If you read Motherboard regularly, it should come as no surprise that we're hugefans of Ridley Scott's 1982 classic, Blade Runner. A gorgeous, smoggy neo-noir dystopia? Artificial intelligence and highly sophisticated bioengineered beings? Serious questions about free will, reality and what it means to be human? Yes, please.
So when we discovered David MacGowan's tumblr MSP Blade Runner, our response was one of collective awe and fascination. MacGowan is quite literally going through Blade Runner shot-by-shot and illustrating each in MS Paint. The drawings aren't perfect in terms of artistry—it is MS Paint, after all—and they're not 100 percent complete in detail. But each moment is instantly recognizable even to someone with only a passing familiarity with the film. And MacGowan has nailed that elusive, pitch-perfect Internet Ugly aesthetic so many of us try and fail to, well, replicate.
Eager to learn more about the genius behind this work-in-progress—MacGowan is still probably less than halfway through the two-hour film—I shot him some questions via email. I first wanted to know: why?
"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," MacGowan said. "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."
MacGowan was already a huge fan of Blade Runner and told me he watches the film as sparingly as possible, so as to not burn himself out on it.
"I finally saw it on the big screen as an adult when the final cut came out theatrically and I was just amazed. Just completely stunned," said MacGown, who like most Blade Runner fans is particularly drawn to the juxtaposition between what is "an essentially old-fashioned film" and the futuristic setting. "Blade Runner is a mix of the old and the new in so many ways."
Impressively, MacGowan told me some drawings take him as little as five minutes, depending on how much detail is in the shot and how tired he is. He does one or two per day when he gets home from work; if he has the day off, he'll do more.
"I don't really think about giving up. The idea of actually completing something I start out to do (for once in my life) is very appealing," he said. "And it's fun, it's not a chore."
But as big a fan of the film as he is, MacGowan is not so stoked on the forthcoming Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049. I asked him if he plans to see it, and if he'd maybe do a similar project for 2049.
"I expect it to be utter rubbish," he said. "I will go to see it, I won't be able to resist the pull of it. I certainly won't do something like this again for a sequel, even if I did like it. I have a thing about 'the original'...I hate the idea of sequels, generally."
Besides, MacGowan still has a ways to go with the original. "I'm coming up soon to drawing the introduction of Roy Batty, which I love," he told me.
We can't wait.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter. Replicants welcome.