Directed by Ridley Scott
June 25, 1982
In the future four replicants are on the loose on Earth and one man, a blade runner, must track them down and retire them.
Set in the far-off date of November 2019, this movie is still freaking amazing after so many decades. It is an enduring story with complex characters and sophisticated themes in a multilayered story that is as engaging as the first no matter which version you watch. It is amazing that this movie was a classic from the start even with studio meddling. That is usually the death knell of a film.
I guess it is a sign of old age that more and more movies from my youth set in the future are now in the past. The Running Man, Back to the Future Part 2, and this occur chronologically behind us yet have no real visually similarities to the world as it is. Sigh. Worse yet we do not have flying cars. I call bulls**t on that. I want my spinner now!
I admit I did not see Blade Runner in theaters because my mother would not allow me to go see it even though Han Solo was in it, but I did see the television version and I was wowed. Blade Runner is one of those films that is just as good the 10th or more viewing as it was the first. While the recent sequel was just as visually stunning as this, the film itself was not half as good but then again this is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time and set a standard for its particular aspect of the genre so that lack of equality is understandable. Other films and science-fiction universes have attempted to emulate the aesthetic or general feel of this for good or for bad.
And who better to be at the helm of something game changing than Ridley Scott who three years prior with the creation of Alien began in earnest the era of science-fiction horror. With this film he began a new era in the depiction of the future. This was said by star Rutger Hauer to be his favorite film since it was instantly a classic.
Blade Runner was like a shock to the system. While there had been darker science-fiction films before, this hit like a ton of bricks. This movie largely ended gleaming cities or clean future environments. It added a new option to the filmmaking pallet other than the gleaming cities or the irradiated wastelands. We got a future that was dirty and lived in and not too different in many ways from our own. Society had not collapsed, but we had not becoming better. We just were.
The special effects are some of the best ever done. They look superior to many done today and this was a time before CGI was really possible beyond graphics for movie computers. One thing they used to make this look so good was multipass exposures. In this technique a scene is shot with a computer guided camera. Then the film is rewound and re-exposed with the computer guiding the camera along the same path. New elements might be added in or lighting might be changed on the same thing being filmed. The James Bond film Moonraker used something similar for its space shots. The technique creates beauty, but one mistake will ruin everything and you would need to start all over. God bless the staff for being brave here.
The Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis is legendary. It was a combination of classical and synthesizer and had almost a dream like quality in my opinion. It was unique and dare I say only has been equaled in recent years. I think Hans Zimmer has done the best job of creating unique film music.
Harrison Ford in Deckard created a hardboiled and jaded character straight from any film noir of the past existing in a world of the future. We get very little in the way of backstory for Deckard which caused some to hypothesize that Deckard was a replicant (at least prior to the sequel). In my opinion that is the mark of good filmmaking: the audience is left with something to debate. The answer is not spoon-fed to you. Head canon fills in details or creates new possibilities that you debate with friends but does not harm your enjoyment.
Sean Young first hit my radar with this movie as the replicant assistant to Tyrell Corporation head Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) named Rachael. Sean Young did a fantastic job here. Rachael comes off as emotionally limited if not a bit cold. She is not a fully formed individual as one normally finds “fake” people.
The real surprise though was Rutger Hauer as replicant leader Roy Batty. I believe this was his first American film and what an entrance! Batty was everything you would want in a bad guy. Crazy and charming and thoroughly dangerous. He was perhaps the perfect choice for the part. And it still amazes me to this day that his tears in rain speech was all improvised. Apparently what they had wanted to use just wasn’t working or whatever and he did this off the top of his head. Absolutely stunning. It was a monologue that was one of many elements that helped to put the film on the map.
Daryl Hannah as the replicant Pris was just as threatening as Roy Batty. Being a basic pleasure model you got to wonder if the character had snapped because while a thinking being her purpose was to be used for the sexual enjoyment of others. She had no choice. Her role was to be essentially raped. Something about her from the first scene made me uncomfortable. I just got the feeling her character would put a knife in my chest and not think twice about it. It would not even be in order to reach her goal. It would just be because she felt like it.
Just about every movie that I see and like I want a sequel. I want them to continue the story and show me more in whatever film universe I was just watching but I also know that not every film should get a sequel so as much as I wanted one for this, I understood it was best as it is. This was a standalone film that left you thinking. Things were debated after people saw the film. The biggest being whether or not Deckard was a replicant himself and didn’t know it. Sequels tend to answer questions left hanging even if there is no real need. The sequel did sadly. But we are not here to talk about that film right now.
I wish Ridley Scott had done more genre work. Aside from the Alien film and those newer ones, he only ventured into one new universe with the Tom Cruise vehicle Legend. And that movie is amazing.
Blade Runner is a fantastic film. It is a thing of beauty that is also a mind-blowing story. Watch it!