Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blade Runner Review

Blade Runner (1982)

NOTE: There are many versions of Blade Runner, and the one that I acquired and am reviewing is the final cut.

Wow, two 100% movies in one day! I have been meaning to watch this movie for weeks and I never got around to it, and now that I've seen it, I couldn't be more happy that I did. Although this is not a film I think I can completely understand in one viewing alone, I have seen enough to know that I really like this movie. It's a slow burner, and that may not appeal to everyone, but for those patient enough to watch it, they will definitely enjoy it. Critics were torn over this one and it was a box-office failure, but since then it has developed a large cult following and has commonly been placed on lists of the best movies of all time. It is recognized as one of the best of its genre, and I do agree. Like District 9, the other movie I watched today, this is a sci-fi classic, as well as being a film-noir classic.


Blade Runner takes place in the year 2019, where scientific advancements have enabled genetic engineers to create replicants, which are near-lifelike robots with superhuman strength and physical agility. Because of this, the replicants are used for menial labour on the other colonized planets, and after a bloody mutiny, replicants were made illegal to have on Earth and finding one on Earth was punishable by Death. In order to maintain a replicant-free Earth, the government has a special unit of policemen called Blade Runners, who track down the replicants and execute them. Except that this is not called execution, it is called retirement.

This is where our main character comes in. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is an ex-blade runner who is called back to tackle the case of some renegade replicants, who the higher-ups want him to "retire". These replicants are Pris (Daryl Hannah) a basic "pleasure model", Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) a replicant working as an exotic dancer with her own replicant snake, and their leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) the main antagonist of the film and one of the best sympathetic villains of all time. You see, replicants are designed to have a four-year lifespan and all that Batty wants for himself and his kind is a longer lifespan. His goal is simple, but impossible in the world that they live in, and he is desperate to achieve the goal even if that means killing Eldon Tyrell, his "father".

The film tracks Batty and the replicants trying to get to Tyrell to get him to add more years to their lives, and it tracks Deckard attempting to retire the replicants. This all culminates in the final confrontation between Deckard and a dying Batty. I won't give away the ending, but it is very beautiful, at least the one in the final cut is. There is also a romantic subplot of sorts that actually fits, unlike a good deal of romantic subplots in movies. It is between Deckard and a mysterious woman named Rachael (Sean Young), who is revealed to be a "special project". She is a replicant of sorts, but with no set lifespan, and she is implanted with the memories of Tyrell's niece and thus believes she is human. However, when she finds out otherwise, she leaves Tyrell, like a rebellous teenager running away from home. She crosses paths with Deckard on a few occasions and he is told to retire her but ends up falling in love with her.

A common discussion amongst the fans of this movie is whether or not Deckard is a replicant himself. I will have to say no. He stopped being a blade runner for a long time because he disagreed with the treatment of the replicants, whom he saw as people. With Rachael, he tries to convince her that there is no difference between a replicant and a human, or at least that he sees no difference. Besides, his eyes do not glow in the dark like Rachael and Batty, and he is fairly capable of showing human emotion, which replicants cannot do (but show possibility of doing). Besides, Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford both said that Deckard was human, so that seals it. Rick Deckard is indeed human and he is not a replicant.

There is an interrogation machine used in the beginning of the film called the Voight-Kampff test, which is used to determine humans from replicants. It asks a series of questions for the subject to empathetically respond if they are human, and thus, it determines the difference between humans and replicants. Deckard says in the movie that it takes around six or seven questions to determine the identity of the subject, but it took over one hundred questions to determine whether or not Rachael was a replicant, because she truly believed she was human with the memories given to her. That's all that can be said about the test though, so we'll move on to the characters.

Blade Runner has produced some of the most memorable characters in any type of movie, and the splendidly written characters are matched by the great actors. The main character is Rick Deckard, and he is an amazing anti-hero and just an amazing character all around. Most of what can be said for the development from the character, I have already said in my paragraph regarding whether or not he is a replicant, so I will try to avoid repeating myself and move on to the other characters. Roy Batty is one of the greatest villains of all time and certainly one of the most sympathetic, as all he wants for himself and his kind is a longer life. This was Rutger Hauer's best movie so I hear, and it's too bad that the best he can do nowadays is Hobo With A Shotgun.

As you all know by now, I am sort of obsessed/in love with Harrison Ford, and I thought he was Oscar-worthy as Rick Deckard. However, I know why he wasn't nominated, because Blade Runner got lukewarm critical reception upon the time of its release. I still think Indiana Jones is Harrison's all time greatest role, but Rick Deckard comes in a close second. Not only is Harrison Ford extremely attractive, he truly is one of the greatest actors of all time and deserves to be revered as such, despite having a less than exemplary record in the 2000's (which isn't at all his fault). The final confrontation between him and Hauer is one of my favourite scenes in any movie, and Hauer proves to be a match for Ford (which truly speaks to his talent).

Rachael is played by Sean Young, and this is probably her best movie too. Anybody can guess that you can't judge Ace Ventura and Blade Runner on the same scale, but this is still her best work and the best work she will ever do (especially considering that she doesn't really have a career anymore). The two female replicants named Pris and Zhora are played by Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy, and they both gave pretty good performances as well, Hannah being better merely because she was in the movie more. The last notable actor in this is Edward James Olmos, who was okay but fairly forgettable, the most forgettable out of all the performances. Needless to say, this film has a fine cast of actors who gave great performances.

The visual aspects of the film are truly magnificent, and this film contains one of the best musical scores of all time. The art direction and visual effects were nominated at the Oscars, and they lost to Gandhi and E.T. respectively. The art direction is absolutely brilliant and it is accompanied with great cinematography and lighting. The copy I bought was digitally remastered and I can tell, as it looked vivid, beautiful, but surprisingly bleak, like the nature of the film. The visual effects, what little are used, are very good and both Oscar-nominated categories deserved their nominations and since I haven't seen Gandhi and I've only seen bits and pieces of E.T., I think they deserved to win.

All in all, Blade Runner is one of the best movies of all time and one of my new personal favourites. It has a complex original story that can't and shouldn't be replicated (if you'll excuse the pun), it has great characters (including one of the most iconic heroes and one of the most iconic villains), it has great visuals, and it's all around a great movie. Unlike a lot of science fiction movies these days, Blade Runner is a quiet, contemplative movie, and it is not focused on explosions. It is a different type of sci-fi than say, Star Wars, but both of those movies deserve to be revered for the masterpieces that they are. If you haven't seen Blade Runner, I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible, as it is a must-see as much as something can be a must-see.

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