Sunday, August 15, 2010

Movie Review: Blade Runner (1982)

Ah, yes...the sci-fi flick from Philip K. Dick turned cult classic. If you've already read my review of the book (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) then you know that the movie differed in many aspects, as is usual. So which one wins out, book or film? The answer might come as rather unexpected.

Like the book, Blade Runner is set in the bleak future of Los Angeles (in 2019), where the former "blade runner" Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, in one of his better performances) lives out his lonely existence. Forced to re-enter law enforcement again to hunt down and "retire" a group of replicants (same thing as androids in the book) from an off-world colony, Deckard begrudgingly does the job he no longer wishes to do--it's that, or be killed by his old police chief.

Deckard was done with killing, even though they were considered inhuman, but his recent impressment means that he begins tracking the replicants down with the same skill as before. They are led by the merciless Roy Batty (with his dangerous girlfriend Pris, a "pleasure model" replicant) and aided by the kind but naive J.F. Sebastian (J.R. Isidore in the book), genetic designer for the Tyrell Corporation (the Rosen Association in the book). Thrown into the mix is the Rachael, who unknowingly leads Deckard, heart-first, into deep change.

The feel of the film is fantastic. Almost apocalyptic/dystopian, with dark and freaky airs and a mix of noir and '80's sci-fi, director Ridley Scott outdid his usual lackluster self. The world is a hodge-podge mess, and the influence of Asia can be seen everywhere, from food to billboards. What is a little disappointing is that this film missed out on telling the viewer some of what the book told the reader (that there had been a massive war, that there was radioactive fallout, that the government was encouraging all humans to move to off-world colonies, etc.). If these elements had been added, the film would have grown in strength exponentially (instead of being mostly unexplained, the reasons behind the way the world is in 2019 Los Angeles would be known).

Extending further out from the setting would be the overall weirdness of the film. It struck me as quite freaky the first time I saw it, and it is indeed a strange mix of whatnot-ishness. However, wrapped up in the package that is presented to the moviegoers, it fits. The strange stuff makes for the good stuff here.

On top of all this, we have a few moral lessons as well. The most obvious notion would be mankind's science running amok and "creating" life, then not being able to handle it and heinously destroying it. And also, instead of a killer that we see in the book, Deckard hates his work, and it would appear to make him sick...and if I told you much more, I'd be ruining the story for you. Over all, excellent film.

[WARNING: Sexual content discussed. Adult readers only!] Blade Runner improved upon Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? massively by removing the element of Mercerism, and cutting down the sexual content. Deckard is not married, so when the scene cuts out and we guess that he and Rachael may have...*ahem*, it is more "their business" than anything else (and, as opposed to the book, they actually love each other here). Unfortunately, in one scene we do have a completely topless woman who, after taking a shower following an unseen strip club dance routine, decides to put her boots on first instead of covering herself. Even a few seconds of breast nudity is enough to make me give this movie a no. (And any potential viewers should also know that there is a sexualized scene where a female replicant tries to somehow kill Deckard by twisting his neck between her thighs, and Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, kisses a man before brutally killing him, although it is rather plain to see that it isn't homosexual and instead stems from Batty's overall creepiness and the fact that he is saying goodbye in some strange, psycopathic way.)

While Blade Runner lost some of the book's strength, it gained much in what it appropriately left out. Therefore it is such a pity that I'm not able to rate this inspiring film any better. If they hadn't just that one scene (and yes, the Director's Cut and the Final Cut both contain it), this would have made it onto my list of awesome movies.


P.S. And for Battlestar Galactica has Adama in it!!!! "It's too bad she won't live...but then again who does?"


The Warrior said...

Did I forget to mention the amazing score by Vangelis? Another major plus to the film.

olde.fashioned said...

Sorry for not commenting earlier!

Good review of a (yes, I'll admit it...) pretty good movie. One of the few products out of the '80s that I can actually say I enjoyed...

I want all of Rachael's clothes (and a tube of red lipstick to match). Except for that freaky coat; someone else can have that.

I wonder if there was any rise in interest in origami after this came out? ;-)