Book Shows Concept Art Behind Film’s Influential Aesthetic
Digital Scans Available Free Online, 30 Years After Book’s Publication
Based on Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the seminal science fiction film “Blade Runner” forever changed the way we envision the future. Since its release in 1982, “Blade Runner” has helped define our goals and fears for a future society, and has lent a sense of concreteness to our conceptions of what the future may look like. In popular film, very few movies (1989’s Back to the Future Part II comes to mind) have made so lasting impression on our idea of what the future may hold in terms of technology and social constructs. Stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young were memorable in their portrayals of their characters, but it was the setting of a post-modern apocalyptic Los Angeles of 2019 that gave the film such staggering impact.
In the film, genetically engineered organic robots called replicants, which are sentient and look just like humans, serve various purposes on Earth’s off-world colonies but are banned on the planet itself. Replicants who ignore the ban are hunted and destroyed by “Blade Runners,” a team of special ops policemen. Expert Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is ready for retirement, but agrees to one final assignment in hunting down a brutal and cunning group of recently escaped replicants hiding out in Los Angeles.
The film’s visuals were created by a team of visionaries, including director Ridley Scott, designer Syd Mead, and effects specialist Douglas Trumbull. The influence of the aesthetic they created was so profound that many elements of the film’s visuals still pop up in movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, and more. This elaborate creation included cyberpunks, flying cars, and a crumbling urban backdrop that now has both retro and futuristic sensibilities. When the film was released, a limited edition Blade Runner Sketchbook was published to document the entire visual concept of the movie. This rare book can occasionally be found online, selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But now the entire book has been scanned to digital and published online, allowing the whole world to see how the aesthetic of “Blade Runner” was created 30 years ago. Best of all, the digital scans of the book can be accessed for free, courtesy of a leading digital publishing platform called Issuu.
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