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Blade Runner 2049 countdown: Part V – the legacy of the original Blade Runner

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Some films come and go, leaving barely a ripple. Then there are some which influence all around them and change a genre forever.

So it was with Blade Runner. Much was made of Star Wars’ monster effect on the aesthetic of science fiction, that it showed, for the first time, a world that looked old – a “used universe”, as George Lucas put it.

But it could be argued that Blade Runner has had an even greater impact on science fiction. Before Blade Runner, the future was shiny and white, even in dystopian movies. Blade Runner changed all that. Suddenly the future was dark and scary. In the world of Blade Runner, despite being set in Los Angeles, it’s constantly raining – an indicator, perhaps, of where global warming would take us 37 years into the future.

Let’s take a look at some of the films that would look very different if it weren’t for Ridley Scott's 1982 classic…


Ghost in the Shell

Both the new version and the 1995 animated original borrow heavily from Scott’s film. Blade Runner’s themes of social isolation and 'artificial' humanity loomed large over Japanese pop culture in the 1980s and 90s, not least in this acclaimed adaptation of the 1989 Manga comic book.


Dark City

This nightmarish sci-fi drama from 1998 deserves to be better known. Directed by The Crow’s Alex Proyas, it’s a stylishly gloomy future-noir starring Rufus Sewell as an amnesiac who finds himself suspected of murder. With its flying cars, gigantic billboards and ever-present nighttime, there’s a lot of Blade Runner in this movie’s rain-soaked metropolis.

When describing the setting in a 1997 interview with Cinefantastique, the film’s production manager Patrick Tatopolous said, “The movie takes place everywhere, and it takes place nowhere. It’s a city built of pieces of cities. A corner from one place, another from some place else. So, you don’t really know where you are. A piece will look like a street in London, but a portion of the architecture looks like New York, but the bottom of the architecture looks again like a European city. You’re there, but you don’t know where you are. It’s like every time you travel, you’ll be lost.”

It could have been Blade Runner he was talking about there...


Dredd

Though Judge Dredd the comic strip predates Blade Runner by five years, it’s difficult not see see echoes of Scott’s film in Pete Travis’ 2012 movie.

It’s all there in the grim cityscapes and general lawlessness of Dredd's Mega City One. And it’s not just in its look, but the two films are surprisingly similar in flopping at the box office, only to have their reputations grow in the years afterwards.

"When Blade Runner came out it was a film that didn't necessarily do what you thought that it should have done at the box office,” Dredd star Karl Urban said recently. “I feel the same way about Dredd. The reviews were overwhelmingly fantastic but for whatever reason it didn't do the box office numbers that it should have.”


Gattaca

In this colossally underrated sci-fi classic set in the near-future, society is split into two tiers: the Valids and In-Valids. The former are enhanced beings, much like the Replicants in Blade Runner, while the latter are people born through natural conception. The Valids sit at the top of the societal ladder, while the In-Valids are the underclass – a structure that remains in place until one of the In-Valids finds a way to infiltrate the upper tier…


Batman

There’s more of Blade Runner in Tim Burton’s 1989 classic than there is the 1960s TV incarnation of Bob Kane’s black-clad superhero. But then Batman was always designed as a noir-infused comic book and there’s as much film noir in Blade Runner as there is sci-fi. Anton Furst’s designs for Gotham City owe much to Syd Mead’s concept art for Blade Runner, all billowing smoke and grungy, oppressive buildings.


The Spice Girls ‘Spice Up Your Life’

You wouldn’t have thought that the movie’s influence would reach the world of Geri, Victoria, Emma and the two Mels, but there’s a definite Blade Runner vibe to their ‘Spice Up Your Life’ video. Hell, it looks so ripped from the world of Blade Runner that we half expect Rutger Hauer to pop up and start having a bop.


Blade Runner 2049

If there’s one movie that even its makers would say was influenced by Blade Runner, it’s Blade Runner 2049.

Although Ridley Scott isn’t directing this time (he is on board as producer though), new director Denis Villeneuve has said that the sequel pays tribute to the aesthetic of the original, while taking the visuals in new directions.

“The keys were in the screenplay and Hampton [Fancher, screenwriter]’s ideas about how climate evolved,” he told Slashfilm. “Climate for me was a key because climate means a different kind of light. With [cinematographer] Roger Deakins, we explored those ideas and came back with something that we feel is deeply inspired by the first movie but slightly different. Let’s say that the first movie was made by a director born in England under the rain. The second one was made by a Canadian director born in snow. So the light is different. It took a lot of work to try to extend and project this universe into the future and try to find something that I hope will have some kind of freshness.”



Blade Runner 2049 arrives at Cineworld on 5 October.