Blade Runner SPOILER ALERT Spotlight & Review
Director: Ridley Scott.
I managed to catch this on the big screen for the first time back in April 2015 having only watched Ridley Scott's science fiction epic on VHS, TV and then DVD. I'm a proud owner of the 25th Anniversary Editor steel box DVD that was gifted to me by a good friend and fellow Blade Runner fan, this film being one of this all time favourites.
It was, and to some degree, still is a film ahead of it's time, paving the way for many science fiction pieces across the vast spectrum of comics, video games, anime and other films, actually becoming the innovative film that gave us the first truly neo-noir film. But, it wasn't so well received at it's general release back in 1982 compared to today's high regard that's developed over the years, again proving that maybe, this film wasn't quite ready for the audiences of 1982 and like a fine wine, has matured over the years into the cult classic that it is today.
The story is based on a novel written by Philip K. Dick, a seemingly overlooked and prolific science fiction author of our generation who often created a dark, twisted and perverse version of mankind's future. But what Dick focuses on is the human psyche, self-discovery and personal identity in a possibly future world, raising intellectual questions about how we might feel and interact within an imagined, evolved society that's far from perfect. He's described as being egomaniacal, dramatic, erratic and often referred to being crazy yet he was brilliant, highly intelligent and obviously creative. Dick was wasn't a fan of American politics nor the idea of Hollywood and he continually criticised it's people and government bringing him some unwelcome attention from the FBI and IRS. He had a history of mental health issues and amphetamine abused with a number of failed relationships and a suicide attempt which some might think had helped influence his outward thinking of "what is real, what is fake." Of his 44 published books and around 120 short stories, his pieces inspired films like A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall and of course Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which was the novel behind Blade Runner, first published in 1968, set in his post-global-nuclear-apocalyptic world of 2019 San Francisco. Dick not only approved of the screening shown to him, he found it unbelievable that his vision was captured and brought to life so precisely, though he sadly died just before the film had it's general release.
In short, our antagonist, Deckard, is hire to hunt down and exterminate a small gang of escaped humanoid androids, Nexus-6 models, combat efficient "skinjobs" that are currently hiding out in the filthy underbelly streets of Los Angeles 2019. It's a moralistic tale of survival that becomes a lucid snapshot of a possible future world. The film is loaded with hints to its original source material with elements like the Owl supposedly being obviously synthetic because majority of the world's animals have become endangered or extinct with only society's elite owning pets, the amalgamation of eastern and western cultures and the technological advancements, only ever mentioning the off-world colonies.
Ridley Scott was revered as one of the most visionary director's at the time by the film's producer, Michael Deeley, who chose Ridley for the film; which was a bold statement having only Alien, The Duelists and a number of TV episodes on his résumé. It was the death of Ridley's older brother that pushed him to work on this film, wanting to explore the notions pain and death in such a profound way and it's this film he regards as his most personal and finished.
It was never plain sailing for the the cast and crew of Blade Runner, hitting a number of issues and obstacles along the way, as do all major productions of such calibre. The writing was on the brink of disaster with the film's original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher hitting writer's block during production and emotionally rage quitting the picture when David Peoples was brought in to assist. Fortunately, after the two met they became friends and remain that way today. Towards the end of principle photography, the studio technically sacked both producer Michael Deeley and Ridley Scott months prior to it's release, attempting to finishing the film without it's Director due to creative differences. But things would eventually be resolved, some years after the initial release.
There's a number of characters within the story but the there's three that are the most interesting. Harrison Ford plays as Deckard, our antagonist, the Blade Runner who's enlisted by the LAPD to hunt and "retire" the rogue replicants. It's considered one of Harrison's iconic roles, right next to Han Solo and Indiana Jones, actually coming off set of Raiders of the Lost Ark to speak to Ridley regarding the film. Mind you, Deckard isn't your average hero and more so your average person possessing nothing more than a typical detective persona that spends most of the story getting kicked and pushed about by both his employers and his prey who are outmatched for him. He may well be the best at what he does, but he's rough and often detached, like a drifter which does give rise to the major debate of the film, an enigma, that gave rousing suspicion that our hero could be a replicant himself, It's interesting to see the cast and crew split into two camps of whether Deckard is or not. Some not sure but others adamant that he is.
Sean Young plays Rachael, an unknowingly innocence replicant who believes she's human until her encounter with Deckard. Young, being an unknown actress at the time brought an uniqueness to her character, a delicate purity that makes her all the more beautiful. It's actually upsetting to watch when the truth is revealed to her, which raises some interesting questions about synthetic emotions. Can you imagine being told your whole past is nothing more than a borrowed, implanted dream from someone else? That you were built at an age of adulthood but having all the same aspirations of any human? Or are they someone else's dreams? Every memory prior to your creation being false. It's these themes that resonate throughout Philip K. Dick's career and what make this such an intriguing story.
