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Old 08-16-2009, 12:43 AM
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" is a film that I have returned to every couple of years because of its amazing reputation. Not only that however, it is a film that has a strange pull about it. It's futuristic film noir put into science fiction, which is in itself, a fascinating combination. I have come back to it twice now, despite having not liked it enough to warrant a recommendation from those first two viewings.

The first time I saw it (I can't quite recall whether this was the director's cut or the original version, but it was before the recent "Final Cut") was several years ago, based on its reputation alone. However, I was left disappointed after this first viewing, having found the story very bland and very slowly paced. With the release of "The Final Cut" a few years later, I decided to give it another shot, having gotten older and wiser, at least I had hoped. After this viewing, I still found the story a bit too slowly paced for my tastes, but I had a new found appreciation for the film and the discussions the movie cause amongst people (more on this later).

There I go, typing away like it’s storytime and I haven't even given a summary of the movie, but it hardly seems necessary as this film has become a favorite amongst science fiction aficionados. But, for those who haven't gotten around to seeing it yet, I'll be brief. Set in Los Angeles in 2019, we follow Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a "blade runner" whose job is to hunt down "replicants," or artificial human beings, which are illegal on Earth after a group of theme revolted off-world. Deckard is given the job of hunting down four replicants that have made their way to Earth. Included in this group are Roy (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), and Leon (Brion James). This is not exactly an easy job as "replicants" are known to be "more human than human." While Deckard searches for them, the replicants have their own plan.....to meet their maker.

All of this brings me to today, and my third viewing of the film (“The Final Cut” again, I believe). On this viewing, I was completely absorbed by the beautiful production design and the special effects of Douglas Trumbull (who had also worked on "2001"). The world that is created in this film is as dark as any film noir from the 30s or 40s, except that there is much more of a claustrophobic feeling as we follow Deckard around futuristic Los Angeles.

The city is horribly overcrowded and has buildings that are around 100 stories tall, at least, all around. Every few minutes, we see a floating blimp that advertises the off-world colonies and has the gigantic face of an Oriental woman. Elsewhere in the film, we see a giant billboard that Deckard passes buy in a floating car, advertising Coca-Cola in bright lights. It's always dark and always seems to be raining every time the characters are outside.

This is the world that Scott and his team made for this unforgettable film, but my main point in describing this world is that it is what makes this movie unforgettable. On this third viewing, the story was still slow in parts, though I have much more of an appreciation for it now and was able to pick up on the multiple noir elements present. In short, I now find it good enough to warrant a recommendation because of the vision created by the filmmakers.

Both the Art Direction-Set Decoration and Visual Effects were nominated for Oscars, but lost to "Gandhi" and "E.T." respectively. I appreciate those two great films as much as the next person, but they don't linger in the memory in these areas nearly as much as "Blade Runner."

Ridley Scott is an amazing director who I would say has been the most influential on science fiction films since Stanley Kubrick and "2001: A Space Odyssey." In a span of merely a few years, Scott directed "Alien" (1979) and "Blade Runner" (1982), both which have had everlasting effects on the genre ever since. I think it would definitely be fair to say that Scott was affected by "2001" as well. "Alien" shows us that science fiction can be just as serious as any other genre and that the unknown can be genuinely frightening. "Blade Runner" is, in part, a study of humanity and what makes us human, much like the monolith aliens studying astronaut Dave Bowman at the end of "2001."

A lot of this has been contextual information, so let's dive back into the film a little more. To return to the discussions that the film initiates, the most common one would have to be whether or not Deckard himself is one of the replicants. The last scene of "The Final Cut" seems to leave no doubt as to the true nature of Deckard, at least in my mind, and I have even heard Ridley Scott admit the same answer. I'm hesitant to give that answer because it could be considered spoilerish despite it not really mattering to the film very much. It's just that everyone should make up their own mind first as there is apparently evidence that supports both sides.

A couple of times in the film, we are shown a test that is supposedly used to determine whether or not someone is a replicant (one thing we are told is that Deckard has never taken this test, which only adds to the mystery). In the opening scene, we see Leon going through the test where the doctor asks him, hypothetically, why he is not helping a tortoise that he had turned over on its back. A few scenes later, we are shown Deckard giving the test to another replicant, Rachael (Sean Young), an eventual love interesting him. The questions are a little more understandable, but it still leaves it to the mind of the viewer to determine how this would distinguish replicant from human.

The replicants themselves are fascinating characters. Their main goal is merely to extend their lifespan, which has been limited to four years because after that, they may begin to establish their own emotions, making them indistinguishable from humans. The need for self-preservation is apparently very strong in the replicants. Perhaps this goes to show how human they are already.

Some parts of the story do drag just a little bit, mainly the romance between Rachael and Deckard, but there is a lot there to make up for it in the story's main plot. The final confrontation couldn't have happened in a better location, a creepy, large house filled with toys and inventions of a geneticist, J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), who works for The Tyrell Corporation, the manufacturers of the replicants. The conclusion of the battle may leave some viewers annoyed, but I feel it only deepens the mystery (Does Roy know something that we don't?).

What we're left with is a science fiction film that has its flaws, but also has a world that you can easily get lost in. It has hints of greatness in it with a mystery that viewers have been picking at for over 25 years. We even begin to question whether anyone in the film is human as this bleak future has left everyone in a sort of half-conscious state. It becomes an interesting reciprocal relationship as we watch the replicants try to become more than they are, while the supposed humans seem to be slowly losing their humanity. We can only hope that the filmmakers were being overly-pessimistic in predicting 2019 for these events. 3/4 stars.
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