i revisited the SCI-FI classic LOGAN's RUN (MGM, 1976) the other day and was again intrigued by its depiction of a future dystopia where all inhabitants are genetically modified to maximize pleasure, only to be discarded in public once they turn 30. what hit me about this film was its critique of ritual and the dislodging effects of free love culture.
to mark the end of a class of the population, there was an elaborate sports-like spectacle called "carousel" in an arena where participants where systematically killed off in hopes of being reincarnated. the implications of such a display are obviously barbarous, but the fact that such had been normalized via its status as an embedded ritual in society made it easy to gloss over on behalf of its inhabitants. reminds me in a way of how we choose to perceive pugilistic sports (MMA, NFL, boxing) and war as competitions rather than life-altering experiences that forever change the mental, emotional and physical capacities of its participants.
the other interesting bit about this film is how everyone is supposedly engineered to be equally desirable and sexually available for all takers, male or female. ironically, a world free of sexual prudishness and boundaries has lost the ability to connect. a world free of adults and children is rudderless, guilt-free world with no responsibility. perhaps this was a critique of the free love and commune movements of the late 60s where unconventional living and partnering relationships were experimented with for a time. i dont know how i feel about that one. i have friends from childhood who participated in kibutzim in ISRAEL and others in NIGERIA that had extended families via their father's other wives. they all seemed to be well-adjusted despite having multiple "parents." interesting thought none the less.
last thing i'll say about this film is that the youth-obsessive nature of the narrative made me immediately think of my experiences KOREA and JAPAN, where KAWAII culture has infantilized the population and really devalued people once they moved past puberty. its unhealthy and their suicide rates among teens and depreciating birth rates among adults proves such.
why cant we just value the whole spectrum of human development. where does that come from?
at the heart of RIDLEY SCOTT's transcendent DYSTOPIAN film BLADE RUNNER (THE LADD COMPANY, 1982) is the question of what defines our humanity? what actually makes us human? loosely based on PHILIP K. DICK's novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? (DOUBLEDAY, 1968), this film follows a bounty hunter in a future dystopia where technology has advanced to the point that mass produced androids called replicants are used for their labor. equipped with a conscious and prefabricated memories, some of these subjects have circumvented their end dates, thus necessitating a bounty hunter (known here as a blade runner) to find and kill them.
i could go on about the revolutionary special effects and set pieces that define the look of this film, but it is my opinion that what really makes this film a touchstone for future generations are the concerns it brings up. in our modern day with modern genetics and CRISPR technology that allow us to modify the human genome to our will, it is important to consider what will be lost in the process. are we defined by our creator? are we pre-designated to serve a certain function or are we free actors allowed to explore our agency? what makes this film inspires is that there is an open question of whether HARRISON FORD's character (who is a blade runner) is himself a replicant. is the enforcer even in charge of his own will or is he too just serving the purpose of another higher entity.
when i look to the future all i see is BLADE RUNNER. this film did not foresee the internet, but i nonetheless it did see a future where information is a tool of power and identity. and that is something i see today that reduce us all to consumers that can be defined with an algorithm based on our spending habits, social media posts and spending habits. we are already defined by our reciepts in this new economy but the downsides insofar have been pretty mild to benign in nature on a personal level. i think that'll change and our agency will be in question once techniques are used to influence our decision-making, whether economically or politically. we are only in the beginning stages.
once it is in full bloom we will all be replicants in a sense. we will all be created by our environment into information consumers with a purpose we don't even envision.
that to me is the legacy of BLADE RUNNER. an absolutely can't miss, must-watch film.
normally i'm pretty ambivalent about sci-fi films since they more often than not rely on spectacle and set/prop design to propel the narrative rather than an interesting conceit, which is ironic given that science fiction as a literary genre is the inverse of that. in sci-fi literature, future/alternate technology is compelling given its effect on humankind and their decisions relationships to each other. perhaps this focus on spectacle in films is why sci-fi films become dated fairly quickly.
british director NICOLAS ROEG's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (BRITISH LION FILMS, 1976) starring DAVID BOWIE is one of those rare sci-fi films that reaches literary expectations. its narrative consists of an alien being who reaches earth in search of water in order to save his home planet.
what impressed me about this film is the "realistic" conceit that an alien would attempt to fit into human society by utilizing its knowledge and technology to prosper in our global economy. i can't think of any other film that showcases the exploitation of alien technology as a means of gathering economic and political influence. the cliche is obviously military action, but here economic dominance ensures undiluted power without all the bad aspects of fame and notoriety.
or so it would seem. the idea of an alien coming into our world and excelling in it, only to become alienated by capitalism is reminiscent of PLATO's "Allegory of the Cave." what does that say about human society if an intelligent being with now bias towards humankind is corrupted by it.
that is the central question of the film in my opinion. what does that say for the rest of us?