Rutger Hauer is said to have been the easiest to cast as the dangerous replicant, Roy Batty with him being brought onto the project without Scott even meeting him, going on his performances in his previous films. Roy Batty is what I consider to be Hauer's greatest role, the psychotic, calculating and often unpredictable replicant that is trying to prolong his limited lifespan. There's nothing more than the desire to live, an almost primitive instinct. We gain a sympathetic understanding Roy Batty by the end, possibly finding peace when he gives those iconic, poetic final lines, the last line being an addition creation of Hauer himself.
The production was incredible with some of the most stunning visuals ever to be seen and even by today's standards the imagery projected is still glorious with the towering city's burning skyline, dotted with neon lights and motion infographics.
Concept artist, or visual futurist as he's credited, Syd Mead, had an incredible understanding and logical perception of what urban living might be like in the future. Silent Running director and 2001: A Space Odyssey visual effects supervisor, Douglas Trumbull was one of many who worked on this film making it into what we see today.
A gritty merging of classic modern styles to form a future that doesn't seem too distant from our own time. The gothic style buildings, the streets the cities infrastructure, the forever popular Bradbury Building perfectly melding past and future together. It is another world, yet still remaining to be something believable and relatable to our own. What they didn't predict right would be the smoky atmospheres, lack of mobile technology and how compact and sleek equipment would be, like the consoles and modes of transport people use with certain product placements going bust not long after the film's release. But we can't deny the contrast of the polluted slums and high tech, high rised worlds of Los Angeles, the diversity, culture and the eastern influences. There's actually so much detail that is easily over looked like the religious symbolism; did anyone else notice the
Hare Krishna among the hustle and bustle of the streets? Dark probably the right word used to describe Blade Runner. Yes, the entire film is set at nighttime but it's still very vibrant with the neon glows and building-size, holographic billboards. It feels like it's constantly raining, and it is for the majority of the film which only increase the sombre tone of the film.
I have my own separate love affair with Vangelis' score which I first heard on vinyl before even seeing the film. It was one of the first soundtracks I ever bought on CD. It's simply immense, ambient, enchanting and outrightly incredible. He didn't just compose a score for the entire film, but he wrote individual pieces for each element and key scene for the story. No two tracks are the same creating a compilation of songs covering a broad range of styles. The rhythmic synths of the main theme with the infusion of harp strings and a looming hum that makes me feel like I'm on board a plane preparing for departure. We have the romantic jazzy saxophone for the love theme, the dreamy dripping taps and choral piece of Rachael's Song, the smoothing piano and what sounds like the pings of an ECG monitor of "Memories of Green". There's the multicultural "Damask Rose" and even the vintage cabaret sound of "One More Kiss, Dear" which may seem unfitting for the film if listened to in isolation, but Vangelis composed a prefect representation of what the film embodies, that merger of different worlds from different eras, the past seeping into the future in the forever present. I don't know any other score like it.
What might be surprising to some new viewers is that the film was not well received at all during it's general release, splitting the audience into two camps of people who adored it and those that absolutely hate it. It was considered a financial disaster at that time and it didn't really get the recognition it so deserved until years later. The original theatrical studio cut of 1982, had the terrible Harrison Ford voice over and the weak happy ending that just didn't fit into the rest of film, most likely because those scenes were cuts from Kubrick's The Shining. All this was added due to the poor response from test audiences prior to it's general release and was not Ridley's version. Then there was the director's cut, Scott's original untouched version without the narration and happy ending which was accidental screened at the Fairfax theatre in Hollywood in 1990. The audience loved it which resulted in this version being reworked and rereleased in 1992. And finally, the Final Cut of 2007 which is what Ridley Scott's as stated by himself in a letter to the fans "I can now wholeheartedly say that Blade Runner: The Final Cut is my definitive director's cut of the film."
I'm subscribed to this being a cult classic, a ground breaking masterpiece that has influenced and help shaped not only science fiction cinema across the mediums, but has influence many visual aspects of our societies, like television, music videos, multimedia advertising, the cyberpunk anime, and other successful sci-fi like The Matrix, Ghost In The Shell and Deus Ex. It's an artful masterpiece of iconic cinema that will forever remaining one of the most recognised science fiction films of all time.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being the iconic cult classic and a stunning influence of science fiction cinema for the rest of time to come.