MAN HAS MADE HIS MATCH… NOW IT’S HIS PROBLEM.
When I first saw this classic science fiction flick, I was thoroughly unimpressed. It looked great, but the story and action were so forgettable that I refused to put in the same category as films like The Terminator (1984) and 2001 (1968). As a sign of its troubled production, Blade Runner has been released in several different versions and ever since its premiere people have been trying to put together a cut everybody could agree on as the most definitive. In 1993, a director’s cut was released but Ridley Scott had little to do with it; the version I’ve watched prior to this review is the 2007 “final cut” where Scott did have complete control. It is the best of the bunch, but there is still one problem – in spite of the changes, Blade Runner remains a stolid experience.
Los Angeles, 2019. Retired police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) returns to his old job as a “blade runner”, hunting down and destroying replicants on Earth. They are biologically engineered machines, robots that look and feel exactly like humans, used as slave labor on distant planets. Sometimes they manage to escape to Earth, and this is why Deckard is reinstated – his assignment is to find and retire four specific replicants. The reason why they are in Los Angeles is because their creator, Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), lives there and they consider him the key to extending the four-year life span that every replicant has. As Deckard starts chasing his targets, their artificial lives are running out…
Little emotional investment in the story
It’s when you behold the slick surface of the movie that you begin to view this as a potential masterpiece. Take those shots as the camera glides over a futuristic L.A. by night – the burning oil towers shooting out flames, the flying cars zooming quietly between towering skyscrapers, the huge Coke ad… Never mind that the film gets the future wrong on many counts (there’s nothing here as clever as the internet or cell phones), but those dark, neo-noir visions of what a rainy city could look like a few decades from now still trigger one’s imagination. Vangelis’s eclectic music score, most memorable in its electronic arrangements, has a dream-like quality that fits perfectly with the scenario and themes of humanity. The story asks questions about what it means to be human and the inherent cruelty of creating something that looks, feels and thinks like a human but is still only given a life that ends after four years. Part of the film’s attraction is the matter of Deckard’s own character – is he a human in search of real emotions, or a replicant in disguise? Still, even though some of the original film’s flaws have been removed in this “final cut” (such as the Sam Spade-like narration and the tacked-on happy ending), there is very little emotional investment in the story and the characters, rendering the action a bit dull.
Some people love this movie, including the director who told Wired Magazine that Blade Runner is his most complete and personal film. I hate to say it, but maybe I prefer Scott at his most impersonal.
Blade Runner 1982-U.S. 118 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay: Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples. Novel: Philip K. Dick (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”). Cinematography: Jordan Cronenweth. Music: Vangelis. Production Design: Lawrence G. Paull. Visual Effects: Syd Mead, Douglas Trumbull, and others. Costume Design: Michael Kaplan, Charles Knode. Cast: Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty), Sean Young (Rachael), Edward James Olmos, William Sanderson, Daryl Hannah… Joanna Cassidy.
Trivia: Dustin Hoffman was allegedly considered for the part of Deckard. Followed by Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
BAFTA: Best Cinematography, Production Design/Art Direction, Costume Design.