Sunday, January 29, 2012

Classic Scfi-Fi Film Review: Blade Runner

Director:  Ridley Scott
Cast of Note:  Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos,

Release Date: 25 June 1982
Gross Revenue (year): US$27,580,111 (1982)
Adjusted Gross Revenue:  n/a
Genre:  Drama, Sci-Fi, thriller

IMDb Reference (8.3/10):
Rotten Tomatoes Review (92%):

What the Jacket Says:  Deckard, a blade runner, has to track down and terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to earth seeking their maker.

What the Critics Said:

"Blade Runner" is as intricately detailed as anything a science-fiction film has yet envisioned. Janet Maslin, NYT Movie Critic, 1982

A great movie to look at but a hard movie to care about ... predictable, clichéd (Roger Ebert, 1982) Roger Ebert's Review of Blade Runner

The original 1982 review (skip to 2:00 for review)

Analysis:  Amazingly, this movie got middling reviews (polarized on either end of the spectrum) from the critics, earning an equally middling amount at the box office; adjusted, the movie would only have grossed about US$85 million, which is paltry compared to current blockbuster revenues of 200+ million.  The issue seemed to be a negative reaction to the relatively predictable plot and character developments, which isn’t to say they were necessarily wrong, compared to a stunning series of visuals.  Pitting the film against other sci-fi movies, like E.T. and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, certainly did little to help.  When released for rental, it seemed to take on a life of its own as a cult classic.  Earning a retrospective upgrade on critic’s lists, it is one of the movies that solidified my love for science fiction.

This movie was a great influence on me for two reasons.  I saw the movie first, that is to say all versions of Blade Runner.  The visuals were stunning, all the more so when you see the featurette explaining how they made the cityscapes and special effects.  In the day of computer-generated effects, this movie’s ability to transport the viewer into a gritty futuristic world truly is a remarkable achievement.  Pacing of the movie is relatively measured; there are no dramatic action sequences until the end.

Things are mostly dialogue driven as Deckard (Harrison Ford) is ostensibly brought out of retirement to handle a band of replicants returned to Earth.  Blade Runners are detectives specifically tasked to destroying replicants (termed as retirement), slave androids used in colonization that look and act like humans but are banned from Earth.  The story follows his detective work to track them down and destroy them, as well as the relationship between Deckard and one of the film’s replicants.  Harrison Ford plays the cynical detective, Sean Young the replicant love interest, Rutger Hauer leading the rogue band of replicants with a mission. 

The film examines the question of humanity.  Oddly, Deckard is relatively detached from everyone, yet uses an empathy test to spot replicants.  His emotions seem solely drawn out by the replicant Rachael, juxtaposed to the rogue band of replicants shows a surprising amount of compassion for the others, but total disregard for other humans.  This seems to reinforce the whole argument that Deckard is himself, a replicant.  The ambiguity to this just lends weight to the intellectual aspects of the screenplay, which also examine some environmentalism, corporate and police big brother issues.

The other issue to discuss is the soundtrack, scored by Vangelis.  There are few other movies I can think of that marry so beautifully the music to the visuals.  The jazzy, ambient qualities to the music add a scope to the film that just blows me away each time I watch it.  It just exudes character into the movie.

Years later, it intrigued me that this movie was based off a book: ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ by Philip K Dick.  I warily purchased the e-book, hoping my love for the film would not be altered; the success between film adaptation and literary sources is not a grand success story.  I was more than surprisingly impressed at how misplaced my trepidation was.  The book and film are very loosely related, with certain scenes from the book obviously used in the film but otherwise they are almost two different stories sharing a few commonalities.  The book was an absolute joy to read, examining the differences between machines and people in a different way to the film.  It too read at a different pace than most current sci-fi books, but kept pulling me along with a smile on my face.

Summary:  An unabashed lover of film, Blade Runner hit all the right marks for me.  The visuals, the acting, the soundtrack, it all drew me in and didn’t let go until the credits.  A major influence on me, both in how I rate/grade movies overall, it also keeps me trying to capture the film’s ability to transport my potential readers into another realm.  Ridley Scott did a fantastic job interpreting Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples’ screenplay.

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