The Test of Time: Blade Runner (1982)

We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is whether or not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young

Ridley Scott recently commented that he’s ready to make a sequel to his 1982 flop, Blade Runner, which is still hard to believe. When the project initially was announced a few years ago, it sounded like fanboy speak. A cool idea, but fat damn chance. However, whether we’ve asked for it or not, Scott (and apparently Harrison Ford) both seem willing and ready to make the movie.  Will it ruin the original? Will it end up a CGI whore fest? No one knows.  But in preparation, it’s a dandy time to look back at one of the pentacle science fiction films of the 1980s to see if those humanoid clone androids rust or not. (By the way, for this review it’ll be over Scott’s Director’s Cut/The Final Cut, because unlike George Lucas, Scott only improved the work with tweaks). 

Under the examination: Blade Runner

Ford can scowl with the best of them.

THE STORY: In the future (well…five years from now), humans have created genetically engineered replicants which we use to do all the shitty work that we don’t wanna do off-world. (See, we’ve screwed up Earth so badly that the population who can afford it have moved away from Earth. Those left behind live in a true melting pot with streets packed and sky scrapers empty.) On Earth, replicants are illegal and if one is found they’re hunted down by Blade Runners, which is what Rick Deckard does for paycheck. Anyway, a group of replicant rebels escape and return to earth to stir up all kinds of trouble by seeking those who created them. It’s up to Deckard to stop them.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Blade Runner is one of those films that it feels like we’re all been bred to love. If you ever showed any interest in cinema, someone somewhere along the line said, “You have GOT to see Blade Runner!” It’s always felt like the kind of movie that even if someone didn’t love it, they would have a hard time bashing it. It has that kind of respect. 

All bad guys should wear compression shorts. 

In case you don’t know the story, Blade Runner flopped at the box office despite Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott coming off very, very hot films (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Alien). It’s not surprisingly really. It’s one hell of a dark movie without a lot of hope or humor. It’s a story about the examination of the human spirit in the bleakest kind of way.

What I’ve always dug about Blade Runner is the obvious: Ridley Scott’s style. The futuristic noir approach truly felt, and still feels, futuristic. It’s all so dark, with everything coated with a light shade of blue. Lights pierce through any window shade or crack in the wall. Even when characters are alone, they never feel that way as the outside world is consistently there, always inferring with whatever they're doing.The opening is also fantastic as we enter into our future. It's truly an amazing visual work, more so knowing it's created with models and camera tricks.

It’s a great thing that Scott only borrowed the look and style of film noir without allowing the clichés to creep in and take over. Sure, we have the lone detective, the femme fatale, the double crosses, the heavy bad dude, but somehow it all feels like a fresh recycle job without going too deep into the genre. Ford’s first appearance works beautifully as he sits down at a shitty Chinese side restaurant and attempts to eat in the rain only to have the cops all up in his ass. Obviously, the technology wasn’t there to do all the fancy shit like touch screens and CGI every inch, but that’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t need it. The flying cars, the living city, the lights. It’s all spectacular looking. 

I also love Ford's approach. He hams it up only a little here and there, but mostly he plays the role straight. I do wish Scott would have hired someone like Harry Dean Stanton to add a little humor, but Ford can carry a movie like few can. To me, this is one of his best performances. He had yet to become a caricature of himself, and he's really becoming a character. 

Ahh...futurisic style. 

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Damn, you’ve really got to be in the mood for Blade Runner because it is really, really damn slow. Holy cow. In many parts it's perfectly safe to say it's just boring. Now I haven't watched it in quite some time and somehow I remembered the action quotient being much higher. I was dead wrong. Maybe it’s that poster with him holding a gun that did it, but it’s not a quick film. Take the scene where Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young) try to get it on in his apartment. I know it’s supposed to represent their uneasiness with each other to build tension and desire, but holy shit it drags. It’s so long with that 1982 saxophone playing softly in the background that it gets a little stupid. With all the different versions of out there...trim it already.

Actually, Blade Runner reminds me of a cyber-punk version of Chinatown. It’s slow, it’s dull at times. It’s never in a rush, which isn’t a bad thing, but it could have had more of a sense of urgency to keep things moving along. The Chinatown reminder goes with the story, too. I’ve seen Blade Runner several times but somehow the story never really made sense until I really paid attention this time. Even then, some things didn't add up until a read a summary of the thing afterward. Maybe it's my own ADD issues, but much like Chinatown, it's not an easy story to follow (though I rank Polanski's classic in my top five favorites).

THE VERDICT: I like Blade Runner. I really do, but the pacing is so…s…l…o...w that it’s a difficult thing to view. From an intellectual and a film appreciation standpoint, it remains a beautiful masterpiece that truly is unique. From an average movie fan’s point of view, the thing looks good but it ain't an easy sit down. It’s a little like watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know it’s an important work, but not the type of flick that you wanna pop in to enjoy with a couple beers on a Saturday night with friends. It would last about 10 minutes before someone would say, "Next."



Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford: Two fun looking dudes. 



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