Between Alien and Blade Runner, Ridley Scott has created to genre defining classics, both of which close in on the holy grail of cinematic perfection for me.
The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brings me a chance to revisit this wonderfully dark sci-fi thriller.
I read the book by Philip K. Dick, I bought the Marvel comics paperback edition, but I didn’t get to see Blade Runner until 1984, when my family got its first VCR. Then, as I sat there watching the movie in the dark of my living room I was given my first introduction to the concept of noir cinema, or future noir as its referred to in describing this movie.
Ethics, motives, even the line between good guy and bad guy was all gray. I was intrigued.
Then there is the sheer beauty of the film. This was a long time before computer generated images so special effects were created by model work and matte paintings. Everything has a reality to it that today’s films no longer seem interested in replicating.
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford swathed in a wicked trench coat) is a Blade Runner, a special breed of cop that is assigned to hunt down and retire replicants who return to Earth. They’ve been outlawed since a group of them went rogue and killed people. But that doesn’t stop them from coming back, seeking answers about their lives and longevity from their creators, the folks at the Tyrell corporation. Deckard tracks them down with the aid of a stalk-eyed, breathing machine known as a Voight-Kampff machine, which reads empathetic reactions to questions used to generate an emotional response, something replicants are incapable of.
Led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) a group of Nexus-6, virtually indistinguishable from humans, have returned seeking these answers. At Roy’s side is Leon (Brion James), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Pris (Daryl Hannah), and it is up to Deckard to hunt them down.
Along the way, questions about Deckard’s own humanity arise (could he be a replicant?), he falls for Tyrell’s niece Rachel (Sean Young), and the hunter becomes the hunted in as Roy and Deckard battle through a deserted building and across rooftops.
The 1982 Domestic version had a voice-over narration by Ford as the distributors thought that the viewing audience would be confused by the storyline. I, of course, grew up with that version, and knew the narration backwards and forwards. It wasn’t until the Director’s Cut (followed in 2007 by the preferred Final Cut), that I was able to see the film without the narration, and it was like a whole new film, an incredible experience, that only served to heighten the noir aspects of the film, now instead of being told what to think by the narration, the viewer could draw their own conclusions about everything that was going on, what things meant. A much more enjoyable experience.
With a score by Vangelis, the film draws you into a world where it seems to be constantly dark, and constantly rains, with the giant pyramid shape of the Tyrell building dominating the industrialized skyline of Los Angeles. I love this score, in fact, when it rains here in Toronto, I love to have the 3 CD edition playing on my ipod, as I wander the wet streets, the neon reflecting in the puddles, and I can imagine myself in my own little future noir adventure.
Now, some 30-odd years later, and the film’s 2019 setting draws closer, the film still looks fantastic, as I said it generates more of a reality than most of the cg-created worlds we’ve seen on the screen of late.
Scott has always been a perfectionist when it comes to the technical side of directing, and this is one of the finest examples of a filmmaker at the top of his game.
I love this movie.
What are your thoughts on it?