Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How The Mighty Fall: A Blade Runner Retrospective

Though not a financial success, Blade Runner has become a major sci-fi cult classic. Released in 1982 the film's plot takes place in a dystopian future Los Angeles.  For the early eighties, the visuals were stunning and in my humble opinion are still quite amazing even by today's standards.  The city is dark, crowded and polluted with a mixture of both decaying old buildings and new modern architectural behemoths.  Featured on the sides of these buildings, as well as on the streets, are advertisements for various mega-corporations such as Atari, Pan Am, Coca-Cola, Polaroid, Cuisinart, Hilton, RCA, Toshiba, etc.

At the time the movie was released, these were all major corporations and it would have been easy to envision there continued success well into the future.  But unfortunately for most, the real world was not as kind to many of the companies as their fictional futures presented in the movie.  Pan Am, which was the largest international air carrier in the United States when Blade Runner was released, declared bankruptcy in 1991.  In the late 70's and early 80's, Atari was king of  home video gaming consoles.  Yet by the early 90's it had suffered a number of huge loss years and was repeatedly bought and sold.  Now it really only lives on in memory.  Such fates also fell upon Polaroid, Cuisinart and RCA. When I think of today's top companies, names like Walmart, Apple, Starbucks and Google come to mind. Though they now seem like unstoppable titans, I wonder how many of them will be gone twenty or thirty years from now as competitive pressure forces them out in order to make way for the new kids on the block?