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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Jack Graham
    June 1, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

    Yep, the style is amazing and heady and moving and gorgeous and well worth it by itself… though the influence it has had has often done the original no favours. I mean, the Super Mario Bros. movie looked Blade Runnerish. This may, of course, stem from the fact that Blade Runner has little substance to back up its style, making it style particularly susceptible to bastardisation and bowdlerisation. I'm not necessarily criticising the film for not having a coherent philosophical perspective behind the sublime, post-nuclear urban grimdark… but I do think the evident grope for philosophical coherence undermines the film. Alien, by contrast, was happy to latch on to various submerged horrors and suggestions and allow them to be mysterious, to free associate with them and let us do the rest. Even if you scale Blade Runner down a bit and look at it as being about race and slavery, it's no less trite, even if it becomes a tad more coherent (though also, perhaps, unwittingly offensive).


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    June 2, 2014 @ 7:51 am

    I mean I agree, of course, but I can't get past the fact Jack actually mentioned Super Mario Bros.


  3. Jack Graham
    June 2, 2014 @ 8:01 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  4. Jack Graham
    June 2, 2014 @ 8:02 am

    The range and depth of my erudition astonishes, I know.


  5. K. Jones
    June 3, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

    I still don't know what to make of Blade Runner. It's a movie I had to own … but rarely watch. It's certainly a dream to watch, as an artist – filled with the kind of design choices and great camera angles that could drive a creative young mind to become an artist, a set-designer, or a writer who wants to set stories in that world.

    This is the crux of why it's so often bastardized, bowdlerized, borrowed. You wish you'd thought of it – and that's an impossible hurdle to get over.

    That said, the story is awfully straightforward. It's paced fine, clever because it doesn't try to be too clever. The mystery at the end is offbeat because even if you realize Deckard isn't human, you also realize that it doesn't matter. And it didn't take however-so-many BSG seasons to get to that ultimate point.

    But ironically, Blade Runner's importance for me is less about the film itself, and more about some of the brilliant stuff that came later, which occupies its cyberpunk space, and that's all animated. Batman Beyond comes to mind, Ghost in the Shell seems like a really obvious one because it treads the same themes, but obviously the one I'm hoping to see some major thoughts on once we get to the 1990s is Cowboy Bebop, and the idea of re-purposing stock or pulp style stories (IE; a spaghetti western) into a cyberpunk or neo-noir future. And I'm obviously more interested in the ones that do it without feeling bleak or dystopian in doing so. Hopelessness has the undesired effect of making sci-fi, or "near future" stories chores to watch.

    In that regard, I felt like Blade Runner maintained a healthy sense of optimism, even in a world populated by jaded heroes, cynical femme fatales and traumatized manufactured slave-caste pseudo-humans.


  6. Daru
    June 19, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

    "All we'd need is to introduce the additional wrinkle of the persistence of the experiential self and Blade Runner's already shaky conflict ceases to be a conflict and its entire plot is rendered sort of pointlessly irrelevant."

    Yes it feels like the plot and characters are suck in ways that they can't see, and just fumbling about in a dark drama trying to find a resolution which has been hidden from them by a corporation. Love this film.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    June 20, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

    That's a really terrific reading.


  8. Daru
    June 20, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    Thanks man. Thought on it more. In-built obsolescence – we do now have the technology available to make pretty much any product last for life, but often the decision is made to build into products the seed of its own decay. This means we continue buying. Same with the replicants – the tech was likely there to do the same, but the company wanted their product to keep selling.


  9. Josh Marsfelder
    June 21, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

    Very true. Unfortunate, but true.

    Interesting enough, I've been having a lot of computer problems lately, so planned obsolescence has been on my mind a lot. I've had a number of opportunities to rant about it at length, but I've always dialed myself back. I try not to write while angry.


  10. Daru
    June 26, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

    Yeah good point, not great to let the writing turn into a rant!


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