Comparing Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
How do we know that we are human and, if we are human, what does it mean to be human? These two philosophical inquiries are explored in great depth in Ridley Scott's film "Blade Runner", and of course the text of Philip K. Dick's wonderful novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? on which the film is based. Most would agree that these themes exist in the novel, but a handful of critics and academics have some doubt as to their presence in the film. If one examines both the film and the text, one will realize that they both serve to support the same motifs, but do so in different fashions. Many critics argue that the awesome visuals overwhelm the contents of the plot and theme, but I argue that the visuals depicting Los Angeles in the year 2019 help to advance the themes. Viewers often miss the human side of the story or lack there of, and may object to the strong visuals for this reason. It can be argued that the visuals serve to portray a dehumanized world where only subtle signs of humanity's existence are dispersed throughout, where existentialist notions such as what being human is and what being human means are not easily answered.
To briefly summarize the plot, Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a cop from the future (blade runner) who tracks down and kills replicants, which are basically artificially created human beings. In other films, they are usually referred to as androids. Specifically, his assignment is to find and kill five replicants who have escaped from an off-world colony and come to earth. The most interesting parts of "Blade Runner" are Deckard's interactions with the various replicants, especially Rachel (Sean Young), which begin to make us wonder just what humanity really is. Is Deckard a human being at all? This has been an issue of debate for years. And it was a good debate because there is no definite answer in the film, especially in the director's cut. Unfortunately, Ridley Scott recently felt compelled to answer that question. What was the point; I don't feel that it was his question to answer.
"Blade Runner" develops the notion of an android or replicant quite well, and it is the depiction of the android that calls into question the meaning of humanity. The viewer is constantly challenged to evaluate how human the androids are and how mechanical the humans are. This distinction is not easily made, as the androids are not simply robots. They are, in fact, artificial people created from organic materials. The robot now "...haunts the human consciousness and stares out through a mask of flesh". They have free will and some of the same emotions as humans, such as fear and love, but lack empathy, the ability to identify with the sufferings and joys of other beings, namely animals. However, in both the novel and the film the empathic ability of certain human beings such as Deckard is called into question. Aside...