Frankenstein vs. Bladerunner
Evan L. Wendel 11-20-06 CMS. 796: Major Media Texts Relative Analysis Worldspace in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner: From Romantic Nature to Artificiality The language and style of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are both deeply rooted in the literary traditions of the Romantic period, and yet Victor Frankenstein’s clinical experimentation, and ultimate success in creating life from inanimate matter, definitely makes Frankenstein an early forbearer of the sci-fi category.
However, it is essential to explain that Mary Shelley’s novel is primarily concerned with critiquing the science of the early 19th century, whereby the worldspace of Frankenstein, that is to say, the physical surround the characters of the text inhabit, remains extremely structured around Nature, which is utilized to clarify their lived experiences. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982; rev. 1992), in plain contrast, positions the audience from the very opening sequence of the film within a hauntingly mechanized and non-natural future– the hellish worldspace of Los Angeles in the year 2019.
The aim of this essay will be to check out parallels in between Frankenstein and Blade Runner in order to brighten crucial differences in between their respective worldspaces, and take a look at how character experiences, despite their humanness, are articulated through language, imagery and visuals within these spaces. The parallels between the Animal in Frankenstein, and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the poetic leader of the fugitive replicants in Blade Runner, are obvious. Both are living productions of untreated clinical undertakings, thereby raising a lot of the very same philosophical, moral and ethical concerns.
Similarly, both are considered Other, that is, unique from human beings, though the distinction is blurred more in the case of replicants, as 2 they are genetically engineered to imitate human beings in everything however emotional response. By comparing Roy’s lived experiences with those of both Frankenstein and his Animal, while remembering the imagery and visuals which define the spaces they respectively inhabit, it ends up being clear that they exist within 2 diametrically opposed worldspaces.
Jay Clayton has argued that Blade Runner draws on an undercurrent in the Frankenstein misconception, namely, sympathy for the Creature, and he really successfully maps how the film similarly generates our compassion for the replicants (88-91)– like Frankenstein’s Animal, Roy possesses an eloquence which is undeniably compelling. Even so, Clayton tends towards taking a look at these characters in seclusion, paying little attention to the spaces they occupy.
Regardless of all of the sympathy invoked for the replicants, the parallels drawn between human beings and replicants, and Clayton’s contention that the “artificial animals wind up seeming more ‘human’ than individuals who stalk them,” there appears to be a decidedly different message stemming from the surrounding worldspace, and the ways in which the replicants associate with it (85 ). While we might at the same time feel sympathy for the replicants (made easier by the truth that they aesthetically appear human-like, unlike Frankenstein’s Animal), we concurrently recoil from the world presented to us.
By closely examining two scenes in Blade Runner that show striking resemblances to moments in Frankenstein, it ends up being clear that, despite compassion for the replicants, this non-natural, mechanical, and by extension, non-living world, is a space agent of a grim future which has its origins in the really same all-penetrating and monomaniacal scientific hubris Mary Shelley arraigned nearly 2 centuries earlier.
The haunting futurity of Blade Runner, inscribed by the overall lack of Nature, makes the caution versus science run amok greatly more profound. 3 The Tyrell Corporation, home and business location of Eldon Tyrell, the Godlike scientific “genius” behind the production of the replicants, occupies a space main to Blade Runner’s story in addition to this analysis.
From the extremely beginning of the film, in which we see a severe long shot neglecting the futuristic cityscape of Los Angeles– specified by huge techno-towers and near continuous golden, interrupted just by violent lightening strikes and fiery surges leading to stunning plumes of flame– the electronic camera aesthetically guides us towards the grandiose Mayan-style pyramid structures that are the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation. The slow-moving journey over the cityscape is never comfy, and the ominous non-diegetic music makes matters all the more disconcerting.
Throughout the movement, there are several cuts to a severe close up of an eye, in which we see the fireballs of this horrific worldspace vividly reflected in the iris. The flames become the sensorial experience through which the eye associates with its physical environment, and because the eye is never ever related to a specific character, it quickly becomes our eye. Experience becomes something which needs to be worked out through a non-natural, highly overdetermined worldspace, whereby we are alienated by the extreme lack of anything familiar.
