Blade Runner and Frankenstein: a comparison

Texts, in order to effectively convey a message, commonly reflect on social views, attitudes and contextual values. A comparison between Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller “Blade Runner: the Director’s Cut” and the Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel “Frankenstein” will reveal that there are elements of human nature which will remain constant over time. These two texts reflect of the possibility of scientific and technological development and caution about possible physical and moral consequences of this development.

The seductive nature of knowledge is explored in both texts as the fine line that separates man and monster is revealed as our capacity for true human emotion is questioned. As a critique of scientific and enlightened rationalism, Shelley’s gothic text “Frankenstein” explores the duality of the human condition as man is capable of both good and evil. Walton’s letters portray man’s capacity for arrogance and moral blindness and foreshadow the subsequent folly committed by Dr. Frankenstein. The sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon, and diffusing a perpetual splendor” Walton’s romantic ideals are juxtaposed with his own arrogance as he refers to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth “but success shall crown my endeavors. Wherefore not? ” Shelley’s intertextual allusion to Macbeth portrays the arrogance Walton holds about his voyages success. Just as Macbeth was ambitious, so to does Walton lose his moral direction on his question for discovery. This aptitude is characteristic of romantic writers in the 1700’s who similarly used to romantic writing styles to contrast man’s moral blindness.

Similarly, Ridley Scott also explores the moral blindness of humans as the pragmatism of the ’80s is reflected through the loss of god in the dystopian 2019 Los Angles. Through corporate prosperity, Scott suggests that god has been replaced by the creator, Tyrell. “Nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn’t let you in heaven for” the direct allusion of Tyrell to “the god of bio-mechanics” reflects that Tyrell, as the owner of the supreme corporation on earth has been elevated to a god-like status, reflecting the importance of corporate dominance in the ’80s.

As Roy confronts Tyrell, the creator plays with an extravagant, human like chess set, symbolic of his god-like status over humans. Tyrell’s eyes are hidden behind the glare of his glasses as he peers over the figures, his tone as he confronts Roy is arrogant as he states “the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long, and you have burned so bright” the objectification of Roy dehumanizes and belittles the replicant and portrays Tyrell’s control and dominance over humanity. Humanity has been embedded with the capacity to celebrate the divinity of nature and this appreciation of the natural world is a key element of the human spirit.

Shelley’s text “Frankenstein” reflects the Romantic’s pantheistic view of God and nature as the two are inextricably linked. The Romantic belief that god is revealed through the natural world is shown as Frankenstein takes solace in the sublime beauty of nature. “The vary winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal nature bade me weep no more” the personification of the wind and comparison of natural to a mother reflects the romantic influences over Shelley as nature is portrayed as divine and splendid. Similarly, other characters in the novel also marvel at the magnificence of nature.

Walton, in his letters, reflects on the beauty of the Artic on his voyage “Sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe” Walton fascination with the discovery and exploration of the Artic also reproduces Shelley’s romantic ideals, reflecting the romantic writers common pre-occupation with the unspoiled domain of the artic. The dangers of circumventing the natural order are also explored in Ridley Scotts “Blade Runner: The Directors Cut”. The text reflects how nature has been compromised for industrial profit of transnational corporations.

The soaring oblique camera angle and the hellish image of fireworks with the dramatic, eerie music at the beginning of the film to suggest the capitalistic world has destroyed the natural world for the creation of profit. The film noir technique used throughout the film adds a sense of lifelessness to the Los Angles environment and offers contrast to Frankenstein, where nature is respected and revered. Scott uses his text to didactically warn the audience about the degradation of the natural environment as the capitalist world of Los Angles and the on world colony has become degraded urban sprawl devoid of natural life.

In Blade Runner, the natural world is represented by the breakdown of the physical environment. In Frankenstein, the natural world is broken down morally as the creator defies the natural order. Ultimately both texts caution against the perception that all progress is beneficial. Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scotts Blade Runner each challenge human supremacy as the created is portrayed as moral, emotionally and physically superior to their creator. The Replicants in Scotts Blade Runner challenge this Darwinian view of human supremacy as, in contrast to the humans of LA 2019; they are emotive, compassionate and moral. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain” the raw emotion shown by Roy as his image is silhouetted against filtered blue light life reflects the elements of humanity that have been lost in the dystopic world as the replicants are the only beings capable of true emotive, human behavior. Similarly, Shelley’s Frankenstein portrays the reversal of the Darwinian Theory with Frankenstein creating a being superior physically and emotionally to man.

Shelley uses the Romantic belief of the loss of innocence, shown in the inter-textual allusion to Milton’s “Paradise lost” as the monster is portrayed as benevolent and being capable of both compassion and love, similar to man before his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed” the biblical allusion to Adam and the Devil portray the monsters human elements as he is shown as compassionate, intelligent and munificent “I was benevolent and good, misery made me a fiend” contrasting Frankenstein who seems incapable of showing human emotion.

Shelley uses the rivalry between Victor and his Creature to reflect the hostility between the devil and god in Milton’s epic poem “Paradise lost”, Shelley was influenced by her husbands writing on the poem and used his general interpretation to present the antagonism between Frankenstein and his monster.

Despite the different contexts of both Shelly’s Frankenstein and Scott’s Blade Runner, each texts reflects similar themes and a further knowledge and greater understanding of context enables the reader to hold a deeper appreciation of the texts. Both texts challenge our assumption that knowledge is beneficial and expose the physical and moral consequences of circumventing the natural order. However, the two texts question our more primal practices as each they question to what extent our human nature has remained the same.

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