Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Hampton Fincher, David Webb Peoples, Philip K Dick (Novel)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson
Blade Runner was originally created as a solo sci-fi acting vehicle for Harrison Ford, post Star Wars. Unfortunately, it flopped at the box office. Even so, the film has become a monument for many and is even responsible for much of the look in modern sci-fi films. In short, even if the plot was a bit dry and hard to swallow, the cinematography and overall look of the film is what keeps it relevant thirty years later. It is regarded as a sci-fi classic. Though, there’s just one problem… I wasn’t exactly crazy about it.
Sure, I did like the look and feel of the film – though admittedly the future painted here felt more like the past, especially with the choice of costume. Nothing that the actors were wearing really felt futuristic, aside from the odd “barely there, because there’s nothing there” hunk of plastic that we see Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) run out of during the confrontation in her dressing room. That felt a little oblong, which is why people are still making costumes from it. Then we have Pris (Daryl Hannah) the basic pleasure model who feels like an android version of Siouxsie, from Siouxsie and The Banshees, heading for more punk or Goth territory, than futurism. Aside from Rick Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) costume being a bit more towards the film noir style, trench coat and all, (he may as well be a Poirot inspired gumshoe) much of the film looks art house, which might be why it may have been perceived so well overtime. This incredibly dark atmosphere (yes, the film is extremely dark) mixed in with odd Chinese sentiments (it seriously looks like half of the film takes place in Chinatown) and later what appears to be a somewhat Burton-esque dollhouse (even though the film was made before Tim Burton became famous, I’m well aware) throws the eye into ten million different directions. Unfortunately, most of the film took place in steely Orwellian landscapes with flashing neon lights to keep us from falling asleep.
Seriously, the film ought to have been titled Blade Walker, because I felt that the pace was just grueling, especially for a first run. Until a few days ago I had never seen the film, so I picked up the director’s cut and found myself fighting to stay awake for more than a full hour and a half. I’ll be honest – I literally fell asleep the first time through. I hadn’t had much sleep that night to begin with, so I chalked it up to that. When I watched the film another time when I had gotten the proper amount of sleep, I still found myself fumbling to stay awake. There were just so many scenes in the film that I felt just added nothing to the plot and were only there as part of the atmosphere of the thing. Central Scrutinizer told me that it was film noir after all, and film noir is usually a slow burn. That’s normally not an issue for me. I’ve watched slower, less entertaining pieces before and managed to stay awake through them, but it could be the dimness of the lighting in the film that cast me off into dreamland. Not that Rutger Hauer’s performance wasn’t noteworthy enough to keep me awake in the later scenes. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that Rutger Hauer put on a far better performance than Harrison Ford. Though let’s be honest, Ford was never really the kind of actor you’d find for deep, meaningful roles. He was more of an action hero type, quite like we’d think of Dwayne Johnson now, though not quite as corny. Rick Deckard and Han Solo weren’t really that different, and one might even go to say that parts of his performance as the character Rick Deckard were nothing more than small glimpses at an after hours Han Solo. This was the “Get off my plane” kind of guy that you didn’t want to mess with, sort of like Clint Eastwood, whom he may have derived some influence. Ford of course, always brought his own tact to that archetype and millions have fallen in love with this tact, which is why his movies are as celebrated as they are. Not forgetting Indiana Jones, of course.
In any case, I found not only the scene where Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) smashed Dr. Eldon Tyrell’s (Joe Turkel) eyes with his fingers to be quite electrifying, but also the iconic scene where the character is standing out in the rain, mourning his own mortality. It is there of course, that he ceases to function – but there’s a real philosophical point in that, one might even say it is proof that we should live life to the fullest. Take it however you wish, but the whole point of Roy and Pris’s characters were their desires to add more life to their rapidly decaying bodies. I did feel that Pris’s death, where she to begins flail around wildly like a dying roach might have been a bit much and even became a bit laughable. It was also a terrible end, to such an interesting character whom I feel was vastly under-developed.
For me, the film didn’t pick up until around the hour and twenty minute mark, where subtle references to the plot started coming together to make a point. The viewer finally began to realize who these characters were, what their goals were and why it mattered so much to them that these goals were met. Though at the same time, I began to criticize the usefulness of a scene in the film where Deckard and Batty have a large brawl right towards the tipping point, in which Deckard is saved from falling from the very building where they’d been battling prior. Blade Runner was hardly meant to be an action film, yet action seemed sandwiched in there towards the end. The audience is also left stunned in that very moment where it is revealed that Deckard’s opponent actually saved him from this fate. Unlike in most action movies, (which this is not) where the threat is neutralized and the day saved; in Blade Runner the villain simply dies of some unforeseen circumstance, making us wonder if the portrayed hero character was really such a hero after all. This might also explain the film’s bizarre ending, where he helps Rachel (Sean Young) a known replicant in an as yet unknown task. This may have been revealed in Blade Runner 2049, though I have not seen that yet.
I felt it only proper to watch these films in order, even though according to the text on the DVD display box, it is not required to see the original to understand the new film. Yes, they literally put that on the DVD display box itself, telling people that they need not bother with this one. I do understand why they might say such a thing, as Blade Runner is dreadfully slow; but if nothing else, the atmosphere, costume design and somewhat coherent plot is enough for at least one viewing. I do not feel that this is one of Ford’s best movies and some might have said years ago that it was actually one of his worst. Though yet again, many have come to appreciate it in the past couple of decades for its unique approach to art and cinematography that still are quite remnant in the world of film today. So not bad for a box office dud.
Blade Runner at IMDB