One of my favorite themes in movies is mad scientists and their artificial creations. It is one of the most widespread stories in the sci-fi genre and provides for great entertainment. The source of these stories, of course, is the famous novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley which essentially created science fiction as we know it. Although the stories of today have exchanged the stitched exterior of the creature for the eerie sleekness of robots, the source material of a man’s ambition for power, like his creation, is alive.
Taking this all into account, it is easy to see why Blade Runner (1982), a science fiction movie directed by Alien director Ridley Scott, is one of my favorite movies of all time. The movie takes place in the futuristic metropolis of Los Angeles, a polluted mark of humanity toppled by towering skyscrapers and endless rainfall. The story of Blade Runner is that of artificial “replicants” who are created to serve as a work force in off planet locations. After an uprising, a gang of replicants return to Earth in order to seek out their creator Dr. Tyrell, so that he can supply them with more life. However, when Batty, the leader of the replicants, learn that it is impossible to prolong artificial life, he kills his creator in a fit of passion.
There are several similarities between Mary Shelley’s novel and Ridley Scott’s film. For example, when Batty wants more life, similar to when the creature asks for a bride in Frankenstein, and is not given it, he lashes out and kills his creator, the “Victor Frankenstein” of the movie, Dr. Tyrell. In essence, the artificial replicants and Frankenstein’s creature are essentially monsters of their own time period. Similar to the creature, the replicants are placed in a world which neither likes nor wants them. The people are so afraid of these creations that they establish forces to seek out and destroy them: the Blade Runners of Blade Runner and the towns people of Frankenstein who continuously drive the creature into the woods.
Like Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, the replicants creator Dr. Tyrell is far from the ideal of a perfect father, seen as in how he treats his creations with insensibility and hatred. Tyrell creates these artificial humans, but that’s about all he does. He refuses to care for them and leaves them to rot in a society that despises them.
Similar to the creature in Mary Shelley’s novel, the artificial human gang leader Batty acts ferociously because he is a product of his own surroundings. He is completely abandoned by his creator/father and he lives in a society that fears him and the rest of his kind to the point that a replicant killing squad was created. He is persecuted relentlessly all because of something he had no control over.Also, humans tend to fear the things that are beyond their understanding or more powerful than them. All of this of course shifts the viewers sympathy to the replicants, just like how the reader feels for the monster in Frankenstein.
Though the plots of the two stories vary in several ways, themes such as the morals of progress and the question of humanity are clearly present in both works. Shelley and Scott warn the viewers of an impending future, one where the loss of such values is required to fuel the fire of progress. All in all, Blade Runner is a great example of the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in other works. It is also a fantastic movie and if you haven’t seen it already, I suggest you go watch it immediately.