Man Meets God, Then Becomes Him: Human Transformation, and Transhuman Aspirations, in Ridley Scott’s Alien, Prometheus, and Blade Runner
Slick, advanced technology, strange or dystopian politics and the rich mysteries of space are the most common subjects of speculative or science fiction films. Transformation is typically achieved through engineering or complex socioeconomic systems. In Alien (1972), Blade Runner (1982) and Prometheus (2012), director Ridley Scott imagines earthier and perhaps more familiar future transformations: those of the human body in conversation and in conflict with technology and biology. Ridley Scott positions the human body as a site of transformation and vulnerability in the future, simultaneously making our familiar anatomy foreign, and suggesting that our technological feats may soon outpace our physical capacity. The motifs of evolution, reproduction and violent transformation are leylines in these three films, presenting visions of the future in which human biology is no longer the pinnacle of nature’s innovations but a fecund ground for more advanced life--either as hosts for alien forms, or as the creators of artificial intelligences (AI) and synthetic life.
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This essay is the recipient of the 2015 Pat Anderson Prize in Film Reviewing, awarded by the Film Program of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.