Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blade Runner (1982)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express.

I know Blade Runner is like a main science-fiction movie of all time, but when I saw it in high school I was underwhelmed, to the extent that I didn't watch it again for years during which time very little of it stuck in my mind. This was a period when I was really getting into dystopian film, and so I had very high expectations that it totally didn't meet. Now doubting my own opinion of it, I knew I needed to give it another try in my better-informed adulthood. Based on a Philip K Dick book, Blade Runner is set in a futuristic universe in which super-advanced humanistic robots known as "replicants" are used for outsourced labor but aren't allowed on Earth. When four of these androids escape to a giant Earth metropolis it's up to Rick Deckard, a so-called "blade runner", to track them down and terminate them.

Working with multiple storylines and ambitious in both its moralistic and visual scope, Blade Runner aims to be the definitive sci-fi noir. The dark urban imagery is punctuated with neon lights and flickering video advertisements, while cops fly around in hovercraft and people of East Asian descent traipse along the debris-laden streets. The buildings are decrepit but beautiful, and there never seems to be much sunlight. It's a future where apparently only technology has advanced, where people continue living their own shitty lives but with new ethical quandaries to ponder. The possibility of artificial intelligence breeding a new lifeform, of the validity of an android's claims to personhood, of the responsibilities humans have as we advance beyond our own means, are all interesting and loaded areas of exploration here.

Unfortunately none of them are really explored in depth. The weak story and god-awful pacing make Blade Runner somewhat difficult to slog through at times, and good ideas are presented but never followed through. I think the most interesting character is actually Rachael (Sean Young), a replicant who thinks she's human. But she is relegated to a weird romantic subplot and all but forgotten while Harrison Ford runs around trying to stop robot crimes or whatever. Yes, the imagery is gorgeous and influential, and yes, Daryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer are memorable as the main escaped replicants, and YES, Harrison Ford is a babe, but honestly, I'm just not in love with this movie. I watched the newest version, which I believe is the closest to what Scott had originally intended before the studio added the voiceover and happy ending and all that, so I feel like I've seen it at its best. And still thought it was just ok.

It's inexplicably slow-moving, and doesn't use much of its extra time to develop the characters or subplots. It is layered in narrative hints and questions, and I know upon future viewings I would find new revelations, but I don't have all that much interest in watching it a third time, at least not in the near future. Because it's so goddamn slow. Seriously. I like the premise though so I hope to read the source novel sometime before I'm 30...


Pair This Movie With: The visuals and atmosphere remind me of my favorite dystopian film, Brazil, while the lack of sunlight and noir-ish attributes are reminiscent of Dark City.


  1. I view this as a detective film, with the noir-ish photogs and melancholy tunes. There's only one guy wearing a hat, too - a dead-giveaway that it's not 1948 LA.

  2. I just watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner for the first time last week. I'd seen other cuts of this movie a few times years ago, and I think I had a similar reaction as you. Watching it again now, I liked it more because of the gorgeous sets and the themes around "what makes us human?". I liked it a bit more than you (probably 4/5 if I was rating it), but I agree that it does have pacing issues. It moves very slowly, and the characters beyond Batty and Pris aren't that exciting. I do think that part of it is by design, especially if you take the though that Deckard is also a replicant. Still, it doesn't always make for a fascinating viewing.

  3. Yes, it is slow, but the visuals are better than anything Ridley Scott has done before or since, no?

  4. You're completely wrong on this. Blade Runner may be slow at times, but it is pure cinema, pure visual storytelling, and truly great Science Fiction (see also: Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sunshine, Alien, Seconds).

    Intelligence and Wonder are all at present in all of these films.

  5. Chuck: Yeah I definitely think it's meant to be noir-ish, but it loses its mystery about halfway through.

    Dan: I think those themes are really interesting, but they aren't fully explored in the film, it gets too meandering. I do think the possibility of Deckard being a replicant is really cool and puts the whole movie into a different perspective, but I still find it lacking because that realization is never given time to sink in, and the repercussions are ambiguous.

    Alexa: Yes the visuals are wonderful! I haven't seen all of Scott's films so I can't comment on if they're better than everything, but I'm willing to believe it.

    Kurt: Ok I'm pretty sure that it's impossible for me to be wrong in my opinion, since that's kind of how opinion works. Also I like SOLARIS, 2001, and ALIEN quite a bit (haven't seen the others you listed) so I'm not at all against slow sci-fi with "pure visual storytelling". I just don't think BLADE RUNNER is super great, that's all. I fully recognize that upon more viewings I might come to appreciate it more, but at the moment these are my feelings.