Blade Runner Schmade Runner: What can tech PR learn from 2019 in the movies?

Dom By Dom

One thing PR loves is a good anniversary: if your technology chimes with viewers of, say, Back To The Future or Iron Man, then when it’s 10, 20 or 30 years since those films were released – or we hit the date they were set – you have a perfect opportunity to grab the public’s imagination. For instance, look how 2015 saw Back To The Future jump into relevance – from a sudden surge in products claiming to be hoverboards, to Nike FINALLY giving us the shoes we’d wanted since 1989, to more debates on the feasibility of flying cars .

With December rapidly drawing to a close, it’s becoming clear 2019 might be the anniversary to end all anniversaries: since we’ll enter the setting for the granddaddy of most recent looks into the not-too-distant future, Blade Runner.

Of course, the film is rich with opportunities to debate key issues affecting tech PR today – from flying cars (again) and the ubiquity of advertising, to changes to urban life; the evolution of language; computing, AI and free will; and even, given moves from Elon Musk and NASA, life in the off-world colonies. We might even see more contributions on the benefits or otherwise of voice over and origami unicorns. However, the real question is – if you do want to comment on these topics, how do you make your voice stand out? When everyone is likely to be Blade Runnered up to their eyeballs, a fresh approach might be a perfect way to grab the public’s attention. With that in mind, here are some other 2019-set films that could give a different route to getting a message across:

Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, Japan, 1988)

First up, one for the cool hipster kids (is anime still what the cool kids do?). On the surface, this has distinct Blade Runner vibes – particularly in the production design. However, it has its own unique set of issues that speak to audiences today. You might think that psychic genetic experiments, satellite-based super-weapons and laser duels in the 2020 Olympic stadium construction site are a tad far-fetched – with the possible exception of the Olympic Stadium part. But, especially considering the rest of this list, there’s also the valuable reminder that not every vision of the future comes from a familiar source. In a decade, and century, where China and other nations are on the rise, it pays to pay close attention to what the rest of the world sees in its vision for the future. Otherwise, those of us who are fixated on a narrow range of sources could be in for a surprise.

The Island (Michael Bay, US, 2005)

A lot of people forget Michael Bay’s last pre-Transformers blockbuster. Be honest, you’d forgotten it, hadn’t you? It’s got Sean Bean in it, if that helps. What initially looks to be an excuse for flying motorbike chases and, well, Sean Bean can still give us something to chew on. The idea of information control, cloning and organ donation, and a very clearly two-tier system of healthcare provides a multitude of jumping-off points for companies in the tech sector and beyond to discussions of life science, and how far technology can go towards granting us immortality. There is also the idea of turning Xbox games into a mass spectator sport which, if anything, has undersold what has happened in the real world.

The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987, US)

Here we go! Arnie! Jesse Ventura! Yaphet Kotto! Mick Fleetwood, out of Fleetwood Mac, as the leader of a rag-tag group of revolutionaries protesting censorship, called Mic! “He was such a hot-head”! This Schwarzenegger sci-fi-extravaganza-cum-Stephen-King-adaptation tends to play second fiddle now to its similar-vintage companions such as The Terminator, Predator or Total Recall. Yet with fake news created by digitally editing videos; reality TV turning into live, mass entertainment with life-or-death consequences, and even a healthy betting and voting market; and a worldwide economic crash precipitating the whole setting, it may have more relevance to the present day than a lot of more illustrious contemporaries.

So there you have it, three ways to set your sights a little further afield and maybe stand out from the tech PR crowd. Of course, anything that happens in the next 13 years is just practice for the main event: 2032, where we all get to reminisce about Demolition Man.