Mary Shelley’s iconic novel, Frankenstein, and Ridley Scott’s cinematographic masterpiece, Blade Runner, are, on the surface, remarkably dissimilar, not solely in terms of medium, but in absolute contextual disparity. They are, of course, very much products of their time, affected and inspired by the conundrums and pessimistic predictions of their own cultural and societal contexts; condemnations of each respective composer’s predictions for humanity.
It is interesting to note, therefore, that both texts are alike in their thematic complexity, however differently these timeless themes are expressed, and that the textual techniques of both only serve to heighten the inevitable character, plot and thematic comparisons which have inevitably occurred, as is to be expected of a film whole prophetic quality and social significance are timeless, and a novel which was to become an irrefutable literary classic.
It is important to note that the world of Mary Shelley in 1818 bore a striking resemblance to that of Ridley Scott in the early 1980’s, and indeed, this is the underlying catalyst for the contemporary cultural significance of the texts. The 1800’s for example, was a time of Revolution and Industrialism; a time in which scientific advances by the likes of Erasmus Darwin and Andrew Crosse, as well as a general ascent of idealistic romanticism, had colossal influence upon not only society; but upon Shelley’s pathetic fallacy and sensory imagery-laden writing style.
One must recognise the stark analogy amidst such a time of scientific ambition and the 1980’s, a time when, similarly, rampant computerisation threatened to render the labour of man irrelevant, as scientific experimentation in genetic engineering and globalisation shook the very foundations of morality and ethical thought.
Within Blade Runner too, irrefutably a condemnation of the future implications of such a time, Scott utilises establishing shots and neon, filtered lighting to intimidate; to illuminate a litany of Asian faces, whilst technology, and of course the replicants themselves, are created without second thought, and ultimately, with disastrous implications for those concerned; “Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell, more human than human is our motto.
Rachel is an experiment, nothing less and nothing more. ” Which, of course, brings to the fore the undeniable and universal thematic complexity of both Frankenstein and Blade Runner; the predominant catalyst for their newfound cultural significance. First and foremost is the theme upon which the texts are fundamentally built, that of emulating the divine, as well as its ramifications.
Mary Shelley herself, in fact, states in the preface to her novel, “frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world”, and indeed, Victor Frankenstein himself essentially serves as an analogy, almost a deterrent, of the unbridled scientific advances of Shelley’s time.
Despite Frankenstein’s extreme intelligence, being “the envy of [his] peers” and the fact that he “became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter”, his lack of compassion for his creation, “the miserable monster whom I had created”, in conjunction with his desired abandonment of it, “I sincerely hope, that all these employments are now at an end, that I am at length free”, has catastrophic consequences. Essentially, Shelley’s characterisation symbolises man as a fallible creature, one who will by no means possess the characteristics of God, despite the insurmountable increases in technological advancement which today are the norm.