The characters in Frankenstein are able to articulate their experience through the spatial surround of Nature, whereas Blade Runner is totally devoid of Nature. Later in the movie we return to the Tyrell Corporation, this time in the scene where J. F. Sebastian, a Tyrell employed genetic designer, escorts Roy to satisfy his “maker.” Just as the Animal faces his maker, Victor Frankenstein, to require a buddy, here Roy looks for to demand that Eldon extend his life; as a “secure” procedure replicants are programmed to live just 4 years.
This scene is particularly illustrative of the 4 differences between the worldspaces of Frankenstein and Blade Runner. The scene begins with a severe long shot to establish the place as the exterior of the huge, mountainous Tyrell Corporation (see Fig. 1). The mountain metaphor is purposeful, as the gigantic pyramid-like structure we are faced with draws a clear parallel with Figure 1: Blade Runner’s Mont Blanc, the Tyrell Corporation (Ridley Scott, 1982; rev. 1992) Mont Blanc, below which the Creature and Victor Frankenstein satisfy for the first time given that their initial post-creation encounters in Ingolstadt (Shelley, 92-93).
A cut to a more detailed though still far-off exterior shot, relocates us from daytime to nighttime, and again we hear foreboding non-diegetic music; the coupling of the darkness and the music amplifies not just the thriller we feel with respect to the pending fight in between Roy and Eldon, but also our alienation from the unfamiliar worldspace. When it comes to Frankenstein, we are alienated just by the abhorrent visage of the Creature, not the surround itself. Returning to the scene, we find the cam tracking a transportation elevator moving upwards along the beyond the structure towards the top.
Cutting to the interior of the elevator we see a close up of J. F. Sebastian, followed by a cut to a close up of Roy. Although, the functions are rather reversed in Blade Runner– as it is 5 Roy who is ascending to confront his creator, whereas in Frankenstein it is Victor who makes his method up the mountain only to be faced by the Animal– the resemblances between the 2 are inescapable. What is particularly fascinating here are the visible distinctions in between the 2 mountains, that is, Mont Blanc and the Tyrell Corporation.
In Frankenstein, Victor reaches the town of Chamounix and later wanders the valley below Mont Blanc, and states that these “superb and splendid scenes afforded me the greatest alleviation that I can receiving.” He elaborates further, saying: “They gathered round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering peak, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle skyrocketing in the middle of the clouds– they all collected round me, and bade me be at peace” (Shelley, 91-92).
Any such peace, articulated through Romantic language evoking Nature is simply not possible in Blade Runner. Unlike Mont Blanc, and the valley listed below it, the Tyrell Corporation does not display the misleading, indefinable beauty of sublime Nature, but rather embodies a synthetic artificiality– it is a structure which is both mathematically and mechanically specified due to the fact that it is, like almost everything else in Blade Runner, a manmade creation.
The transportation elevator ultimately comes to an abrupt stop, as Tyrell’s inner sanctum is only available with consent. The camera cuts next not to Tyrell, however initially to an owl, which we experienced earlier in the movie when Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the blade runner responsible for hunting down the fugitive replicants, and Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell’s most current and most innovative Nexus 6 replicant, very first fulfilled. Rachael had asked Deckard, “Do you like our owl?” to which Deckard quickly responded with his own concern: “Is it artificial? Rachael then states rather nonchalantly: “Of course it is,” 6 implying that Deckard needs to have known the response to such a concern– after all, nearly whatever else Deckard encounters in the film, though appearing real in the beginning, winds up being artificial. (The last scene of the movie suggests, rather unquestionably, that Deckard himself is a replicant.) By cutting to the synthetic owl, instead of Eldon, we are advised that the business of the Tyrell Corporation is “commerce,” and the replicants, including Roy, are similarly entrenched within this commercial system.
Everything in this worldspace is commodified, consisting of biological life through hereditary control. The mountains and owls of Blade Runner, unlike Frankenstein’s snowy mountain-top and skyrocketing eagle, are manmade things, no longer comprehended as superb and efficient in using conciliatory peace, but rather they have been transformed into commodified Nature, produced through programmatic and manipulative scientific undertaking. Another scene in Blade Runner which directly parallels Frankenstein are Roy’s last minutes prior to his death at the close of his violent conflict with Deckard.
