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Blade Runner (1982)

June 9, 2010

VERDICT:
8/10 Paranoid Androids

Took me a while, but I finally get it.

Blade Runner is about a future cop who’s tasked with hunting down a group of renegade “replicants” who think, look and act just like humans after they hijacked an off-world military transport and made their way to Earth to find the guy who created them in the hopes that he might be able to increase their four-year life spans.

So, up until recently, I was never really on board with this movie and the pedestal it’s been placed upon by so many folks over the past 28 years. First time I saw it, I was in High School, watched it over the course of a week for a Film Studies class, didn’t get the hype, but then again, my teacher sucked. Second time was in college, started it up at 1 in the morning, fell asleep by the time Sean Young showed up. Third time was a couple years ago, tried to watch it while exercising on my stepdad’s treadmill, got bored, wasn’t exactly pumping me up, turned it off by the time Sean Young showed up.

But I don’t give up that easy, I knew this was a movie that was right up my alley, a movie that I definitely should have liked and deserved a fourth try despite my past experiences. So I woke up bright and early yesterday morning, found I had some time to kill before work, gave it one last shot, and for some reason everything clicked.

The trick with Blade Runner is that you need to know two things going in: a whole lot of people think it’s the bomb and that the pacing is effing horrendous if you’re not in the right frame of mind. That right there was the foolproof formula that kept me coming back and helped me to finally appreciate it for what it is rather than what I kept expecting it to be. And to everyone who’s in the same boat I was, cross your fingers and follow suit.

Because Blade Runner is the bomb in many ways, even if some them aren’t immediately apparent.

One of the biggest things it has going for it is its story. It’s based off the short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (the dude who also inspired Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and a couple other adaptations that kinda sucked even though his stuff was where it’s at) and, in a nutshell, it’s freakin’ brilliant. Not only does it serve as a fascinating insight into the qualities that define us “human”, but the premise is a stroke of genius and it’s totally original in the way it blends science fiction with film noir. Point is, Phil was the man and this was a huge selling point. That guy was a trendsetter alright.

What’s too bad though is that the dialogue here isn’t nearly up to snuff with the story driving it. There are some great characters, but it’s unfortunate that the coolest line of the whole movie is, “Wake up, time to die!” and the rest of it feels like it’s just there to move the plot along. Thank god there’s so much stuff to look at because there ain’t a whole lot to hear most of the time.

And the other bummer is that Harrison Ford was totally miscast as the blade runner himself, Rick Deckard (good name though). Hopefully I’m not treading on sacred ground here, ’cause I’m not gonna be the guy to start taking on Han and Indy fandboys, but he really doesn’t bring that trademark…slickness to the table like he usually does. It’s also a bit strange that he’s a great detective but seemed to skip every combat class at The Blade Runner Academy because if he didn’t have his future gun on hand, this movie would have been over in a fuckin’ flash. Oh he looks the part, he just didn’t make Deckard seem very cool or interesting and it also looks like he’s a horrible kisser who has no idea what the hell to say or do to get a girl in the sack. No idea what Sean Young saw in the guy.

But luckily there’s Rutger Hauer – a man who desperately needs to make a comeback – as the chief “skin job” on Deckard’s hit list, Roy Batty. It’s a shame that his best stuff came out in the ’80s, ’cause Hauer was a certified lunatic and that comes across in spades here. Still have no idea how he managed to tame a wild pigeon at the end of the movie, but whatever, he’s the most memorable character of the bunch and for good reason.

Oh, and Sean Young‘s in it, and she’s fine. Pretty sure it was a law in the ’80s that Sean Young be casted for every role in every movie. Definitely sure actually.

But the real star of this movie is director Ridley Scott and the outrageously convincing futuristic world he creates. The city itself is as much a part of the movie as the cast and the script, it’s insanely intricate and detailed and it is really something else to take in. It’s like someone commissioned the architects who put together the Nostromo, threw some neon lights and a crap ton of metal tubes their way and told them to build a city with exploding smokestacks, and they deliver, and it is awesome. And if you make sure to keeping on soaking up the setting, it makes the pacing feel a whole lot smoother in turn. Another good Blade Runner survival tip.

