Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is considered one of those great science fiction movies that has risen to cult status. Every nerd and film nerd has seen it and if they were around, saw it re-released in 1992. It is currently ranked #123 on IMDB, #97 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list and #6 on AFI’s top 10 sci-fi films. Yet, at the risk of sounding like a complete film blasphemer, I just don’t think I quite get it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think Blade Runner is a good movie. The story is interesting enough, we’ve got Deckard (Harrison Ford) coming out of retirement for one last run to round up a few stray replicants. From what I understand, replicants are bio-engineered super smart people used as slaves that are illegal on Earth. Why you would create slaves smarter than their masters doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s for another time. Anyway, we watch Deckard run through the hazy LA streets, fly in cool flying cars and be a basic bad-ass while a few rogue replicants are causing trouble for their freedom. It’s a great ride, and to stir up the pot more, he falls in love with a replicant.
Blade Runner is an extremely visual film. The images of a wet, dreary LA, enveloped in layers of fog and neon lights beaming behind it always blows me away. The shots of the city skyline are beautiful but then the flames shooting up add an unexpected archaic element. The wild, futuristic costumes and sets have a bit of a punk rock vibe with some classic noir aspects. The only Oscar nominations the film received were for art direction and visual effects.
However, some of the acting throws me off. It doesn’t feel real, and sometimes crosses the line to where I can’t take it seriously (“Wake up! Time to die!”). Yet, I find it understandable. These replicants are not real humans and it’s stated that they don’t have as much emotional experience and are more detached. I’m not sure if that can really justify moments that make our characters seem so cookie-cutter and out of touch.
I can’t wait until 2019 when everyone complains about how Blade Runner obviously got the future all wrong. I can tell you right now, we’re not going to have flying cars, not even in LA where they desperately need something to alleviate the traffic. No amount of climate change will turn LA into a rainy, dark place in only 6 years. And there is way too many people smoking, but hey, that adds to the foggy noir atmosphere.
Of course, there is the big debate people get into after this film: is Deckard a replicant? The evidence is ambiguous, he does seem emotionally detached and smarter than most humans. My thought has always been, perhaps they needed a replicant to find and “retire” other replicants. But what a can of worms that becomes at the end! In 2000, Ridley Scott, the film’s director, came out and said that Deckard is indeed a replicant, much to Ford’s dismay. So much for debating now, but it’s still fun.
I guess, in the end Blade Runner is a pretty awesome film. It’s visually striking, has some great sci-fi elements and has a good mix of action and noir. The fact that I’ve never been able to get into the story is probably just me, however by the end I am loving all the symbolism and meaning I find in Roy’s final decision. And the philosophical ideas separating humans and replicants swim in my mind for days after seeing Blade Runner.
“The report read “Routine retirement of a replicant.” That didn’t make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back.”