Blade Runner Goes Back to the Future

Los Angeles appears in Blade Runner 2049 in name only. But the film still provides an arresting vision of a high-density future and is a reminder of the eternal ambiguity that surrounds Los Angeles.
October 18, 2017, 7am PDT | Josh Stephens
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Gerry Boughan

"Blade Runner created a dystopic vision of Los Angeles that remains as culturally potent today — if not more so — than it was when it came out in 35 years ago. It shows up in books, articles, and offhand remarks with astounding regularity. It’s a testament to the arresting visuals of hyper-dense polyglot streets illuminated by sparkling advertisements and the possibility, however slim, that our sunny, spread-out paradise could, someday, become one of the dark places of the earth. After all, perhaps the biggest fantasy to come out of Los Angeles is Los Angeles itself."

"Areal shots depict the city’s familiar endless rows of boulevards and residential streets. The houses that dot Reyner Banham’s Plains of Id are replaced by high-rise shantytowns, made up of apartment buildings, each many stories tall, each more dilapidated than the last. Mere dingbats they are not. In this Blade Runner, the billboards walk the street, as 80-foot tall holograms that shake their asses just for you. (We’ve come a long way from Angelyne.) Skyscrapers rise into the ochre fog, and all is overshadowed by the new citadel of the Wallace Corporation, the corporation that rose from the ashes of Tyrell." 

"Interestingly, of all the reasons that Scott might have envisioned for the demise of the world, climate change surely was not one of them. Blade Runner came out in 1982, after all. If anything, he probably had in mind the Cold War, signified by passing references to our them-communist antagonists, Russia and China. So, while the fictional city hasn’t changed much, its allegorical power has changed dramatically, as the real threats to humanity have evolved (and, arguably, worsened)."

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Published on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 in California Planning & Development Report
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