Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back in Blade Runner Land

After several days touring Beijing, with a short hop down to Bali to attend a wedding, I'm back in Hong Kong for the rest of my vacation.

Beijing was an experience that frequently felt SF-ish. In my last post, I mentioned the motorized rickshaw/Star Wars asteroid field navigation incident. The Forbidden City put me in mind of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero and all of the other Chinese kung-fu fantasy flicks of recent years. And of course, huffing and puffing along the undulations of the Great Wall, it was hard not to think of all the fantasy stories that have included Asian-inspired cultures in their worldbuilding, including variations on this megaproject. Then there were the walks through the close, dark, occasionally neon-illuminated twists and turns of the hutong neighbourhoods at night, where I was reminded of the opening of Gremlins (although I'm not sure but I think that was supposed to be Shanghai, rather than Beijing). And on our last night there, driving back to the hotel we passed a couple of huge skyscapers, one with every corner and edge highlighted in red neon, another in blue, that made me think of buildings in Tron.

In Bali, there was nothing that made me think of SF. It was just too damn hot and muggy and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Then there's Hong Kong. On a night like tonight, looking out the window of my hotel room in Causeway Bay past Victoria Park into the urban canyons, I can see how the city inspired Ridley Scott in his creation of the set of Blade Runner (I seem to recall him mentioning this in an interview once or on the commentary track of the DVD). The office and apartment towers rear up into the obscuring darkness of the clouds. They squish close together like old ladies hunting for a bargain in a department store on boxing day. And crowded at their feet are countless tiny, neon-lit restaurants and shops selling, well, everthing, as traffic oozes along the road and legions of pedestrians bustle by in the greasy rain. Blade Runner may have been set in LA of 2019, but Hong Kong is the real deal, here and now. All it needs is hover cars weaving through the maze of concrete & steel titans with Edward James Olmos dragging Harrison Ford away from his noodles... which is seriously not cool - you never drag a man away from his noodles. At least Olmos had the decency to let Ford get take-out. Mmmmm... take out...

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