Throughout the film, the replicants, particularly Roy, use poetic and philosophical language to elicit our understanding of their plight. Earlier Roy recommendations, with only minor modifications, two lines from William Blake’s America: A Prophecy, stating: “Intense the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled around their shores, burning with the fires of Orc. “1 In similar fashion, Roy’s partner Pris (Daryl Hannah) calls forth Rene Descartes, informing J. F. Sebastian, “I think, Sebastian; therefore, I am. In each instance well-known and canonized poetry/philosophy is utilized to generate our compassion for the replicants and their cause to acquire longer life expectancy– Roy is comparing himself and the other replicants to angels after all, been up to this fiery world. At the same time nevertheless, the language, 1 The real text from Blake reads: “Fiery the Angels increased, & & as they increased deep thunder roll ‘d/ Around their shores; indignant burning with the fires of Orc” (Martin, 108). 7 particularly when it comes to the Blake, problematizes the compassion we may feel for the replicants in terms of how the language connects to the worldspace.
Romantic language, such as Blake’s, seems to have great difficulty grounding itself in the mechanized milieu of Blade Runner. Unlike Frankenstein’s worldspace, which has plenty of abundant metaphorical language articulating lived experience through the spatial surround of Nature, here we discover ourselves in an environment which efficiently withstands notions of the illogical and spiritual. This specific scene starts with an upward looking close up of Roy’s face from Deckard’s viewpoint; Deckard is hanging precariously from a steal beam after a less than effective effort to leave Roy by leaping from the roofing system of one structure to another.
Among the essential differences in the close up of Roy here is that he no longer appears “perfect,”2 as he did throughout much of the film. Prior to this moment, his visual verisimilitude of humanness made it harder for the audience to think about him as Other, where as in Frankenstein, the Animal is easily recognizable as outwardly distinct from people. Walton, upon seeing the Animal over the deceased Frankenstein, relates: “Never did I behold a vision so dreadful as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness” (Shelley, 186). The Creature’s appearance is monstrous, Roy’s is not, a minimum of till the film’s denouement.
Roy’s face is now scarred, bloodied, and he is missing out on most of his right ear. Despite his uncomplimentary appearance, we still summon compassion for him, as we realise that he approaching completion of his four year life expectancy. After he raises Deckard to safety, the video camera cuts from upward looking, to what in the beginning seems an eye-level shot in which Deckard, on the ground, inhabits the 2 At various points of the film, whether through Deckard, Tyrell, or J. F. Sebastian, Roy’s “best,” or perhaps angelic-like look is touched upon; here his physical appearace has actually changed rather dramatically. foreground, Roy inhabits the mid-ground, and a large, intense neon indication advertising TDK (an actual electronic devices brand name) uses up much of the background, therefore making it the dominant element of the shot. What is subtle, and may go unnoticed initially glance, is that Roy’s head is beyond the frame in this shot. In eliminating his face, and enabling us to just see his body, which carries no psychological details with it, we start to understand the equivalency between the TDK brand name of electronics and the Tyrell brand of Nexus 6 replicants.
We are compelled to decline this technological space where everything has become commodity, consisting of life. Somewhere else in the film various indications of commerce dominate, including brands such as Coca-Cola, RCA, Pan Am and Atari, among others, suggesting that the dominance of the TDK check in this scene is not accidental. The futuristic worldspace of Blade Runner, is defined by an electronic, technological commerce, displayed on extremely intrusive, hovering and talking billboards.
As Roy sits down, with his energy to sustain life subsiding, we observe that in the next shot his head strikingly overlays the unfavorable space subtended by the summary of letter D of the sign (see Fig. 2). This visual equivalency Figure 2: Roy Batty, living being as indication of commerce (Ridley Scott, 1982; rev. 1992) 9 between the literal sign and the replicant, condenses Roy into a similar indication representational of this commerce. While we feel compassion for the exploitation of the replicants, we likewise identify them, and their world, as products of a production process, that is, unique from a natural procedure.
