Friday, January 8, 2016
Screen grab from Blade Runner (1982).
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.” - Roy Batty
If you walk the planet long enough, temporal milestones that were once enshrined in various bits and pieces of pop culture ephemera start showing up in our rear-view mirror.
When I was a young Snot-Nose, a Looney Tunes cartoon short entitled The Old Grey Hare envisioned Bugs Bunny as a grizzled oldster in the year 2000. That seemed awfully far off back then - even 1950 was six years in the future when that film was made - but now it’s a sweet sixteen years in the past.
The Twilight Zone, in its brief fourth-season flirtation with an hour-long format, had an episode that starred Jack Klugman, who parenthetically shared with Burgess Meredith the record for most appearances on that classic anthology show (four). “Death Ship” took place in the far future year of 1997, by which time (the episode’s creators assumed) humans would be exploring distant stars in flying saucer-like spaceships. Oopsie.
2001: A Space Odyssey took place well in the future, at least when it was released in 1968. Now it looks just a bit quaint. No, we’re not building permanent bases on the Moon, and we’re not quite ready to send ships off to the orbits of Jupiter or Saturn, but we have better videophone technology. (Also, no more Pan American and precious little in the way of Howard Johnson’s).
You don’t have to go off trolling in the 1960’s and prior for these sorts of anachronisms. To me, it’s perfectly bizarre that the entire Back to the Future film trilogy now takes place entirely in our past.
Today, however, we’re starting to bump up against some really serious dystopian futurprediktnis. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 film based on Philip K. Dick’s classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in 2019... just around the temporal corner.
And today is Roy Batty’s birthday.
Roy Batty is the leader of a squad of artificial humans - replicants, in the film’s lingo - who have illegally infiltrated the earth. As such, they are marked for execution (so-called “retirement”), despite their having a built-in shortened lifespan. Batty is played by a young Rutger Hauer, in what is possibly the finest performance of his career.
Blade Runner takes place in a fictional world, but the idea that some of its characters might even now coexist with us is positively chilling. And fascinating.