What more is there to say about Blade Runner that hasn’t already been covered in the past three decades?
The first thing I’ll point out is, it requires deep thinking to understand and appreciate. It’s philosophical and thematic. So, its quality will be lost on those who draw a blank at anything a bit “out there”. That’s why it didn’t do well at the box office when it hit cinemas back in 1982. It struggled to find the right audience. Now, it’s considered a sci-fi classic, oozing the types of unanswered questions that have likely kept die-hard fans up at night.
Seven different versions of the film exist. The director’s cut is usually the recommended one to see, as it removes the “happy ending” and voiceover, both of which are in the theatrical release. The director’s cut is the one I saw, but whatever version you watch, you’ll likely have the same overall opinion. In any case, you’ll be pulled into Blade Runner‘s world as soon as you hear the eerie synth sounds in the opening scenes. We’re in a dystopian, futuristic LA with a neo-noir detective story at the heart of the film.
Ford’s character Rick Deckard is a former “blade runner” whose job was to hunt down humanoid robots, called replicants. Four are on Earth illegally, having escaped from an off-world colony. So Deckard is thrown back into action when he accepts one last job to find and kill the replicants. As he tracks down the escapees, the city becomes a character in itself and we see that LA has turned into a degenerate nightmare.
The air is polluted, the streets are riddled with poverty and there’s no sense of authority. Ridley Scott’s set/costume design and visual effects are brilliant, still holding up, even in the face of today’s CGI filled blockbusters.
Blade Runner is effortlessly cool. We can talk forever about the themes and allegories explored, but we can’t ignore how stylish this film is. It has the kind of visual atmosphere that’s intriguing to the eye. It’s like a cinematic drug and the style is imprinted in many other sci-films. For example, you can see Blade Runner’s visual, neo-noir influence in The Matrix, which is also about man/machines and what it means to be human.
So for a film about androids, Blade Runner is a distinctly human story. The replicants have been totally constructed by someone else, which calls to question the nature of identity in the first place. Here’s a quote from Oscar Wild, which is similar to the point Blade Runner is trying to make:
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
It’s depressing but I love this quote and Blade Runner very much alludes to it. But deep ponderings aside, it’s the greatness of the story, the stunning imagery and moral questions that keep the film playing on our minds.
An enduring film, directed with an innovative approach. Is the life of a replicant similar to our own? See for yourself, then go watch the sequel!
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples and Phillip K. Dick (based on the novel by)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Run Time: 117 minutes.