Honestly, Blade Runner kinda sucks.

I had seen Blade Runner prior to reading the book, and I used to love every second of it, but honestly, the book makes the movie look like a joke. The book just has such rich powerful scenes, but the movie just consists of scenes that embody the themes of the book, but do not fully realize them. The movie just boils down to a love story between Deckard and Rachael. Luft, Resch, Iran, Buster Friendly, and other have been completely written out. There are, however, some really nice changes that I wish were in the book, because they connect really well to the question: what defines being human? Specifically, the changes that I enjoyed are: the crowded city, the confrontation of Roy Baty and Tyrell, and Rachael trying to prove her memories are real.

As we all know, in the book emptiness is a recurring theme. Isidore lives in s building with no other tenants, there is an overall lack of life. This, however, is not something that carries over to the film adaptation. As we have seen, in the film there are crowded alleys, what appear to be bazaars, strip clubs, and even public transportation. This is is anything but empty. I find this to be an interesting change. In the book the emptiness and lack of communication between humans is meant to symbolize the lack of empathy that the humans claim to have, and instead are very solitary creatures. But I prefer the film, because it is meant to show how easily an andy blends into society, further emphasizing how strange it is that they are persecuted, despite the lack of a difference from humans.

Another scene that really blurs the lines between real and fake is when Deckard is talking to Rachael in his apartment. Deckard harshly tries to convince Rachael that her memories are fake, but suddenly he stops when she has these innocent child like eyes that appear as if they are about to cry. I loved this scene because it now only shows how the andys are emotionally sensitive, but also how Deckard noticed it and did not want to hurt her. Having an emotional scene like this really shows how the andys are truly no different from the humans.

Finally, the last scene I loved from the movie that I need to see added into the book is Roy killing Tyrell. What is more human then the search for ones maker, whether it be science or god. This was also a nice way of incorporating religious undertones, instead of the way Dick incorporated religion in his book. Additionally, he had searched for his maker because he wanted to live, he obviously fears death. Why do humans turn to religion? Because they fear the unknown; they fear what comes after life, and they want to know that there is more, that there is no end. When Roy finds out there is nothing Tyrell(god) can do, he becomes angry enough to kill his maker.

I just love the emotion that the andys in the movie express, and I wish that someone would work some of these movie scenes into the book. In fact, I challenge someone to do this, incorporate these three scenes into the book, and cut out everything from chapter 20 and on. I believe doing those things would make the book a master piece.

Tame the Unicorn

So after re-watching the movie, i have to say, i still prefer the book. Sure the movie has more action, but some of the most important themes are now gone. There is so much to talk about with this movie, and i have a nice list for class next week, but i think that two things that I want to focus on in this post is the recurring usage of eyes, and the scenes involving the unicorn. Interestingly enough, the dream sequence with the unicorn running through the woods is one of the things that was added to the final cut from the original film.

One of the most shocking differences in the movie compared to the book, is how crowded the world is. In the book, everyone is generally pretty isolated from one another, whereas in the movie, the streets are flooded with people. There are more than a few scenes where Rick is in a market where animals are being eaten, or in a few cases treated cruelly.[1] I think the inclusion of a Unicorn was a way of paying homage to the idea of the importance of animals, while not including the idea of Mercerism.

After retiring a Replicant, Rick has a dream involving a running unicorn. To me, Rick is the unicorn. A unicorn is a mythical, savage beast that can only be tamed by a maiden, or in this case, Rachael. There still exists false animals in this world, and i think one of the major questions a viewer should ask becuas of this is, Is Rick a Replicant? When Rachael and Rick are in the apartment, he jokes around with her that she has false memories. [2]He is able to tell that she has false memories implanted in her. This bit of information can be foreshadowing towards the final scene, as i will explain. A new addition to the cast is Gaff, who follows Rick around almost like his handler. Whenever you see Rick pause to think about his actions, Gaff shows up. He always makes origami that somehow can be applied to Rick. First the chicken when Rick doesn’t want to do the job[3], then the matchstick figure when Rick starts having feelings for Rachael. Finally, in the last scene, as Rick escapes with Rachael, she steps on a origami Unicorn. Its like Gaff is able to know what Rick is thinking…[4]  just like Rick knew Rachael’s memories.