This is not to state that sympathy is unfounded, just that it might be a various sort of sympathy, or more exactly, pity. These replicants, and the non-natural, and by extension, non-living worldspace they populate need to never have been pursued as an endpoint in the very first location. The technological commodification of practically whatever, living and non-living alike, visually provided in Blade Runner’s worldspace, is a hypothetical future worth preventing at all expenses. The Frankenstein myth is once again touched upon when Roy eloquently says his last words.
Regardless of similarities between the significant sense of loss felt by both the Creature and Roy– the Animal’s maker has perished and his sufferings of solitude, isolation, in addition to memories of his horrific deeds will haunt him for the rest of his days, and Roy, who is soon to reach the end of his quick preprogrammed days, discovers himself unable to experience a long life, unenslaved and unhunted– our capability to associate with Roy’s experiences is complicated by the unfamiliarity of the world he resides within.
He attempts to articulate his feelings through Romantic-like language which evokes his worldspace and his experiences within it, definite: “I have actually seen things you people would not think. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I viewed c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those minutes will be lost in time like tears in the rain. Time to pass away.” Ironically, Deckard himself is a replicant, where any idea of “you people,” that is, actual people, appears mostly unimportant in a world where 10 the push appears to be towards a total mechanization and commodification of life.
No matter any compassion we have for Roy and his circumstances, we similarly discover ourselves forced to decline the semantics of his elegiac speech because Romanticism is ultimately incapable of making the shift to this brutal brand-new future– Romanticism and Nature are inseparable. The worldspace of Roy, Deckard, and others (whether human or not), is not among superb Nature, like that through which even the Animal once found peace, but a technological non-Nature specified by violent imagery of attack ships on fire, c-beams and space gates.
At the conclusion of Frankenstein, the Creature similarly articulates his experiences, but because his world is still defined by a living, breathing Nature, and not artificiality, it ends up being all the more poignant when he juxtaposes his pleasant memories with his sensations of anguish and regret. We comprehend what has been lost for the Animal. Gone is any hope of gaining back that preliminary natural paradise, where he “felt the cheering warmth of summertime, and the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of birds …” (Shelley 186).
Lost too is the business he once showed the cottagers– Felix, Agatha, the old man and Safie– albeit at a distance, which he deeply loved and valued. Finally, with the death of his father/creator Victor Frankenstein, any hope of friendship and love has actually likewise passed away. When it comes to Roy, there was no paradise to lose, and thus we have difficulty understanding his experiences as anything more than a mirror which shows the hostility of his worldspace.
Far more bothersome here is what is lost for humanity as a whole through the disappearance of Nature and the dominance of the synthetic in Blade Runner’s future. Issues over humanness, humanity, or simply put, what it suggests to be human, have been prevented in this analysis, as it is both an argument based in perceptions, too 11 as one which has been treated at length by numerous critics and scholars (McNamara, 1997; Martin, 2005).
The central focus of this paper has actually instead been to look at interrelations between characters and their particular worldspaces, and additionally to consider how we come to comprehend both the characters and the spaces they live in on the basis of these relationships. By carefully analyzing parallel moments in Frankenstein and Blade Runner, it ends up being clear that the 2 worldspaces are dramatically various from one another, as are the ways in which characters are viewed within these spaces.
Grounded in a world where procedures, whether biological or not, happen naturally, Frankenstein runs in conjunction with an illogical, spiritual and sublime Nature– the only nonnatural processes of the unique occur in Victor’s laboratory, and this of course is where Shelley fronts her assault on uncontrolled science. Visibly dissimilar is Blade Runner’s worldspace, which is structured around a grossly broadened variation of the God-like clinical hubris upheld initially by Victor Frankenstein, and after that taken to the severe by Eldon Tyrell.
The visuals and expression of experiences related to the replicant Roy, reveal us a future provided over to the clinical manipulation of whatever, both living and non-living, so that it may be algorithmically understood, improved, and eventually commodified. Unlike the physical surround of Mary Shelley’s unique, which is based in Romantic conceptions of Nature, we can not help but turn away in horror from Blade Runner’s dystopian worldspace of top quality artificiality.