97 – Blade Runner (1982)

Batty: We’re not computers, Sebastian, we’re physical.

 

Seen before?

F: Once. A friend lent me the DVD saying that it was one of their favourite films. I didn’t watch it for months but they kept asking for it back so in the end I watched it when I probably wasn’t in the mood to do so.

R: Three times, although I might have fallen asleep during a couple of those.

 

Thoughts?

F: I want to get a couple of caveats out the way first. One: Science Fiction is not my favourite genre in the world although there are some films I really enjoy. Two: I’m not a Harrison Ford fan and I’ve yet to be persuaded otherwise. That said I did try and push these thoughts to the back of my mind before watching this and in general, I did enjoy it.

R: While we’re doing caveats, it’s worth saying we possibly didn’t watch the “right” version of this. It would probably make sense to judge the film on either the original theatrical release or the 2007 Final Cut version, where Ridley Scott had complete artistic freedom. Instead we watched the 1992 Director’s Cut, which is a bit of an awkward halfway house between the two. Oh well.

F: Are the versions radically different? I know there’s narration in the original which we didn’t have but what else?

R: It all gets a bit complicated because there have been a total of seven different versions released, but I’ll try to explain! What we just saw was a cut based on Scott’s notes and signed off by him, but not entirely his own work. As well as narration, the original theatrical version had an unambiguously happy ending and there wasn’t that scene where Deckard dreams about a unicorn. I’ve not seen the Final Cut but I understand it’s pretty similar to the version we saw in terms of content, but has some technical improvements.

F: Sounds like my opinion would be the same whichever version we saw. The pacing of this film is very slow. But it’s visually stunning, with lots of long shots of the backgrounds and this helps to ensure the film is not boring.

R: Yeah the slow pace is good for giving you the time and space to soak up the atmosphere and the beautifully realised world, but at the same time there were definitely moments I was thinking, “get on with it!” That might be because I never felt much tension over what was going to happen to Deckard or the other characters.

F: It is true that the main character is not very well developed. But some of the supporting characters are better – both the main villain and the genetics guy with the creepy toys have more about them. My main issue is that there seems to be no real sense of danger from the replicants. They’re back but what’s the real problem with that? Aren’t they just going to leave when they get what they want (i.e. extended lifespan)?

R: Yeah, it’s not very clear, and while I have no problem with – and often like – a little ambiguity around the details of a plot, the trouble here is that what’s at stake is ambiguous. That’s not helpful for creating dramatic tension and is a particular shame because the characters are all generally convincing and well developed. In terms of performances, it might be your detested Harrison Ford’s greatest ever.

F: I don’t detest Harrison Ford – I just think he’s more of a movie star than a good actor. I get that people like him but I do think when you take him out of the big franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones he’s not particularly great. He only really ever seems to act at one level, coming across as quite uninterested in his films and I find him very unlikeable in most roles. We mentioned before how neither of us really care about Deckard in this film but I do think a better actor in the role would have made us care. There’s just no emotion to this character (although maybe that is the point…)

R: Harrison Ford is certainly not one of the all time great actors but you’re being quite hard on him there. I find him pretty convincing in this and surely there are limits to what even the greatest actor could do with the role given it’s the part of a world weary ex-cop who’s seen it all and who might in fact be an android. It’s necessarily got to be a fairly understated performance that doesn’t reveal too much of what’s going on under the surface. I think the film has a number of flaws but for me his performance isn’t one of them.

F: Hmmm still not convinced. I agree though that this film does have flaws. While I did enjoy it I can’t imagine myself being desperate to see it again anytime soon.

R: Yeah, I feel like I’ve been quite down on this but I think that’s mainly because there’s so much done right that it’s extra-specially frustrating that it falls short. If the plot were as perfectly realised as the world it takes place in then this would be a truly very special movie.

 

Is it worthy of the top 100?

F: I think probably not but I think there is a place for a slow, “grown up” science fiction film in the list. There’s another one coming up in the top 100 and from my memory I do prefer Blade Runner but I might reserve judgement until we get to number 15!

R: No, I’d switch this out for Alien. I do wish there were more serious science fiction movies coming out of Hollywood though.

 

Up next:
96 – Do The Right Thing (1989)
Previously:
98 – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
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3 thoughts on “97 – Blade Runner (1982)

  1. I think the films aesthetic was somewhat groundbreaking. It was clearly heavily influenced by the us fear/fascination with japan that was big in the late 70s early 80s. The look of the film has aged well in my opinion but has also been aped a lot since so the novelty has worn off somewhat. The soundtrack, by vangelis, is also iconic and pretty cool. It is certainly a bit slow and probably not deserving of the hype but it’s comfortably the best adaptation of anything by Philip k. Dick. From what I understand the story it’s based on is not actually very good or deep either; he was much more an ‘ideas’ author interested in conspiracies and dystopias, rather than someone interested on characters per se. Although i do think blade runner had some interesting rumination on what it is to be human, especially as a film of the early 80s it anticipated a lot of technological developments we’re only starting to see now. I guess that’s why dick is often thought of as a ‘visionary’.

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    1. R: Hey, thank you for the comment Mr Florist and sorry for the slow reply. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said there. Certainly don’t dispute for a moment the sophistication and appeal of the overall vision, I just wish there was a bit more happening in the foreground. Hopefully we’ll get that with the 2049 edition.

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