Face-Off: Blade Runner vs. The Terminator

In our previous Face-Off, we looked at Bryan Singer's SUPERMAN RETURNS vs. Zack Snyder's MAN OF STEEL. While most of you agreed with my MAN OF STEEL verdict, I was glad to see many of you also agree it's far from being a great film. I was also pleased to see how many of you defended SUPERMAN RETURNS, as I don't think it deserves nearly the amount of disdain it's received over the years.

This week, we're looking at two dark sci-films from the early 1980's. We're all terrified by the recent INDIANA JONES 5 announcement, though I'm sure most of us can't help but fantasize about the possibility of the fifth installment wiping away the sins of CRYSTAL SKULL. Adding to INDY 5 and THE FORCE AWAKENS, Harrison Ford will be reprising yet another classic role in the Ridley Scott-produced Denis Villeneuve-directed BLADE RUNNER sequel, so I thought it might be fun to see how BLADE RUNNER measures up against THE TERMINATOR. While they came out two years apart and are thematically very similar, the two films have had vastly different journeys over the past three decades.

NOTE: I'll be using the Final Cut of BLADE RUNNER, as it's the only version over which Ridley Scott had full creative control.
Los Angeles, 2019. Four rogue replicants- highly evolved robots- plan to infiltrate the Tyrell Corporation in an attempt to extend their short lifespans, leaving a trail of blood in their wake. Blade Runner Rick Deckard is called out of retirement to hunt down and assassinate them.
Los Angeles, 2029. Skynet sends a Terminator to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, whose unborn son John leads the resistance against the machines in the future. In response, John Connor sends soldier Kyle Reese into the past to protect his mother.
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard
Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty
Sean Young as Rachael
Edward James Olmos as Gaff
M. Emmet Walsh as Bryant
Daryl Hannah as Pris
William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian
Brion James as Leon Kowalski
Joe Turkel as Dr. Eldon Tyrell
Joanna Cassidy as Zhora
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator
Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Paul Winfield as Lieutenant Ed Traxler
Lance Henriksen as Detective Hal Vukovich
Rick Rossovich as Matt Buchanan
Bess Motta as Ginger Ventura
Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman
Roy Batty and his fellow replicants are fascinating subjects. Speaking in poetry, awash with emotion, dangerous, and self-aware, with Batty's William Blake quote suggesting a metaphorical connection between Roy's replicants and Lucifer's fallen angels. Moreover, the fact that the replicants' primary goal is simply to live and enjoy life longer makes them sympathetic to a point.
Ever learning and unstoppable, the T-800 would become the singular icon of the TERMINATOR series. It's very hard to separate this Terminator from what it would become in T2 and beyond, though. While Arnold and his metal endoskeleton are way more badass than the squishy replicants, I'm calling this a tie due to the psychological complexity of the latter.
Aside from the slow pace and abrupt editing, Ridley Scott directs a stunningly beautiful film. Part rainy film noir, part dystopian used future, BLADE RUNNER stands tall as a unique, memorable, and instantly recognizable film.
While James Cameron is also a master filmmaker, THE TERMINATOR feels slow and dated by today's standards. Especially with what Cameron did with T2, the first film feels more like a first step, albeit an extremely admirable one.
"Let me tell you about my mother."

"Have you ever retired a human by mistake?"

"Time... enough."

"Fiery the angels fell; deep thunder rolled around their shores; burning with the fires of Orc."

"Implants. Those aren't your memories, they're somebody else's. They're Tyrell's niece's. Okay, bad joke... I made a bad joke. You're not a replicant. Go home, okay? No, really. I'm sorry, go home. You want a drink? I'll get you a drink."

"Wake up; time to die!"

"Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave."

"You know that Voigt-Kampff test of yours? Did you ever take that test yourself?"

"It's not an easy thing to meet your maker."

"I want more life, father."

"The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy."

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain. Time to die."

"It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"
"Come with me if you want to live."

"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

"I'll be back."

"There was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherf*ckers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor. John Connor. Your son, Sarah... your unborn son."

"John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn't know why at the time. It was very old - torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve... I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you. I always have."

"You're terminated, f*cker."

"Should I tell you about your father? Boy, that's a tough one. Will it affect your decision to send him here, knowing that he is your father? If you don't send Kyle, you can never be. God, a person could go crazy thinking about this. I suppose I will tell you. I owe him that. Maybe it'll help if you know that, in the few hours we had together, we loved a lifetime's worth."

This is another tough one. While THE TERMINATOR spawned some very memorable quotes for the franchise, BLADE RUNNER has a more consistently high caliber, affecting, and impassioned screenplay throughout.
Ridley Scott has been considering a BLADE RUNNER sequel for ten years or more, so it's exciting to see it finally getting off the ground. Otherwise, the film spawned the spiritual successor SOLDIER, one video game, a series of books (written as sequels to the original Philip K. Dick novel and the film), and little else. None of these endeavors made much impact on the cultural landscape and therefore don't add much to the BLADE RUNNER brand.
To date, THE TERMINATOR has inspired four sequels, a TV series, several video games, a ton of books, and plenty of other media. While the quality of said projects has been all over the place, there's no question this film (with the help of its incredible sequel) has significantly changed the face of science fiction.
IMDB: 8.2 (Top 250: #139)
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (Audience Score: 91%)
Metacritic: 88 (User Score: 8.9)
Domestic Total Gross: $27,580,111
IMDB: 8.1 (Top 250: #214)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (Audience Score: 88%)
Metacritic: 83 (User Score: 7.3)
Domestic Total Gross: $38,371,200

I think I have to call this a tie, since the averages are all so close, but damn that 100% is sexy.
While Vangelis' score is certainly one of the more dated aspects of BLADE RUNNER, it fits the mood of the film so well, transitioning from film noir saxophone to space age synthesizers and rarely calling too much attention to itself.
Brad Fiedel's score introduces the iconic metallic staccato of the TERMINATOR series, but otherwise it feels intrusive and distracting and is a huge part of why the film feels so dated today.
This is another close match up that largely comes down to preference. THE TERMINATOR spawned a massive franchise, but by that same token, it's impressive how strongly BLADE RUNNER has stood on its own. If it were a one-off film, I think we'd look back at THE TERMINATOR with a little less admiration than we do today, while BLADE RUNNER remains a singular classic. Either way, here's hoping Ridley Scott and company don't PROMETHEUS up the new BLADE RUNNER film and instead make it the T2 of the franchise.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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