‘Man is in truth a miracle’. Man is believed to be born pure, through societal influence an individual may be shaped and their characteristics moulded, this theme is explored in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Another important and recurring concept covered in both Shelley’s Frankenstein and Scott’s Blade Runner is the creation of life. This creation is physically superior and intellectually equal of its creator. Through either a desire ‘to live’ or to want more out of life, this creation rebels and rises against its creator.
Due to their differing social, historical and personal contexts, the similar thematic concerns and issues, examined in both are representative of changes in the values and perspectives of society. Mary Shelley’s story of the new Prometheus is the only gothic novel that still reaches a wide and appreciative audience. Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” – The Directors Cut was released in 1993, and was and still is considered a confronting film. Contemporary morals and issues at the time are explored and contrasted with a dystopian future setting.
During Shelley’s time, science had already established itself as separate from literature and art, embracing logic, reason and the rational over the Romantic. Frankenstein appears to take on the form of an instructive tale, warning against the forces of science. Shelley utilises the element of horror as part of the Gothic genre Frankenstein is written in, this is most evident when describing some of Victor Frankenstein’s scientific procedures, through imagery, metaphor and personification. Ridley Scott’s context of globalization has resulted in a different vision of the future.
Technological advancements saw a gradual transition from the industrial age to the informative era. Environmental issues have formed a film in which the cost of commerce has been the death of nature. The opening aerial shot is of an industrialized, polluted city. Throughout the film towers, flames and dirty polluted streets are contrasted against the repeated metaphor of the unicorn, the only natural animal in the film accessible only in a dream. The world is dark, damp and dirty with rain falling continuously. It is a planet hostile to human beings, full of smoke and steam.
Scott’s Blade Runner also illustrates fears regarding science. Scott has been witness to many of the environmental and social disasters, contributing to a growing pessimistic view of the future, and the change in perspective of society, to viewing the environment as fragile. In Shelley’s time, Nature was perceived as unalterable. It played a significant role in her novel, as part of both the Gothic setting, and as Romantic ideology for Victor. However, there is no role for the natural in Scott’s dystopian 2019. The film’s opening wide angle shots create a dark, polluted and decaying city, accompanied by non-diegetic music.
This establishes a setting where the environment has been eliminated by science in the pursuit of technological advance. Each composer’s respective background influencing their works through Shelley’s idea of nature, romantic/gothic tradition, the sublime, against Scott’s world where nature does not exist and the replicants are the end result of mans determination to create a better world through science. Creation is generally considered to be the realm of nature, or God, but in Frankenstein and Blade Runner, science and more importantly, the scientist, take the power of creation for man.
In Shelley’s novel, her own personal Romantic context sees her examine and exaggerate the obsessive passion of the scientists of her day. Therefore, her scientist Victor is characterised as a more Romantic man, rather than a completely analytical or logical man of science. In adolescence Victor discovers the works of the ancient ‘natural philosophers,’ whose work Victor says caused, “a new light? to dawn upon my mind. ” Passion was an important element of the Romantic character, and Victor’s characterised passion is achieved through the use and repetition of emotive language in regard to his science.
Eldon Tyrell, the inventor of Replicants and head of Tyrell Corp’, demonstrates the changing place of the scientist in society; from the passionate man in pursuit of knowledge, to the businessman in pursuit of profit. Which Scott illustrates in the film “commerce; is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. ” Tyrell’s arrogant pride is symbolised by the giant Tyrell Corp’ headquarters; a giant pyramid like structure towering above the city, referring to the pharaohs of Egypt that saw themselves as gods.
Low camera angles are used around the building to emphasis the difference between Tyrell’s status, and that of other ‘people’. This exploration of creation appears similar in both texts. However, the different contexts of the texts, the difference between creating life, presents how society’s perception of the scientist, and their value to society, has altered. They were once men with a genuine passion for knowledge, but are now money driven capitalist businessmen. Each text’s respective creation, Frankenstein’s monster, and Tyrell’s Replicants, especially Roy Batty, are important aspects in the exploration of what it means to be human.
Dualism; the state of being dual or consisting of two parts, is exploited by both Shelley and Scott in their exploration of humanity. Through Frankenstein’s monster we see how a creation can be moulded through society and possess humane qualities which at times portray the monster as ‘more human than human’ through emotive and expressive language and a desire for companionship. Shelley uses dualism in her text to question an accepted science of the time, which determined the character of a person from their physical appearance.
Like other Romantics, Shelley believed that man was born pure, and only nurture created evil. Thus, it was Victor and society’s rejection of his monster that created its monstrosity. In Blade Runner, Roy’s emotional tendencies are juxtaposed with Deckard’s stereotypically film-noir attitude. Early in the film Deckard’s humanity is juxtaposed against the monstrosity of Roy’s actions, but this is to be reversed. As a blade runner, Deckard does not kill, but ‘retires’ Replicants for a living, viewing them as sub-human, “Replicants are like any other machine, they’re either a benefit or a hazard. This attitude is highlighted late in the film by his killings of, Pris and Zhora; their very human survival instincts are contrasted by his unemotional response to their obvious agony. Roy murders Tyrell brutally during the film, but unlike Deckard, and more like Frankenstein’s monster, Roy kills out of passion; a monstrous act, but still emotional and human. Theoretically both are killers, but contextually, Deckard’s apathetic killing is affiliated with the twentieth century’s inhumane crimes against humanity, but Roy’s crimes of revolutionary passion, are crimes of humanity.
William Godwin once said “Every man has a certain sphere of discretion which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbours. This right flows from the very nature of man. ” In both texts the destruction and despair are ultimately created by society and its willingness for rejection. Shelley’s novel represents the workings of her mind. Further, it represents the vast scientific discoveries of the time, combined with Mary Shelley’s perception of science. She views science as a powerful existence, but also recognizes the dangers if uncontrolled.
Shelley demonstrates this fear in the book as science drives Victor Frankenstein to create his monster. In the end, it is also his use of science that inevitably becomes his demise. The destruction of nature through man’s greed is a key theme in Blade Runner. Both Frankenstein and Blade Runner explore similar issues, such as questioning humanity, the place of science in society and fears inherent with technological advancement, and the idea of the artificial creation of life. Through these texts a greater knowledge and understanding of why “man is in truth a miracle” is grasped. Billy O’Neill