Anyone who has seen the classic sci-fi noirish film, Blade Runner, is well aware that the film takes place in a then-futuristic Los Angeles on November 2019. Mind you Blade Runner was released in 1982, so a date like 2019 seemed so far off to anyone around back then. Well, here we are at another date that was extrapolated upon in a past sci-fi work, and obviously many of the things projected for this date in Blade Runner have happened. In many instances we should all breathe a sigh of belief that some predictions for this date have not come true.
Then again, some predictions that have yet to occur continue to capture our imaginations. The brightest examples are, of course, the flying cars that filled the rainy L.A. skies throughout the film. Only Back to the Future, Part II featured an equally impressive array and depiction of flying vehicles. There are real-life flying cars, but they are not commonplace nor as attractive as the spinners that Rick Decard flew in. Both the spinners and actual flying cars operate on the same propulsion system used by vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Although flying cars aren’t everywhere and there are many logistical and economic headaches that keep them from becoming commonplace like in Blade Runner (at least for the near future), we are closer and closer to seeing our skies filled with them. Some companies are anticipating such a scenario and are preparing for it. In Miami, the first flying car skyport is nearing completion at the 60-story Paramount Miami World Center, which will have a sky deck on its roof to accommodate flying vehicles. If successful, expect more high rises and more cities to build their own skyports.
Another thing depicted in Blade Runner that have not come to fruition was the advanced genetic engineering as shown with the film’s anti-heroes, the replicants. Artificially grown by the Tyrell Corporation, these replicants were created to serve as slave labor and were physically enhanced while hampered with very short life spans. Thankfully we are nowhere near this level of advancement so we do not have to grapple with the ethics of creating a sapient race of slaves. With the way the replicants were treated in Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049, it would not be surprising when the clonal slaves mount a violent revolt against the society that despised them.
The replicants were used primarily in off-world colonies, which were never shown. Needless to say, we aren’t anywhere near having space colonies. This will change hopefully by the next decade or so when humanity ventures out to Mars and beyond. Until then, we have to take replicant Roy Batty at his word when he described the “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion” and “c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhaueser Gate”during his famous poignant speech.
Is there anything about the film that is somewhat accurate? Look at the constant rain shown in Blade Runner and the pollution in the inner city. This was climate change at work and we saw its further development in the sequel as the constant rains led to plummeting temperatures in Los Angeles. Currently the city is not inundated with non-stop rain, nor is it suffering from decay. But the constant threat of wildfires has the city and Californians on edge. Meanwhile, throughout the globe, rising sea levels and increased, intense hurricanes threaten coastal regions.
There were other ecological problems projected in Blade Runner. One was overpopulation. The then-futuristic cityscape was decaying, overcrowded and teeming with people and this is something that plagues us but not to the film’s extent. On the other hand, the apparent extinction of animals suggested by the film’s robotic animals is something to give us pause. Right now, many animal species are on the brink of mass extinction from frogs, to birds, to large mammals like elephants and rhinos. The book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was the basis for Blade Runner, focused more on humanity’s yearning for extinct and endangered fauna and their mechanical replacements. Again, both media were stern warnings to us about what we may face if we do nothing to prevent the coming mass extinctions.
Even though the Blade Runner November 2019 setting is not accurate anymore, this by no means diminishes the sci-fi masterpiece. If anyone is still bothered about the November 2019 date then consider Blade Runner to be a story set in an alternate world where genetic engineering at some point in the past advanced much more than in our reality.
The film’s visual style and provocative subject matter were the main selling point and served as a cautionary tale for what may yet happen in our future. Blade Runner’s November 2019 date is unimportant, the film’s powerful message about what it is to be human stands the test of time, and that is what we should focus on.