Let’s Talk About… ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)

Film #41 in FilmExodus’ AFI 100 Movies

Every week FilmExodus does a review/analysis of a different cinematic masterpiece from AFI’s 100 Movies 2007 updated list. For a complete overview and how you can participate, click here.

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos

Blade Runner… the cult classic that almost wasn’t.

In 1982 Ridley Scott released this polarizing loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Yes, the basic plot of Deckard assigned to track down and retire replicants is there, but that is really about it. The book goes into a lot more detail of Deckard’s home life, his relationship with his wife, her emotional state and use of “mood organs” (a device which allows you to dial the mood you would like to have) and his obsession with wanting a real animal, something that isn’t easy to come by in this future. This last little bit was slightly hinted at in Blade Runner 2049. So, if you haven’t read the book, you should. I know that I need to revisit it again one of these days.

But, I digress.

Here we have Ridley Scott, coming not so hot on the heels of his last masterpiece, Alien (1979), to create an amazing neo-noir science fiction story set in dystopian Los Angeles, 2019. You know… next year. From the opening scenes and amazing score by Vangelis, this movie sucks you into this decrepit world that not many movies since have been able to pull off. The movie is a visual wonder with its flying cars, giant lifelike billboards and seedy underbelly.

But, unfortunately the movie failed to connect with critics and audiences alike. And coming off of Alien, it was a box office failure. Having the summer box office dominated by two films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Rocky III didn’t help either. Yet over the last 30 some odd years it has become a massive cult film and is highly regarded by many in the sci-fi world, influencing everything from TV shows to video games. How’d that happen?

Scott created something so out there, that it took years for its impact to sink in. So much, that there have been multiple re-edits over the years, trying to perfect it. I don’t mean bullshit George Lucas edits either. These were legit changes to improve on the things the studio made Ridley put in.

I remember my first time watching this movie in the late 80’s and being bored to tears by it. I believe at that time I had seen the Director’s Cut and was confused by how anyone thought it was a great film. I was 12… what the hell did I know? Over the next few years, I saw the movie a couple of times more, and one day, I finally caught the theatrical cut on TV to compare it to. The Director’s Cut really was an improvement. The”happy ending” gone and so was Harrison Ford’s voiceover. The movie grew on me. With each subsequent viewing, I found more subtle nuances, that made me like it more. It was brilliant.

The Director’s Cut was the only version available for years, until 2007 when Ridley Scott was able to release his “Final Cut” of the film for it’s 25th Anniversary. The Final Cut contains the original full-length version of the unicorn dream, which had never been in any version. Additionally, all of the additional violence and alternate edits from the international cut have been inserted back into the film.

One of the biggest arguments that came from Blade Runner is whether or not Deckard is a replicant or not. Director Ridley Scott has said that he is, but co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Harrison Ford have said that he isn’t. I tend to believe he isn’t. And we can discuss that in the comments. I’d love to hear what you guys think.

I will admit, this movie is not for everyone. It’s a slow paced noir thriller with a Casablancalike love story in the mix. But as Roger Ebert said,

“Blade Runner” is worth attending just to witness this artistry.

And he’s right, everyone should see this movie once. And then maybe a second or third time to pick up on it’s true brilliance.

I’m not sure if you guys have ever seen this Movie Bar Code Tumblr/Twitter, but they take every scene from a movie, stretch them out and turn them into gorgeous works of abstract art.

I’m sure there is a lot more to talk about with this film, but I didn’t want to drag on.  What are your thoughts on Blade Runner and its impact on sci-fi films after it?