Like all science fiction fans, I am partial to a bit of Dick. That said, it was the stunning Ridley Scott neo-noir cinematic realisation of the future in the 1982 movie Blade Runner that shaped, nay, warped my teenage mind, not the 1968 text. To teenage Ian, the film is how the century ahead would be: the night-time skyscape – and it was always night-time – seared my impressionable brain with a vision. Fast forward to 2018 and whilst androids are not yet dreaming of electric sheep, this evening, for a moment, I feel like I have been transported.
There are detail differences between Scott’s classic and this Dubai night: it is dry here for starters and the sky is not filled with autonomous giant led-screen blimp drones (more’s the pity). As for the presence of “skin jobs” – that’s replicants or synthetic humans to you- the jury is still out because I have seen a few sights. I feel very much the stranger in a strange land with some impossible looking specimens of the human race thronging the Dubai Mall.
What really made it strikingly as if it t’were Ridley Scott himself directing my evening is the evidence in video below.
Okay, okay, the music is not Vangelis, but it is a dramatic soundtrack playing in stunning hi-fi around a giant artificial desert lake (in a desert) as thousands gawp to the heavens at the monumental Burj Khalifa lit up in truly spectacular fashion.
Then it strikes me: I am at once astounded, transported and dismayed.
Astounded? How could you not be by the stunning precision visual display and vast scale of the illumination. The animation made incredible use of the building as a canvas with great sound to boot.
Transported? I genuinely felt like a pre-pubsecant again for a second and gasped to catch my breath. How so? Because it was – for a fleeting moment – like being back inside the Blade Runner universe of my youth. I was dizzied by the sensation.
Then… Dismayed? Because it’s a bloody advert.
Dear reader, my reverie bubble was well and truly popped as the brilliance of the production revealed itself to be a promotion for a (Chinese) smartphone. Paradoxically, this makes it all the more Blade Runner-esque because the floating screens of that fictional future were little more than giant billboards (moodily ignored in the movie by the troubled anti-hero Deckard).
If you do get to see the video above, you’ll hear my disdain which I found impossible to keep to myself. You may also – rightly – accuse me of being a bit slow on the uptake. I was so away with the fairies that it took me a good few seconds to cotton on to the message. Ridiculous, because there is surely no more commercial a place on earth than here? I finished recording at that point. (What a rubbish cameraman I’d make, judgmental, fickle, easily bored.) This means that you are not treated to the whoopin an a hollerin that follows the conclusion of the AV show. You are also spared the sound of a forty nine year old curmudgeon exclaim an audible holier-than-thou tut. Again, ridonculous because it’s all a sponsored show right? I’ve not paid an entry fee. The backers are entitled to push their message: they’ve paid for it. Kudos too to the production company: you know your stuff.
The future is here, that much is clear. It’s just that I’m not cool with it [sigh].
Ho hum, better watch Blade Runner again. One of the seven versions…
PS: Another witness has made a longer video which captures the crowd response: https://youtu.be/K-gho8ltsHo I also note Samsung have also used the building this year for their S-whatevs launch. So this advertising thing works then, because I’ve just shared a video or two. D’oh!
PPS: BladeRunner is REAL in Dubai. Just not as you might expect. Click here.