Blade Runner (1982)

blade runnerIMDb

My first viewing of Blade Runner was the theatrical release version. I thought it was OK, but didn’t really get what all the hype was about. I appreciated the aesthetic and general plot, but the overall effect just wasn’t that great. The noir inspired voiceover added nothing to the story, and the ending was too happy.

The Director’s Cut, which we watched this time, is much better. Harrison Ford’s narration is gone. This is probably the biggest improvement. It reinforced the film noir feel of the movie, but was unnecessary. The visuals are enough to set the tone and tell the story. In fact, the visuals are the best part of this film. I’d never really thought about it until I read up on Blade Runner after my first viewing, but all science fiction movies made since 1982 owe a huge debt to this film. Director Ridley Scott basically created the “retrofitted” future look– mixing new technology with old architecture and other contemporary touchstones. This adds more realism to the world; it looks modern, but still feels familiar. The only nitpicky thing I can say is that the futuristic elements are a bit too futuristic given that this is supposed to despict Los Angeles in 2019. (Why can’t sci-fi films just not specify a year? Or if they must, pick one at least 70 years away.)

The plot of Blade Runner is typical sci-fi in many ways, but that doesn’t diminish its greatness. Men have invented replicants, biorobotic androids that are nearly indistinguishable from humans. Replicants have been banned on earth, and serve as slave labor on off world colonies. The trouble begins when six newer, more realistic models escape and come to Los Angeles. These replicants have the ability to gain life experience and develop emotional responses. This also makes their personalities unstable over time, so a safe guard was built in– they can only live for four years. Clearly this, and many other sci-fi books and movies, should serve as a warning to humanity: don’t try to make robots that are practically human. It never ends well.

Anyway, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is a retired blade runner, a cop who hunts down and retires (kills) illegal replicants. He’s brought out of retirement to hunt down these new replicants. Ford is great, but is that really a surprise? What’s actually surprising is that he’s able to hold his own in scenes with his android prey. Daryl Hannah plays Pris, a pleasure model, and she shines in one of her earliest roles. However, the real star is Rutger Hauer as replicant leader Roy Batty. This character is absolutely insane, but his performance never once feels overdone. You believe that he is a being nearing the end of his lifespan, desperate to find a way to save his and his friend’s lives.

The second big change between the theatrical and director’s cuts is the ending. In the theatrical cut, Deckard falls in love with an even more human-like replicant name Racheal, who has been implanted with memories. As a result, she doesn’t even know she’s a replicant until Deckard tells her. In the end, they are seen driving through an idyllic forest, and it’s revealed through narration that she does not have the built in four year lifespan. How nice.

Not that I’m opposed to happy endings, I just feel like they’re often out of place in the science fiction genre. Sci-fi often explores very deep and sometimes dark themes, which naturally lend themselves to deep and sometimes dark endings. The director’s cut ending isn’t terribly dark, but it is ambiguous. This is just as good in my opinion. Sometimes not knowing what happens next is satisfying, and this ending to Blade Runner left me with a lot of great questions.

Blade Runner is by all measures a great film, though not perfect. One plot thread I wish had been explored more is the possibility of Deckard being a replicant himself. This has been debated since the movie was released, and Ridley Scott has added fuel to the fire by toying with the idea of a sequel that firmly establishes Deckard as non-human. While the film deals well with the question of what it means to be human, it would have been interesting to see Deckard handle a crisis of identity after helping Rachel deal with her own.

Rating: A-

For those wondering, we watched the ‘final cut’ of this film. It was released with the 25th anniversary DVD of the movie and Ridley Scott considers it the definitive version of his classic sci-fi film. If it’s good enough for Ridley, it’s good enough for Benny D.

I am sorry to say I’d never really been in love with this film like most people. Harrison Ford was already Han Solo AND Indiana Jones when I was a kid. There simply wasn’t enough room for him to be a third iconic character in my eyes. This was also far more grown up than the other two series so I’d never really experienced the film until it was released again on DVD for its 25th anniversary in 2007.

I wish I’d watched this film more now. It is a brilliant sci-fi movie and director Ridley Scott really captures the dark and dingy town LA has become. You really feel like the town has become a cesspool because of the great sets, costumes, and cinematography throughout. Blade Runner also holds up really well. Normally a movie from the early 80s would look somewhat dated by now, but this film looks like it could have been released a just few years ago. It’s also worth noting that nearly every company who appear on the advertising billboards in this film are now out of business. Companies like Pan Am, Atari, and Cuisinart all appear in the background and all have either gone out of business or been sold. The only company still going strong is Coca Cola, but just after this film came out they lost nearly half their revenue when they introduced ‘New Coke’. It nearly put Coke out of business. There is a myth that appearing on the billboards of Blade Runner was bad luck, and you can’t really argue with it.

The film revolves around Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who is a blade runner called out of retirement to track down four particularly dangerous replicants. Replicants are human looking robots that are illegal on earth, but used as slaves on other planets. Blade Runners are police officers who specialise in tracking replicants. I really enjoyed the tests they do to find if their subject is a replicant. They perform a variation on the polygraph, a Voight-Kampff test, and use their responses to judge whether or not they have found a replicant. Rick spends the film tracking these four robots down and ‘retiring’ them. He is aided by Rachel (Sean Young), a new version of replicant whose programming is so good that she believes she is human.

The cast here is solid. Ford is charming, like he always is, as blade runner, Rick Deckard. The best part of this cast though was Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, the leader of the replicants. He gives such an intense performance, he owns nearly every scene he’s in. A young Daryl Hannah also appears as the replicant Pris. It was really weird seeing Sean Young in this film. I’d only ever known her from Ace Ventura, so it was a bit disturbing to see Harrison Ford making out with Ray Finkle.

This film is definitely a grown up sci-fi film. The Los Angeles of the future (2019???) is dark and gloomy, you feel dirty just watching this film sometimes. It’s also good to know that we are only 5 years away from robot slaves. I can’t wait. Ridley Scott really has a knack for sci-fi, he has made this and Alien. It is a shame he has not done more within the genre as I feel like he would’ve just kept knocking them out of the park.

Rating: A

One thought on “Blade Runner (1982)

  1. Pingback: Top Ten 2017 | From The Abyss to Zoolander

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s