There are a few other instances where you can question whether Rick is human or not. Rachael asks Rick if he has ever taken the test himself, alluding to him being a Replicant [5]. During the final fight Roy tells Rick “That was irrational of you.” something that would apply to a Replicant.[6] And finally, after Roy expires, Gaff tosses Rick a gun and tells him that “you’ve done a MANS job, sir.” [7] All of these little comments and nuances help to make this seem like a possibility. I know a few in the class would probably appreciate this as an ending for the book.

Throughout the movie, there was a recurring theme regarding the use of eyes. Even in the opening scene, as the ship flies across the city, there is a cut to an extreme close up of an eye.[8] It seems that with all of the lights in the city, there is no real place to hide and everyone is always being watched. Rick is constantly being followed by Gaff, who is his watcher. Replicants eyes play a key role as well. When Roy goes to the eye designer, CHew, to learn of his origin, he “shows” them the way. Roy has some excellent lines in the movie and often uses the eyes as references. When speaking to Chew, he says, “Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.”[9] Right before he dies, Roy again tells Rick ” I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”[10] When Pris moves in with J.F. Sebastian, she gives herself a makeover, painting a black line across her eyes, both drawing and detracting focus from hers. [11]

There is so much more that can be brought up, but i leave that to the rest of the class for now.

[1]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (46:20)

[2]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (32:10)

[3]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (24:25)

[4]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:51:50)

[5]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:07:20)

[6]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:41:50)

[7]Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:48:20)

[8]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (3:48)

[9]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (28:55)

[10]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:46:25)

[11]Blade Runner-The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah. Warner Brothers, 1982, 2007. Film. (1:13:00)



Responses to “The Machine Stops” and ‘Metropolis’

A Response to:

The Machine Stops by E.M. Foster

The date of publication gives a good idea behind the motivations and intentions of this short story. During early 1900s new technologies and inventions emerged; among these were the Zeppelin and Internal Combustion engine. It’s probably no wonder these inventions and many other of the time were referenced. If anything The Machine Stops serves as a cautionary tale, due to the rapid changes in culture and technology of the day. Much of the technology described in The Machine Stops appears archaic by today’s standards, however this does not hurt it’s experience. Rather through the narrative’s execution, it lends it a certain uniqueness and authenticity.

Plot wise, The Machine Stops is very simplistic. A mother goes to see her renegade son, disowns him due to his radical ideals, then regrets it later when her world crumbles around her. Rather than a series of events to engage and tell the ‘tale’ of the world of The Machine Stops, Foster goes on to describe the world in depth from the characters perspective; principally Vashti the mother. From the Cells of the living galleries, to the scenes from the airships, to the recount of Kuno’s escapade outside the machine on the surface of the earth, each scene is packed with information used to fuel Visualization. As I read the short story, the visualizations I came up with reminded me vaguely of Ann Rand’s Anthem. Although different in terms of descriptions of technology; Anthem focused more on societies deficiencies, whereas The Machine Stops relied heavily on descriptions to tell its tale. I draw parallels with Anthem because both stories revolve around going against the status quo, in a world after a disaster.

The interaction between Vashti and her son Kuno could be viewed as a microcosm of the society as a whole. The only problem with that line of thinking is that Kuno is the only known renegade in the story, while Vashti personifies the vast majority of the populace living within the machine. Vashti’s character could be taken as the common citizen of the machine, who realizes too late the consequences of not questioning the circumstances of her life and her environment. Her only redemption was that she had her son and his experiences to make sense of the calamity at the end.

