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  • Apr 23, 2014
  • Updated: 3:06pm

Blade Runner

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am

Starring: Harrison Ford
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Year of original release: 1982
Genre: Science fiction/detective thriller

Set-up

On its release in the summer of 1982, Blade Runner performed poorly at the box-office, although the film had everything going for it. Director Ridley Scott was riding high after his sci-fi mega-hit Alien (1979) and actor Harrison Ford was fresh off the successes of Star Wars (1976) and The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Yet many critics thought Blade Runnerwas slow and unexciting. Audiences stayed away.

But the movie's producers trusted their material and did not give up. Since 1982, seven different versions of Scott's movie have been released either in cinemas or on DVD. In 2007, Warner Bros and Scott (right) released Blade Runner: The Final Cut at certain cinemas and on Blu-Ray. Like Citizen Kane, another cinematic masterpiece that was a box-office flop, Blade Runner has since become a cult classic.

Plot

It is the year 2019 and genetically engineered robots called Replicants work in dangerous and menial jobs in space colonies. They are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation and come in different shapes and sizes, yet each looks almost the same as a human. Replicants are banned from Earth, but some have managed to slip through security checks.

They are being hunted by special operatives called 'Blade Runners'. Rick Deckard is one of them. He's brought out of retirement to help track down four especially dangerous Replicants who are hiding in Los Angeles. During his investigation, Deckard comes across Rachael, a prototype for a brand new Replicant who believes herself to be human. With her help, he sets out to track down the four Replicants on the loose in LA.

Meet Maria

The idea for Blade Runner's humanoid robots wasn't new in cinema. In 1927, a famous silent-era movie called Metropolis starred the silver screen's first robot: a female android called Maria.

Rachael in Blade Runner is a direct descendant of Maria, who has been copied numerous times by moviemakers. Maria does not look entirely human, but rather has a metallic body with a feminine figure. She is a technological marvel, and like Blade Runner's Replicants, she is lethal and unstoppable. Metropolis, which is set in a vast mechanised futuristic city, has just been rereleased in a newly restored version featuring cinema's first and most deadly robot of them all.

Cyberpunk

Welcome to a world on the edge. Cyberpunk is a genre of science fiction that mixes advanced technology with the grime, crime and low life of inner cities at their worst. Here you won't find gleaming urban utopias as in other sci-fi stories.

The origins of cyberpunk date back to awriter called Bruce Bethke (right), who coined the word from 'cybernetics' (the science of replacing human functions with computers) and 'punk' (a dark and edgy rock genre popular in the 1970s and 1980s). Cyberpunk stories often feature near-future settings, where technology has run out of control. Humans are reduced to secretive lives amid the urban decay in large cities. Danger lurks around every corner.

The soldier's bionic arm

Scientists are still a long way off from creating humanoid robots like Maria and Rachael, but they have made a start. A young British soldier, Andrew Garthwaite, had his right arm blown off by a grenade in Afghanistan. He has since become the first recipient of an amazing new bionic arm. The arm is controlled by pressure pads fitted on Garthwaite's back. They pick up electronic pulses from a special plate attached to his shoulder. By flexing his chest and back muscles, the young soldier can control the arm and perform actions like gripping and lifting.

Fiction becomes fact

Thanks to his new bionic arm, Garthwaite can now hold a cup, stir his tea, open a tin can, and perform other daily routines with ease. But that's not all. Soon, Garthwaite will undergo experiments in 'targeted reinnervation' in Vienna, Austria.

If successful, this will allow his bionic arm to react directly to thoughts in his brain, rather than just to his muscle movements. That will make him the first real human in history to have a fully functional robotic arm. It's anyone's guess when humans will cross fully over into the realm of androids. But it will likely happen sooner or later, making for another case of science fiction becoming science fact.

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