Blade Runner is one of the greatest films of the late twentieth century, changing the way people thought about science fiction and the future. It's also a movie you can interpret in many ways, which is part of its beauty.
Here we've brought together ten possible interpretations of Blade Runner. Of course many of these interpretations can co-exist, and indeed should. I would argue that the movie is about all of these things, and more. Blade Runner may have lost in io9's March Movie Madness polls, but nobody can deny that this movie perfectly captured the neon-lit despair of twentieth century dystopian futurism.
And now, in the spirit of Wallace Stevens' "13 Ways Of Looking at a Blackbird," here are 10 ways of looking at Blade Runner . . .
1. In a world where every surface is an advertisement for something artificial, the only true expressions of desire come from artificial creatures, the Replicants.
2. Deckard, a man who is not artificial, believes that he is not murdering anyone when he kills Replicants who want only to be free. He is wrong.
3. Humanity will always invent new ways to enslave itself.
4. The central mystery is not what makes us human. It is why we do not acknowledge the Replicants' humanity.
5. Deckard is not a human. He is a program run by the corporate power structure represented by Tyrell. We know this because he kills people without question. When he begins to question his job, he becomes as human as a Replicant.
6. There is no difference between life and artificial life.
7. Cities are also a form of artificial life. They consume human culture, blend East and West together, and convert them into advertisements.
8. The Voight-Kampff Empathy Test is a lie. Its central premise is that humans are compassionate but Replicants are not. However, the entire film demonstrates that humans lack compassion while Replicants do everything in their power to save each other because they treasure life so much.
9. In a future run by corporations, the most valuable commodity of all will be synthetic life. Which is to say, real life.
10. A killer who questions what he's doing is still a killer. He will not get the artificial girl. He will not have a happy ending. He will go to his grave knowing that his culture has programmed him to be a destroyer of life.