For some, Blade Runner might be a home run on the first viewing, but if you wind up counting those electric sheep, trust me, don’t write it off. It’s amazing how fresh the visuals still are and how outstanding the story still is, and for all its minor faults, I am very much on the bandwagon now even if it’s not quite on a pedestal just yet. Love that ambiguous ending though.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 12:26 am

    I only started to like this movie after I read the novel, which is far superior to this film. They stripped all the references to religion from the story, which isn’t surprising, but still very frustrating as that was a huge portion of the novel and of Dick’s work overall. As much as I’ve come around to this one, I still think it could have been better. Been meaning to watch it again, maybe this will push me over the edge.

    Also, there’s a lot of subtle references to some of the stuff they cut from the book that I only noticed after I read it. It adds a whole layer of depth that I really enjoyed the last time I watched it.

    • June 9, 2010 7:20 am

      Will definitely check out the book. Never read anything by Dick, been meaning to for a while now.

      • June 9, 2010 9:07 pm

        He’s one of my favorite authors. Killer ideas, but some of his stuff can be a bit dry. Do Andrioids Dream… though is a tour-de-force. It’s one of the only books I read it one sitting.

  2. June 9, 2010 3:25 am

    I have only seen this movie and, for one, I don’t think Harrison Ford was miscast at all. I have to watch it a few times though to make a more informed judgement because ther are alot of things going on in this movie – not to mention the incredible detail in the ‘world’ of blade runner Ridley Scott created.

    Simon
    http://www.screeninsight.com

    • June 9, 2010 1:17 pm

      I agree, Simon — two things to keep in mind:

      1. A great detective does not have to be a great warrior, just a great snoop (which he is), and …..

      SPOILER

      2. Deckard is a Replicant programmed to hunt other Replicants! (implants!) This is why he’s awkward. (“Have you ever taken that test yourself?”)

      Now, here’s the crux Aiden—did you watch the theatrical release (voice over) or the director’s cut (no VO). Ford was fully against the studio’s insistance to add a voice over, and so he mailed it in during recordings (he’s said this publicly). The version without a VO is less noir, more sci fi, and DEckard’s Replicantness is more apparent.

      • June 9, 2010 1:22 pm

        Yeah, had a feeling he was a replicant hunting replicants, the line about him taking the test is the giveaway. And I’ve caught some of the VO version on TV, but this last viewing was NO VO. Definitely like that more, not a huge fan of voiceovers to begin with. Don’t they drive off into the sunset at the end in the theatrical version too? Lame.

        Still not sold on Ford though, feel like I need to watch it again down the line.

  3. June 9, 2010 3:37 am

    Not that I’m a huge fan of Harrison Ford or anything but I don’t think his character really called for any slickness. He’s just a washed up, exhausted dude who killed one too many androids like they meant nothing. Not sure if your into reading screenplays but the script for Blade Runner is amazing (and gives better insight into Deckard’s personality). If your interested you can find it at:

    http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/blade-runner_shooting.html

    • June 9, 2010 1:32 pm

      Yeah, maybe “slickness” wasn’t the right word. “Weathered” or “haggard” is probably closer, but he just didn’t stick out for me is all. Didn’t have that attention-grabbing presence that’s usually his m.o.

  4. Darren permalink
    June 9, 2010 3:49 am

    I think this is perhaps Ford’s best role, because it’s one that let him play against type. It took me a while to warm up. I caught it a few years ago and was just left wondering what the hype was about – took a few viewings to figure it out.

    Which version did you watch (or is this a review of all)? Because the Final Cut is pretty beautiful.

    • June 9, 2010 7:19 am

      Yeah, I watched the Final Cut. I’ve seen the original theatrical one in pieces and I definitely liked this one more from what I know is different. Glad they got away with Ford’s narration.

      Still not crazy about the guy here, but I’m thinking I’ll come around some day.