The question of whether or not the society of The Machine Stops was a Utopia is a hard one to answer. It’s never explained why the machine stopped working. If it continued to operate indefinitely then what? To the ‘people of the machine’ it was truly a utopia. All basic needs were provided. All higher needs such as communication, interaction, fulfillment, and information were also provided by the machine. Although an individual’s freedom was limited, that didn’t mean the individual was not content; pretty much everyone was content and then some in the machine. From an outsiders prospective and bias, the idea of the machine is basically that of a glorified prison. So which is correct? Can that be even answered? We are not even aware of the previous generation’s intentions when they built the machine. What if their circumstances were worse off than Vashti and Kuno’s. The fact that these questions are swimming in my head, leaves me a little bitter with the conclusion of the story. What would be more interesting would be to see how the ‘people of the machine’ and the ‘people outside the machine’ would have had to co-exist with the machines destruction. Or how the two cultures would clash had the machine continued to operate.

It could be argued that The Machine Stops is too ‘black and white’ in it’s social commentary of technology and society as a whole; given there is such commentary to begin with. By that I mean that the story tries to label everything the machine stood for as ‘wrong’. To make a correlation with today’s world: what if we were to take away electricity? If we viewed our combined technology and power grids all over the world as the ‘machine’ and took that away, would we be in the same situation as Vashti and Kuno? I doubt it, as The Machine Stops seems to to take a hyperbolic outlook on technology. However since a correlation can be drawn, it can be said we would be in a sorry state if such a thing came to pass. However that does not mean our technology does not give us a great deal of benefits. What we trade for some of our more natural properties, we gain something in return.

I would also like to point out a few things to add as food for thought:

  • References to “God” and the creation of a religion surrounding a machine. It seems like a natural phenomenon of humans to want to worship something. Why is that? First thing that comes to mind is a sense of security.
  • The idea that direct experience is bad, and only second hand information is valuable. I find this to be an interesting point. After all isn’t this what we do every day? For example as students we look up information on the internet or libraries, which is essentially second hand information. The difference between us and the ‘people of the machine’ is that we don’t have an aversion to direct experience. It’s just not practical to strive for direct experience, as we can’t be everywhere at once.
  • Youths’ openness to change, or rebelliousness towards the status quo. This is represented by Kuno rebelling against the ideas of his mother.
  • Can we apply the supposed message of “The Machine Stops” to today’s take on global warming and climate change? I reference the fact that many people ignore blatant scientific evidence to support global warming.
  • Do names such as Vashti and Kuno from an Indian or Asian influence? Is this due to British influence around the world during the early 1900s?

A Response to:

‘Metropolis’ (Friz Lang)

Metropolis’ impetus can be summarized in one word: Empathy. Had Freder not had that quality, the events of ‘Metropolis’ could not have happened. Had Joh Fredersen not ultimately expressed this quality, he probably would have died and/or had his city crumble around him due to uprisings. The movie opens with great promise and expectations. We’re introduced into a ‘futuristic’ city with a dual class society. The privileged live above ground living a life of luxury, while the ‘workers’ live below the city surface in a sort of subterranean ghetto. The visuals along with the movie’s context fuel the viewers imagination.

Unfortunately after the first half of the movie, things go down hill. It boils down to it being too predictable. Richest guy’s son becomes the catalyst between social classes, Rich son falls in love with the female cultist on a whim, biblical references, and so on. I suppose its a trend with older stories to relegate conflicts into simplistic “black and white” circumstances.

Another frustration I had with the movie is that events of the story simply happen without any apparent cause and effect; seemingly for the sake of just moving the plot along. Examples of this are everywhere: Maria just walks into the gardens with a hoard of kids seemingly unopposed her whole trip from the ghetto, Rotwang just happens to have an entrance to the catacombs in his house, destroying the machines just happens to cause flooding to the ghetto, there just happens to be no police or military to deter worker uprising,Rotwang’s switch just finally flips and he decides that the real Maria is Hel at the end of the movie, etc. This kind of spontaneous storytelling degrades the overall experience.

