Shelley being brought up during the Romantic and enlightenment period was influenced by her parents who were renowned critical thinkers and authors. Shelley valued the essence of humanity and criticised the progression through unknown sciences, evident through Victor "learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example...who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow"
Such warnings exist within Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, where Scott echoes the rise of globalisation and consumerism through the symbolic dominance of the Tyrell Corporation - emphasising the arrogance of man through the desire for omnipotence and absolute power. Through the development of technology and advanced scientific research, the Tyrell Corporation was able to produce a being who ironically is meant to be "More Human than Human". However, to what degree is this true? Well, Replicants in Blade Runner are designed with mind and body through which memories are written and stored. Human experience involves the brain, body, and soul working together. If humans do not experience a situation they cannot attain a memory of its feel. The predicament is seen where Leon, a replicant being tested by a corporate employee shoots and kills the interviewer over frustration that he cannot find the response imbedded in his memory.
Visually, a psychological boundary is created by the panoramic shots of the opening scene of the film, which resembles hell. Fires explode skyward, and the world is in a perpetual darkness, an endless night. The eerie and haunting synthetic music help create a dystopic atmosphere. The low angle shots of the Tyrell Corporation, juxtaposing the surrounding buildings, gives it a sense of overwhelming dominance. The incessant rain is the only element of the natural world, but the fact that is is acid rain reminds us that humans have drastically affected this world with their pollutions
In 'Frankenstein', Victor creates the creature in his laboratory through methods of discipline studied at the University of Ingolstadt. Immediately upon bringing the creature to life, Frankenstein flees from it in horror and rejects his experiment. This parallels the Nexus 6 Replicants, whom were rejected and forced into "retirement" after a rebellion in an 'Off-World' colony. The Frankenstein's monster symbolically can be seen standing in as the coming of industrialisation to Europe and the death and destruction the monster reeks emphasises what Shelley feared industrialisation will eventually cause.
It seems interesting to note that the replicants have an obsession with photographs. Roy sarcastically questions Leon, "Did you get your precious photos?" Nevertheless, Leon's photo collection is important, aside from pictures of his shabby apartment and his replicant associates, he also keeps pictures of children. Has Leon ever seen a child? Or perhaps, do we the audience ever see children? Is can be assumed that even children cannot live in this dystopic world and indicates the repulsion of humanity's progress.
Deckard's piano is decorated with a collection of photos which seem to be from before his own generation. So it appears that both replicants and humans have a desire for lives that they have never experienced. Similarly Frankenstein's monster longs for a female companion, which Victor attempts, yet ends up destroying. As he ruins his creation, Victor recognises her humanity "I almost felt," he says, "as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being." Victor's decision to destroy the female creature can be seen as an openly anti-feminist action. He fears her ability to reproduce will set free another power into the world that he cannot control. The procreation of human beings is the ultimate factor in keeping the race alive, if no female is involved there is no possible chance that humanity can ever sustain itself as a dominate race, or even an existing one.
The monster tells his creator "I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept". The repetition of 'I' emphasises that the monster was deserted and forced to live alone in the wilderness without any company. Though never alive, the female monster is a powerful presence - to Victor, she represents another crime against humanity and nature, while to the monster, she represents his true remaining hope for a life not spent alone.
Scott users the historical allusion of the great depression of the 1930s in many scenes to justify what powerful corporate giant's together with globalisation would inflict on mankind. Many people in the streets wear shades and ear muffs as if trying to block out the dystopic world around them. Scott alludes to the dystopic nature of the city though the presence of a large quantity of trash. The flashing lights and sirens of police cars are a continuous reminder of surveillance and yield discomfort. In addition, the barrage of intrusive spot lights that seem to drift constantly over the city and even into the windows of Decka rd's apartment suggest that city is under watch from these dominant corporations.
In Blade Runner, The portrayal of a decaying environment reflects the growing economical and ecological awareness of the 1980's which, different to Shelley's romantic values, yet similarly employed to highlight the destruction of mankind through global consumerism, this is seen were the people are dwarfed by corporate advertising signs which reach mammoth proportions. The neon advertisements also disguise the corruption of the city with colourful flashing lights. But can humanity really hide from this corruption?
The giant blimp that parades its advertising screens above the city inhabitants brazenly offers false assurance about life in the off-world colonies, "The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure". Although we don't get to witness these off-world colonies, the use of replicants in combat roles and sex slavery suggest that humanity has now progressed backwards.
The symbolism of the owl is also significant, in the shot when Deckard enquires at street stalls about the snake scale found in Leon's apartment, he ducks down to avoid the flapping wings of an owl as it is carried over his head, possibly a reminder of Tyrell's dominance of the city.
Inside Tyrell's building, we find a drastic contrast to the dissolution and poverty of the streets. Tyrell's workplace is a giant golden fortress open and luxurious. In Tyrell's bedroom we find he has set himself up as a sort of God, surrounded by hundreds of tall candles. Implied through Roy, "It's not an easy thing to meet your maker". Voices echo and candles shimmer around the room as if we have entered a sacred place. The act of Roy gouging out Tyrell's eyes and killing him suggest that if humans continue to act as omnipotent, ultra-dominant beings their technology will eventually cause their extermination.
Shelley uses an important literary techniques called 'framing devices' which are stories which surround other stories setting them up in one way or another, Robert Walton's letters to his sister frame the story that Victor Frankenstein tells to Walton and Frankenstein's story surrounds the story that the monster tells which in turn frames the story of the Delacy family. When Victor Frankenstein first begins his quest to create the being "...it was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn" he did not realise that he venturing into unprecedented feats and presents him as arrogant and internally misguided by his absence of thinking morally, consequently, the monster seeks retaliation and Victor's life plunges into great despair and guilt stating, "William, Justine, and Henry-they all died by my hands".
It is notable that in Blade Runner the technological progress seems to have done very little to help the people of the city. For example, J.F Sebastian suffers from a genetic condition of rapid ageing, but science can do nothing for him. Instead, technology in Blade Runner has been used to create masses of replicant slaves and expansion into space. The arrogance of mankind is seen were man would rather consider benefiting itself than those attached to the natural order of the planet.
Thus, we can see how both Shelley and Scott reflect their zeitgeists in their texts, Frankenstein and Blade Runner, as they draw upon the societal concerns of their times in order to warn us of the consequences of overstepping our boundaries and uncontrolled technological advancement. Subsequently, it becomes evident that we have reached a conclusion to the unanswerable question that if we continue to progress to unfamiliar domains, the end of the human race will be imminent.