Blade Runner – Daily Movie Review (04.01.2013)
Review of Blade Runner (1982) by director Ridley Scott
It’s Los Angeles in the year 2019. Pollution has transformed the big cities into places soaked with rain and plagued with darkness. Animals are almost extinct. Mankind is reaching out to the stars and building colonies on other planets. This is only possible cause man created the replicants. Replicants are artificial humans that look just like us. They are manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation. To prevent the replicants from becoming more than servants, they are build to live just four years. When a replicant goes rogue blade runners take care of the threat. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is such a blade runner. And as some replicants rebel and come to earth Deckard must hunt each and every one of them. Yet, soon this becomes more than a mere hunt for Deckard as the question arises: Do androids dream of electric sheep?
Blade Runner was voted the best science fiction film of all time by renowned scientists in 2004. Though it was a box-office bomb when it came out, it was also one of the first movies ever to gain a cult following on home video. This went so far that Ridley Scott was allowed to create a director’s cut in 1992. The director’s cut elminates all voice overs the studio forced Scott to include in the theatrical edition. At first the studio demanded this narration, much to the dismay of actor Harrison Ford, to make the movie easier to understand. The theatrical cut also has an out of place happy ending. The director’s cut leaves the end open. This also sparked much debate about whether the main protagonist Deckard might be a replicant himself. This is a debate which continues until today. In this regard the movie is very different from the original novel by Philip K. Dick. Dick made it very clear that Deckard doubts his humanity at some point, but at last he is a human. The book is even darker and more philosophical than the movie. It contains a whole new subplot about a digital, esoteric cult as well.
While I think Dick’s novel is even better than Scott’s movie, it is hard not to appreciate Blade Runner as one of the best science fiction films ever made. It was ahead of it’s time and maybe still is. Blade Runner inspired filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and continues to be appreciated by new generations. This is a film that heavily relies on it’s visual atmosphere, but still has a lot of substance. The pacing is extremely slow. In Blade Runner not action, but atmosphere is king. Like the novel, the movie raises many important questions. What really makes a human a human? What allows us to judge others? Can you change or even control your own destiny when others try to predetermine it? The fantastic thing is that Blade Runner never forces answers on you. No, this is a movie that wants you to make up your own mind. It is a rare quality. Most movies tend to be black or white but Blade Runner shows us many shades of grey. For example neither is Deckard a classic hero nor is the main villain Roy really evil. Mainly he wants what everyone else wants: a life. It’s the desperation that makes him go insane.
In my opinion Ridley Scott has lost his touch nowadays. He makes good but pretentious movies like Prometheus about whose shortcomings I already talked in great detail. He plans to make a sequel to Blade Runner which makes me a bit worried. Even if it might become a good movie, it probably will not capture the spirit of the original. Blade Runner is a movie with a fantastic atmosphere. It is a story with style AND substance. The ambient soundtrack by Vangelis is also worth mentioning. Like the movie it was ahead of it’s time. Even when you listen to it today, it feels timeless.
Blade Runner is available on Blu-ray in many editions. The picture was sourced from a new 4K master. This really shows as the picture is extremely detailed and razor sharp for a movie that is over 30 years old. The audio track deserves five stars as well. For collectors the Blu-ray is worth buying, since it collects five (!) different cuts of the movie. There is the theatrical, the international, the director’s cut the final cut and even an early workprint. Although I regard the final cut as the best edition the theatrical cut and the workprint are worth checking out, too.
Blade Runner is a movie that is hard to review, because it is such a highly regarded classic. This is rightfully so! It is one of the best science fiction movies ever in my opinion. Although it sometimes is very different from the book it captures the spirit of Philip K. Dick’s story. If you have not ever seen it, this should be very high on your list.
My Score 10 / 10