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Science Fiction - Connecting Gritty Live-Action and Animation Through Wall-E and Blade Runner: Part 2

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The science fiction genre is notorious for
giving robots human emotions. The genre runs with the idea that “is the
ultimate promise of science for man to play God by creating life; it is
the ultimate fear when that life is discovered to have no soul and thus
no meaning” (Doll, and Faller 92). It works as a means to have the
viewer connect with them and get them invested within the film. We are
meant to laugh, cry, and even possibly feel threatened by their
existence as some head down a dark road. A clear example of this can be
seen in I, Robot when Sunny is brought in for the “murder” of his father. Wall-E implores the same tactics when Wall-E himself is introduced. He is a
small robot in a large decayed world, going through the same motions
every day (Murray and Heumann). At the same time, Wall-E also has plenty
of quirks, such as keeping a pet cockroach and collecting miscellaneous
items for himself. Not to mention the fact that he likes listening to Hello, Dolly and attempts to dance to it. Due to these small odd bits and pieces
about Wall-E, it is easy to forget that he is a programmed machine at
times. EVE on the other hand, is all about her “directive” which is to
find life on Earth. As soon as she does find the plant, she completely
shuts down waiting for a ship to arrive to take her back to the space
shuttle. This can be seen as symbolism for her tough and cold outside
shell, which Wall-E finds impossible to get through to at first.

Blade Runner finds
itself in a similar predicament with its two main characters, except
opposite roles. Despite being a human, Rick Deckard is almost devoid of
all emotions (Bosnak 87). He is running a dead end life when the
audience is introduced to him, and even after he resumes his old job he
is still very short and to the point, as if his sole drive is his
“directive.” It just so happens that directive is to hunt and kill
Replicants. When he meets Rachael, his perspective changes as he learns
that she is a Replicant implanted with memories. She remembers having a
mother and father just like any other kid, but even with these
differences Deckard is easily able to tell that she is a Replicant
through his test. The poorly lit room and eerie premise of the whole
test were really a foreshadowing to her results, and later on when
Deckard informs her that she is a Replicant and her memories are false.
During these moments, she looks down at the picture repeatedly, the
camera cutting back and forth between it, her and Deckard as tears form
and roll down her eyes. Later on she is seen playing the piano in the
same solemn mood, desperate to come to terms with her reality. The irony
of it all is that in those few emotional moments she becomes more human
than Rick (Bosnak 87). In fact, all of the Replicants we meet seem more
human than Deckard; their desperation brings out a number of emotions
as they search for a way to preserve their lives.

Wall-E is responsible for
humanizing EVE while Rachael is responsible Deckard’s emotional and
moral salvation (Doll, and Faller 92). Both situations prove to be
difficult as Deckard, like EVE, is driven by one purpose in life. Oddly
enough, hers is to bring life back to the humans while his is to end
lives for those looking to be regarded as humans. Upon first meeting
their perspective loved ones; their outlook on life doesn’t change right
away. EVE in fact almost destroys Wall-E because he startles
her. Deckard simply doesn’t seem to care about Rachael’s plight. This
changes when she saves his life, killing one of her own. Deckard
suddenly becomes confused as to whether or not he should be hunting
Rachael or saving her, and with that his emotions finally come through.
EVE’s progression towards developing feelings comes a bit more
gradually, ultimately shining through when she has to decide between the
plant, her directive, and Wall-E as he is about to be crushed. In both
situations, it took the individuals love interest to be at a high risk
to realize what they are truly missing in their life.

Due to these developed emotions it is easy to feel sorry for the Replicants in Blade Runner.
It is easy to see that they merely wanted to be treated as normal
people, not as animals or slaves (Bosnak 78). Had they been given the
chance, perhaps a solution could have reached that wouldn’t have ended
in violence. I believe Rick also reaches this conclusion as he sees and
gives into the emotions Rachael is able to offer. Wall-E not only
humanizes EVE but also is able to bring the humans back their humanity.
On a space ship where everyday is the same routine, with the same simple
lifestyle; he brings a bit of chaos and disorder. With his intervention
the humans soon realize that they too have become one with the machine
and lack emotions.

