Everyone knows it: Blade Runner (1982) is more than a film, it is a passion. A high-tech Kowloon dragging us to the edge of what we are as a civilization, surrounded by a renewed noir aesthetic. Cyberpunk was a shared task right from the start, fellas: Ridley Scott came in, so Philip K. Dick passed and then William Gibson watched the damn movie, amazed. That would be a new audiovisual odyssey in a nutshell, partially based on actual dystopian scenarios.
But allow me to be annoying: Scott’s masterpiece is beyond sci-fi, it constituted another way of facing the hard-boiled genre. I am aware that a bunch of forums and chatrooms went mad discussing what would be the meaning of the unicorns or whether Deckard was or was not a replicant, but all of this is nerdy crap that prevents us for the one fact: when the neo-noir collapsed into the science fiction, a Modern Prometheus was given birth. Have you ever seen a classic movie called The Asphalt Jungle (1950)? If you have, you should be aware of it: we are trying hard to escape from ourselves by fleeing into the woods yet we remain still and silent, like being immersed in a nightmare. A Petrified Forest (1936) which symbolizes what we are running from, otherwise predicted long ago by Dickens.
“I’ve seen…” a sequel ahead, but should we be worried about? Certainly we should! Unless you take delight in raw cyberpunk (do you have in mind the disastrous remake of Total Recall (2012)?) Nah, there is a visible line drawn between Strange Days (1995), Children of Men (2006), Dredd (2012), Alien (1979), Existenz (1999), Gattaca (1997), Videodrome (1983), New Rose Hotel (1999), Brazil (1985), Almost Human (2013-2014) or Renaissance (2006) and the rest. Noir sci-fi recreates dirty, savage, discouraging and alienated urban jungles that make our fancies fly. They are quite far away from teen-Expressionist productions such as The Hunger Games (2012-15) or Divergent (2014). On the contrary, our films picture a painful yet essential truth about our modern societies, perhaps a warning… but then again who cares? (well, certainly Nick Bostrom does!). I am crossing my fingers, hoping that Hampton Fancher and Michael Green are the same guys they used to be… According to Harrison Ford’s words it will be a gas to watch, so let’s wait.
Lights! Noir sci-fi is surrounded by faded neon lights. It seems to be a particular way of expressing anxiety, melancholy. So you can imagine that the first time I came across Jensen’s apartment my soul got excited to tears, exactly like Poe described the contemplation of beauty. Deux Ex: Human Revolution (2011) provided such a wonderful visual experience by sending us back to the roots, so it did the soundtrack by Michael McCann. Hengsha city is quite a digital memento, with all that yellowish and warm glitter embracing us between the shootings. We are all aware of it: Noir sci-fi depicts an alienated vision of the world, drowning in overpopulation, faceless organized crime and unreachable relief… That is our shared glimpse into the future, a reflection of a whole collective preoccupation of being invaded by self-sufficient machines and Easterners alike.