Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blade Runner: Theatrical Cut (Scott. 1982)

"Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave."


On the Mt. Everest of science fiction in film, you obviously have Star Wars (1977), Metropolis (1927) and maybe even The Wrath of Khan (1982). For me, it is quite easy to place the final head on the mountain. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is an epic film that can be literally different with every viewing.

The reason I say that is because director Ridley Scott has re-released his sci/fi masterpiece with additional footage and different endings an astounding seven times. This means that there are seven differing versions of the same film. I chose to review the theatrical cut because it is probably the most common, least expensive and most seen cut of the film.

In the year 2019, Los Angeles has become a sort of cultural wasteland. Though the scenery is futuristic, the audience immediately knows that this is not a future that we want for our world. Large corporations have developed the technology necessary to create android humans known as Replicants who look exactly like actual humans. Their purpose was to do strenuous labor. The Tyrell group created the most lifelike version of replicants and gave them increased strength, agility and intelligence. They became dangerous to the people of Earth and were banished to do labor on other intergalactic colonies. Any replicant that returns to Earth will be "retired" by an agent known as the blade runner.

This is where our story starts. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard - an exhausted former blade runner who has seen his share of hard times. He is "asked" to return to his duties one more time in order to save the world from a particularly violent group of returning replicants - Nexus-6. This sends him on an adventure that includes love, violence and interesting detective work. It is a familiar premise set amongst the futuristic backdrop.

In terms of a genre, Blade Runner is obviously science fiction. But why does it have to stop there? I see the film as a noir set in the future. It is a definitive example of the neo noir movement. Ford's narration, moral questions and the dangerous love affair all share a significant noir sentiment. It was extremely neat to see these two classic genres meet in such a well crafted way. Hampton Fancher and David Peoples wrote a very ambitious and detailed screenplay that carried over even after the controversial studio cuts.

Music is also a major contributor to the success of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott famously wanted to make the future seem neo-futuristic. He wanted everything to seem old, but new again. This is exactly what the composer, Vangelis, was able to accomplish. An Academy Award winning composer, Vangelis used his synthesizers to produce a fluent and robotic melody in strange signatures. It has been described as a sort of "electric noir" by some, and it perfectly compliments the acting, themes and effects.

I think everyone initially has the same thought during the intense battle scenes - why did the Tyrell corporation need to make such realistic looking robots with increased everything? How did they not see the threats that could come out of this project? They should have made some outlandish looking robots that could very easily be distinguished from humans. Though you will undoubtedly question Tyrell's brainpower, it is not a big enough detractor to make the movie not work. It is the small details that keep a film from being perfect.

Yes, the theatrical cut of Blade Runner is widely considered to be the worst version of the film. If that is the case then Ridley Scott is a genius. I have not been this entranced by a universe since the first time I saw Star Wars. The ending of this version needs work, but it did eventually get it right.

Blade Runner: Theatrical Cut: B+

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