Do you
think the essence of Blade Runner already exists in Japan?
PS: Not only does it already exist in Japan - where I spent
three years as a boy, by the way, living on a Naval base - BR's
essence existed in Japan before the film was made. Ridley's
gone on record, in fact, about that one. He's stated that he purposefully
incorporated elements of the glitzy/crowded environment of Tokyo's
Ginza district into the look of Animoid Row. So there's an example
of the film using a preexisting reality.
However, the film has influenced the real world in other, subtler
ways. For example, the type of font used for Blade Runner's
logo wasn't at all well-known before the film's release, and now
that font is everywhere. Architects have also written papers detailing
how BR's buildings seem to have become increasingly mirrored
in structures found today.
As far as being well-traveled, yeah, you're right. I love to travel.
I do a lot of it, too, both inside and beyond the borders of this
country. And virtually everywhere I go, Blade Runner is as
revered, at least by the subgroups we discussed earlier, as it is
here in America.
For example, I've given talks on the film throughout most of Western
Europe. Germany, England, Italy and so on, and each presentation
has always been well-attended. In fact, I did a BR talk last
November (2001) in Bremen, Germany, for this remarkable annual graphic
arts/film/digital symposium called Profile Intermedia. Over 1500
people showed up. Japan loves the film too. So interest in BR
certainly exists in industrialized foreign countries. I'm pretty
sure a large Blade Runner fan base doesn't exist in Africa
or India or the Middle East, though… (laughs). Then again,
who knows? The film seems to catch on wherever it's available. Perhaps
those parts of the world treasure it too.
N: As prophetic as some aspects of
Blade Runner seem to be, it also seems quite evident that
there is only a minute possibility of us living Off-World and having
Replicants by 2019! In fact, do you think we would ever develop
anything remotely like Replicants? A strong tendency in Cyberpunk
fiction that is beginning to be reflected in real life is to enhance
ourselves while creating robots to do specific tasks.
PS: You just brought up one of my pet peeves. I've said
it before and I'll say it again, but most science fiction pictures
make the mistake of presenting wildly speculative advancements and
technologies within a time frame that's much too close to our own.
Spielberg's Minority Report is a good example of that. I'm
damn sure we're not going to have automatic superhighways
capable of sending remote-controlled vehicles up and down the sides
of buildings fifty years from now! Same problem with BR -
I don't see replicants being created by 2019, either. Much less
Off-world colonies. I mean, we'll probably have landed a few more
unmanned rovers on Mars by then, but that'll pretty much be it.
What I do see happening fairly soon involves the medical establishment
using genetic research and selective breeding to enhance our own
physicality, while also coming up with viable procedures that result
in organ cloning. That may not be as far off as we think. You know,
inventing methods that result in artificially-created kidneys, spleens,
lungs, whatever. Not entire brains, though. The human brain is far
too complex an organ to simply reproduce like a photocopy, at least
at this point. Which, again, is not to say that this won't happen;
I just think that brain cloning will occur much farther down the
timeline than pop culture predicts.
On the other hand, I absolutely believe that we eventually will
produce living replicas of ourselves. The question is, what form
will those "replicants" take? Will they be just like us?
Better than us? Or will they basically be mindless bodies you keep
in communal storage somewhere, until you need your next liver transplant?
Anyway, my gut feeling is that human cloning is inevitable; the
genie's already out of that particular bottle, and there ain't no
way to force it back in. Again, though, it's more of a matter of
when these things will happen. I'm certain it won't be by 2019,
though. Especially if the goddamn Republican Party is still in control
of this country (laughs).