Blade Runner came out in June 1982. Microsoft’s Paint came out in November 1985. Little could the designers of that rebranded version of ZSoft’s PC Paintbrush packaged in with Windows 1.0 know that the paths of their humble graphics application and that elaborate sci-fi cinematic vision would cross just over 30 years later. Surely nobody involved in either project could have imagined the form the intersection would take: MSP Blade Runner, a fan’s shot-by-shot Tumblr “remake” (and gentle parody) of the film using only Microsoft Paint, starting with the Ladd Company tree logo.
Why make such a thing? “I like the idea of having a blog but basically feel as if I have very little to say about things, at least things that are original or interesting,” creator David MacGowan told Motherboard’s Rachel Pick. “I gravitated to Tumblr with some idea of just posting pictures, but still felt I needed to be posting something I’d actually made myself… [Y]ears ago I used to draw really crappy basic MS Paint pics for a favourite pop group’s fan site, and they always seemed to raise a smile. The idea of doing something else with MS Paint, a kind of celebration of my not being deterred by lack of artistic talent, never really went away.”
The mixture of technological and aesthetic sensibilities inherent in using a severely outdated but ever-present digital tool to re-create the enduringly compelling analog visuals of a movie from that same era goes well with the original Blade Runner’s project of updating the conventions of film noir to depict a then-newly imagined future. Even more fittingly, a work like MSP Blade Runner could only make sense in the 2010s, the very decade the movie tried to envision. Will it go all the way to the shot of Deckard and Rachel’s final exit into the elevator? “I don’t really think about giving up,” McGowan told Pick. “The idea of actually completing something I start out to do (for once in my life) is very appealing.” Spoken like a 21st-century man indeed.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.