I may have grown up with the likes of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”, but the one of the older science fiction movies that I missed out on was “Blade Runner”. I have heard the movie mentioned time and time again, and I was aware that it was a cult classic and that it did influence a lot in the science fiction genre, and in particular to cyberpunk. However, despite all of that, I never really had a real reason to see it until now with the release of its sequel, “Blade Runner 2049”. Having finally watched it, I now see why it is a cult classic but it’s not a film that I particularly love. I liked it, it was a great movie and I think I’ll have to rewatch it again maybe in two years time, but it’s not something I’ll gladly rewatch every year for fun.
While researching the movie, I discovered that there were multiple versions of “Blade Runner”, from the Theatrical Cut all the way to the Final Cut. However, as my research online stated that the Final Cut is the most definitive version of the movie, I decided to watch that particular version of the film.
“Blade Runner”, which was directed by Ridley Scott and was released in 1982, is actually a very loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” If you think that Philip K. Dick is a name you’ve heard of before, it’s because he is one of the masters at writing science fiction stories, and his other works such as “Minority Report” and “The Man in the High Castle” have also been adapted in a movie and tv series, respectively.
Set in a dystopic Los Angeles in 2019, the movie follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) a bounty hunter or Blade Runner who is tasked to hunt down several androids or Replicants who decided to come down to Earth. In this future of flying cars and advertisements literally thrown in your face, Replicants have become illegal on Earth and can only stay off world.
A reluctant Deckard ends up taking on the task, and in the process, begins to question himself and the task at hand.
Aside from the movie being visually stunning, the locations in the movie itself have a grittiness and feel very real.
That opening shot of the city, to the city fog and neon lights is just stunning; while the food kiosks, glowing advertisements, trash and the people make it seem just so real, even though there are androids and flying police cars with wheels that spin up when they fly.
Just the visuals and the world alone already makes the viewer see how this movie influenced others in the genre such as “Ghost in the Shell” and “The Matrix”.
Then there are the Replicants. In the movie, the Replicants we were shown are advanced models up to the point that they can learn how to have emotions and even have memories implanted in them. They feel and look human enough to the point that I think that they believe that they have their own right to exist, just as humans do.
This whole theme about what is real and what isn’t, and what does it mean to be human is littered throughout the movie. And these themes are also scene in various other stories in the genre, especially when one starts talking about robots and Artificial Intelligence, but the one thing closest to my heart that was very much informed by this particular theme is the 2004 reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” tv series.
I also wasn’t prepared at how visceral the violence and fighting scenes were going to be, and I was also very much not prepared for the fact that in one scene, one of the Replicants is actually shown topless. I was also not very comfortable in that scene where it looks like Deckard forced himself on Sean Young’s Rachael.
The acting in this movie was excellent, and it was such a treat to see Ford in his prime as an actor and action star, and not as Han Solo.
The score was very ’80s but appropriate for the movie, and I loved it a lot.
In the end, this movie is definitely one that you will have to watch again and again to pick up some nuances and to find some answers, as this movie deliberately leaves some things unanswered. However, it certainly is a great movie that will make you think a lot, and one that has left such a huge impact on its particular genre.
Now, you know the drill, there will be spoilers, so turn around and watch “Blade Runner” first before moving on!
Just like any work of science fiction, “Blade Runner” has futuristic elements that sort of predicted some technological advances of what we have today. Sure, we don’t have flying cars yet, but we do have voice activated machines (Siri, Alexa, Cortana), and technology today can do exactly what Deckard was doing with the photo he had in order to search for more clues regarding the other Replicants. It was also interesting that they made it a point to emphasize that big corporations rule the world, with their huge and even flying advertisements promoting products such as Coca Cola in your face. This is also kind of true today, what with advertisements on billboards, television, radio, and of course, on social media.
It also is kind of scary to see a city that’s usually so bright and sunny depicted as a dark, gloomy and gritty city, but then again, if mankind really doesn’t start taking care of the environment, and with climate change and companies never stopping making products for us to consume, someday, it might just be like that.
When it comes to “Blade Runner”, the biggest themes surrounding it are about technology and society, Artificial Intelligence, and the moral implications of it all. Included with this is the whole question of whether Replicants or Androids should be treated and viewed just as humans are, especially if they are advanced enough to learn about emotions and have memories implanted in them.
For the Replicants in the movie, all they wanted from their maker was to be given a chance to live a little bit longer beyond their expiry date, and that behavior is very human. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the leader of the Replicants, in fact, feels the pain and anguish of loss as his comrades get picked off one by one. In fact, Roy behaves very much like a human, albeit the fact that he is probably smarter than us and is stronger than any of us will be.
In contrast to that, there’s Deckard, who is reluctant to carry out his task, but he carries it out, and does it without any hint of emotion, as he is an old hand at this sort of thing. However, we also see Deckard at his low and vulnerable points, which bring out his own humanity. Well, that, and how well he improvises when confronting Zhora (Joanna Cassidy).
In today’s day and age, we can actually start believing that these things might one day become a reality, and maybe then, we’ll figure out how to work out what is right in that very morally gray area.
Interestingly enough, there’s a whole debate on whether Deckard is a Replicant or not. This idea was introduced by Rachael, after he tells her that she is a highly sophisticated Replicant. She asks him if he ever took the Voight-Kampf test, a test used to detect if one is a Replicant or not. However, that question isn’t truly answered by Deckard or the movie.
What it did leave, however, are some clues that give credence to the fact that he might just be a Replicant. These include the fact that his eyes glowed the same way the other Replicant’s eyes did for a split second, that it is a possibility that his memories might have just been implanted and that he’s an even more sophisticated model than Rachael, and the fact that Gaff (Edward James Olmos) seemed to be like his handler and that he sort of knew about that unicorn daydream of his by leaving him an origami unicorn near his apartment door. Also, Gaff’s parting words of Deckard being able to do a “man’s job” is a very odd choice of words, especially if you want to congratulate someone on a job well done.
Whatever the case is, it’s something that allows the movie to still be talked about today.
Interestingly enough, this whole debate of whether he is a Replicant or not reminds me of the time that Gaius Baltar (James Callis) from Battlestar Galactica was wondering as to whether or not he was a Cylon.
I actually felt bad for Rachael when she learned that she was a Replicant, as she seemed as if she was having a hard time wrapping her head around that idea, just like Boomer (Grace Park) from “Battlestar Galactica”.
Now, regarding the story, some people might criticize the film’s pacing to be slow, but I felt that it was done with a lot of purpose. It wasn’t overdone and gave the right of tension, quietness, and had the right amount of focus on each actor.
For the story itself, it had an interesting premise, some good build up, and an alright ending. It wasn’t a mind blowing story, but it definitely is a thought provoking one, and one who I might appreciate on a second or third viewing.
At the end of the day “Blade Runner” left a huge impact on the science fiction genre, and has nuances that will probably be appreciated on a second or third viewing. However, it is indeed a dystopic spectacle to behold, and it touches upon topics that are still being debated until today.
So, I do recommend that even though gloomy dystopias are not your cup of science fiction, check this cult classic out, and I know that you won’t regret it.
What did you think of “Blade Runner”? Do you think Deckard is a Replicant or not? Let me know what you think in the comments below!