In terms of acting, it is a little hard to get used to. Most of the cast rely on exaggerated gestures and movements to convey their respective parts. The frustrating thing about this is that it not needed. A person’s expression and unique actions in response to given stimuli can tell us all we need to know. I don’t need to flap my arms around and waddle in circles to convey anger now do I? However since this was a time when stage acting was making a transition into screen acting, I tried not to mind it as much.

In my opinion, due to my above gripe, I consider the man who played Joh Frederson to be the best actor of the cast. This is due to the fact he does not use exaggerated movements or expressions to convey emotions. For most of his screen time he uses reserved and authoritative expressions to convey a wide range of emotions. He only resorted to dramatic gestures when the scene called for it; namely when his son was fighting a lunatic on a roof. Perhaps his reserved acting style worked against him in this role, as he didn’t seem as tyrannical or ruthless as the plot would have you believe.

The defining aspect of the film has to be the “metropolis” itself. The idea of a state, country, or world spanning city is an intriguing prospect. Even though the actual size of the metropolis is never mentioned in the film, I suppose that worked in it’s favor. The audience can then use their own imagination to determine the size of the city. The concept of human society adapting to living within a gigantic city has always intrigued me; which is why I gave this movie a chance in the first place. How would people organize themselves in a mega city? What kind of culture and values would come about? What kind of organizations would exist in such a situation? What organizations would hold power? What kind of technology is needed to make mega cities? What would the economy look like? What are the benefits and disadvantages of mega cities? These are the types of questions I would ask when imagining such possibilities.

The idea of a two dimensional city in the conventional sense doesn’t have to always be the case. In the ShadowRun table-top and novels franchise we see arcologies; self sustaining densely populated living spaces. The Fallout franchise popularized the idea of subterranean city sized fallout shelters. In Star Wars we see the capital world of Coruscant, literally a planet sized city. The point I’m getting at is that the idea of mega cities, has been around for awhile and continues to be a subject of interest within the community.

The second defining aspect of the film would be the inclusion of artificial human life; or as the movie called it “the machine-man”. Interestingly, as many science fiction stories do, the humanoid machine is cast as an antagonist. I’ve always wondered why in many stories the machine has to be ‘evil’; this movie is no exception. I suppose the reason is simply that the “machine-man” was just a tool used by the slightly unhinged Rotwag. In any case, there is a strangely intense interest in giving what is essentially an inorganic object the ability to emulate human intelligence and behavior. Why bother with such shenanigans when we could simply talk to another human? I’m not sure but I’m all for it.

All in all ‘Metropolis’ was an alright movie. My aversion to the movie’s simplistic plot and underdeveloped characters, was outweighed by my interest in it’s take on a mega city and artificial life.

An interpretation of “The Machine Stops” and “Metropolis”

All though both of these works are of science-fiction genre, they have very little in common. “The Machine Stops”, is presented in a cautionary fashion, it presents, at first, a future society that is leaps and bounds different from our modern say society. Later, the story goes on to have the characters talk about the past and how they have “evolved” compared to us. The major themes involve individuality, technology, and perceptions. “Metropolis”, on the other hand, is presented in a much different manner. Although it also is a cautionary tale, it focuses on a matter that is more personal, rather than something that can connect to everyone. “Metropolis” was clearly made by and for god fearing men; religious symbolism plagues every scene of this film, making it, at times, sound extremely preachy. In this, however, lie the similarities between these two works; they are both cautionary and use religious symbolism/parallels to convey their message.  One, however, uses religion in a more insulting manner, while the other favors it.