As I mention above, both films for the most part lack plants and animals. In Wall-E the exception is obviously when EVE finds the plant and delivers it back to the ship, taking Wall-E with her by accident. Blade Runner’s exception
is when Replicant Roy Batty is about to kill Rick Deckard on top of the
roof top. During these crucial moments, the dark atmosphere of the city
suddenly lightens up, as if there is a moment of hope, and Roy releases
a white Dove into the sky. He chooses not to kill Rick and instead
saves his life, realizing that Deckard’s death will not extend his own
life. Roy is able to show mercy, an emotion humans find themselves
confronting every day. The dove, like the plant, is a symbol of hope for
a group of individuals. The plant acts as a means to bring humans back
to reality while the dove is a symbol of hope towards a struggle to be
accepted as a human. While there are exceptions, for the most part
humanity triumphs in the science fiction genre. It may seem bleak and
miserable but at the end of the day they are able to come out on top. Wall-E teaches an important lesson to humans; that we must rise up and be
accountable for our own mistakes instead of escaping to a false reality
(Murray, and Heumann). The same message can be drawn from Blade Runner, as hunting the Replicants clearly is not the right method for dealing with them.

Wall-E and Blade Runner obviously do not have the same story. While Blade Runner focuses on a group of individuals struggle for humanity, Wall-E takes that idea to a larger scale as all of humanity finds itself at
risk within the film. When looking at film and genre, it is interesting
to take the past and present and see how the two have changed over time
and mixed together. Even though Blade Runner was made in 1982 its ideas and concepts can clearly be seen in Wall-E, aimed at kids and made in 2008. Both films ride on the idea that technology will one day backfire on mankind. Blade Runner takes the suggestion literally, with the Replicants killing humans while Wall-E shows humans simply becoming too accommodated by technology. It’s a bit
hard to actually figure out which one is the scarier of the two. Due to
Wall-E being an animated film, it becomes easy to forget the
darker implication it makes (Scott). It shouldn’t be forgotten that they
are there, and even after all of these years of film making, after all
of the years of technological increase, humanity as a whole is still
unsure about its future. While Blade Runner and Wall-E
both end on hopeful notes, there still isn’t a clear sign that we have
learned from our mistakes and will be able to survive without relying on
technology. The science fiction genre is so appealing because it
depicts society adjusting to the technology around them, and more often
than not it is in a negative light. Blade Runner and Wall-E are able to take the basic ideas in the science fiction genre and shed both the negative and positive light on robots, with Wall-E being a kid-friendly parallel of Blade Runner.




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Works Cited: 

Boozer, Jack. “Crashing the Gates of Insight: Blade Runner.” Bowling Green University Popular Press (1991): 212-228. Web. 06 Dec 2010.

Bosnak, Metin. “The Nocturnal Future as Alienated Existence: Blade Runner.” Journal of Economic and Social Research 3.2 (2001): 73-97. Web. 06 Dec 2010.

Doll, Susan, and Greg Faller. “Blade Runner and Genre: Film Noir and Science Fiction.” Literature/Film Quarterly 14. (1986): 90-100. Web. 06 Dec 2010.

Hayward, Susan. “Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts.” Routledge. (2000): 314-19. Print.

Murray, Robin, and Joseph Heumann. “Wall-E: From Environmental Adaptation to Sentimental Nostalgia.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media 51. (2009): n. pag. Web. 06 Dec 2010.

Onstad, Katrina. “Pixar Gambles on a Robot in Love.” New York Times 22 June 2008: Web. 06 Dec 2010.

Scott, A.O. “Wall-E: In a World left Silent, One Heart Beeps.” New York Times 27 June 2008: Web. 06 Dec 2010.



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