7. Dreamlike symbolism
So-called “hard” science fiction focuses on the realities inherent in the genre. With hard sci-fi, you will likely find detailed discussions of rockets, space colonies, and the realities of time travel. This iteration of the genre tends to play by the rules.
“Soft” science fiction, however, allows for a little wiggle room. It focuses more on the strangeness of the future without bothering to explain the nitty gritty details of how we got there. Never mind just how the replicants were made. What matters more is what they’re doing now and the philosophical risks they pose to standard humans.
Hard sci-fi is generally uninterested in symbolism, with a few exceptions. Meanwhile, soft sci-fi revels in the stuff. Just crack open a Ray Bradbury book and you’ll be awash in symbolism. Philip K. Dick, whose 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? inspired Blade Runner, was similarly interested in symbolism. The loose film adaptation of the novel was even more invested in visual and textual metaphor.
Want some examples? Focus in on the origami featured in the film for a particularly rich theme. The mysterious Gaff (Edward James Olmos) is the one who first gives Deckard the unenviable task of hunting down the Nexus-6 replicants. Gaff is also fond of creating tiny, intricate origami animals. At one point, he makes a delicate unicorn, which conveys deep symbolism and unsettling implications for Deckard.
Other odd notes play into the overall themes of humanity and hubris. J.F. Sebastian and Tyrell play chess together. Rachel and Deckard’s first meeting is attended by an eerie artificial owl. And, of course, the drizzle and downpour of rain (and the significant moments when it abates) are major symbolic markers.