Let me start with “Metropolis”, as I have the most to say about it. This movie represents machinery/technology in not only a negative way, but in a down right evil way. To begin with, the intro quote “The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart”. Now this could have been used in various intelligent ways to caution mankind of how over zealous it has become with technology, and how man should always listen to their conscious in the pursuit of advancing technology, as the ethics of technology are just as important as the need for advancements in those fields. Instead this movie uses the quote to present a messiah/eve like figure to connect to the quote; ending the movie in a terrible and cheesy way. Let me elaborate, one of the first scenes where the religious symbols comes into play is in the garden scene of the prelude. The garden in this scene is shown in a innocently ignorant fashion; here Freder can be seen blissfully enjoying his time in this garden, at this point Freder is ignorant to what goes on under the city of Metropolis. In comes Maria, Maria at this point can be seen as a parallel to Eve. In religious texts it is Eve that convinces Adam to taste of the forbidden fruit, and in the movie it is because of Maria that Freder comes to know the horrors of what lies under Metropolis in the depths. The parallels of Maria to the virign mary/eve, and of Freder to christ/adam to not only end there but let me get back to that later. In a later scene when we are introduced to Rogart and the Machine-man, behind the Machine-man, on the wall there is a inverted pentegram (talk about subtlety), additionally, a pentagram can be seen on the front door of the building that Rogart works in. Inverted pentagrams symbolize the rejection of the holy trinity from the christian mythos; therefore, the message that Fritz Lang is trying to convey is that machines are evil and the work of the devil. In the scene after this, we see Maria preaching in front of a collection of crosses (again, your subtlety is art, Fritz Lang); therefore, she is represented as a force of good fighting against the evil that is the Machine-man. The scene in the catacombs also has a scene where Maria refers to Freder as the mediator, further proving that the movie paints him as a messiah-like figure, such as christ. In a later scene Rogart gives the Machine-man the appearance of Maria to trick the laborers of the city to revolt and destroy the machines. Additionally, in another scene a priest reads an excerpt from a bible that represents women simply as man’s desire; therefore, Fritz Lang chose the Machine-man to take the shape of a woman to further emphasize the machine man as evil; the addition of the female form attaches the idea of the seven deadly sins to the Machine-man. This is also supported by the club seen in which men gawk at the Machine-man and become violent, thus causing the statues of the seven deadly sins, seen throughout the film (again with that subtlety, how do you do it Mr.Lang?), to replace the men that are holding the Machine-man up on a pedestal; at this point Machines/technology have become synonymous with sin. In the scene where the Machine-man convinces the workers of the city to revolt, it uses quotes such as, “Who is the living food for the machines in metropolis?” and “Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood?”.These quote are use to represent that all men serve evil, thus paving the way for next scene. The city begins to flood during the films climax, this is a parallel to the great flood from the bible, but on a much smaller scale and no one dies (aw shucks). There is not much to this scene other than Lang creating a slight parallel with this seen with the water as symbol for washing away the evil of man through the destruction of the machines, as well as the goodness of Freder and Maria being further emphasized. Lastly the movie ends with Freder bringing peace, again messiah-like imagery. I could go on but I’m short on time as I’m doing this with a couple minutes left until the deadline. Side note, that soundtrack was AMAZING!

Moving on to the “Machine Stops”. I thought this story was actually really funny and it reminded me a lot about Wall-E. I think this would serve better as a black comedy. Now over all I liked this story a lot more than “Metropolis” as it felt purely like a cautionary tale, with no religious agenda. It perfectly paints a picture of our over reliance on technology, and man-kinds further over-dependency on technology. Although things like Skype are great for getting in touch with people who you do not have easy access to, it is a dangerous precedence in a society that is growing ever lazier. One of the only things this short story shares in common with the “Metropolis” is the fact that they use religion to convey a point. In the “Machine Stops” religion is used to paint a picture of just how over reliant on machines man has become. At one point Vashti becomes insulted when Kuno says she is basically praising the machine as god, but Vashti responds by saying religion is foolish and a thing of the past. Despite Vashti’s response to religion she has parallels to religious people such as her constant need to seek guidance from The book of Machine(pg6), they way she holds the book reverently(pg4), and how she has a mini ritual where she repeats things in threes before opening the book(pg5). This blind faith the people of this society have in The Book of Machine, however, uses religion in a negative light; their inability to have their own thoughts and relying on the machine as God, has led to the down fall of their society, and the deaths of all who inhabit it (brutal). Again I could go deeper, but last minute!!!! I’ll do this ahead of time next time (maybe).