  5. Ryan permalink
    June 9, 2010 9:10 am

    I watched this about a year ago for the first time, and while I can see why so many people think this is the coolest movie ever, I just don’t think it holds up well over time. I’m sure it was the greatest display of sci-fi and special effects at the time, but it just looks crappy now, and the story and script seem kind of cheesy to me.

  6. June 9, 2010 9:15 am

    One of those classics that I never saw in its entirety yet. I really need to sit down and watch this. Excellent review Aiden!

  7. June 9, 2010 9:43 am

    I love that Roy Batty and Deckard could easily switch roles between the protagonist and antagonist without blinking. The ambiguity of the story and the characters keeps me completely enamored and make me want to watch it over and over again, because I get something new each time I watch it. And visually, even now, the claustrophobia of Deckards and Batty’s world is so tangible through the screen.

    Ridley Scott has made numerous films I would add into best movies of all time, and Blade Runner belongs there. Only point I disagree on is your rating. It should be 10/10 for me, but then I am the Sci-Fi girl.

  8. June 9, 2010 11:09 am

    I’ve only seen it once…a few months back because of all the praise its got. Didn’t expect to like it. Futuristic movies are not my thing…and I don’t really get Film Noir…still very new to it. But I think I get it and rather like it. I think the movie has age quite well with the special effects and the general look of the movie that just gives an air of coldness. The idea that these androids were made to look, think and act like humans. And yet the makers neglect to realise that they might feel and want to be human too.

  9. June 9, 2010 12:12 pm

    Yeah, maybe I need to pull an Aiden and watch this a few more times, ’cause I’ve only seen it once and didn’t really feel it.

  10. June 9, 2010 12:21 pm

    One of my favorite films. Yes, this film is a mess, but for some reason that makes me love it even more. It’s so bizarre, surreal and nonsensical that I can’t help but love and enjoy it every time I watch it.

    I think Harrison Ford is supposed to be this way. Awkward, off and not all that effective at killing the replicants.

  11. June 9, 2010 2:26 pm

    Haven’t seen the Director’s Cut, that may be why I haven’t clicked with the film yet.

  12. June 9, 2010 6:34 pm

    One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this film is Ridley Scott’s grimy, neon lit world and its clunky technology. His eye for detail is sometimes overlooked – the work he did with H.R. Giger on Alien is second to none and he’s continued to be a perfectionist in his later films (Gladiator, for example).

    Great review Aiden – Blade Runner is a film I’ve appreciated without ever loving it. That said, it’s a worthy contender for any Best Sci-fi list due to the aforementioned attention to detail, it’s unique take on the future, and the fact it has aged very well. It’s also a very good story.

  13. June 11, 2010 5:45 pm

    I guess I need to see this one more time… it has everything I would want in a movie but I remember not loving it! The novel it was based on though… best title ever!

  14. June 13, 2010 11:10 am

    Blade Runner was a Sci-fi that really went against the grain. It is clearly a work of fiction and may only be believable in a half imagined future, light years from now, characteristic of the genre, but where it differs from its peers, is the considered way in which it ponders some profound and commonly held questions about self and other, similar but unique to every human experience.
    What does it mean to be human? In this case, ‘What seperates humans from replicants?’ We look the same, sound the same, act the same way. Blade Runner to me points to the significance of the human relationship, our ability to empathise with others, to show compassion and charity. How we treat and are treated by others influences how we see the world around us and informs our attitude to our circumstances and the people we meet.
    Blade Runner presents this idea in a fresh context.

    • June 15, 2010 11:59 am

      Damn dude, write a review already! You got some stuff to say!

  15. June 13, 2010 11:35 am

    This was on our most overrated list a little while back. Maybe it will take a second, third or fourth viewing for me to appreciate. Unfortunately I am not going to be as dedicated to give it that, lol. Kudos to you sir for not giving up!

    I agree, the pacing is horrendous. It might be one of the most unwatchable movies, however be very important like you say.

    • June 15, 2010 12:00 pm

      Yeah, it took some getting used to and I won’t argue it holding a spot on your overrated list, but after a while, it was pretty boss.

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