Blade Runner bombed in 1982. It has since become a cult, and now firmly established, classic of science-fiction film-making. Directed by Ridley Scott, only three years after Alien, Blade Runner created a world that had never been seen before. In fact, a dystopia that seems to eerily resonate in 2015, as video-billboards and voice-activated technology has only become more common. At the cinema, this is a sight to behold. The vast angular Tyrell Corporation and never-ending urban city-scape that opens the film is the world we see, while the bustling crowds and multi-cultural street food stalls dominate the smoky atmosphere on the ground. This is Los Angeles. 2019.
No description is needed for Blade Runner. But just in case, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is the titular Blade Runner, tasked to track down human-looking, A.I. “Replicants”. What resides within the Philip K. Dick adaptation is much more that pulpy sci-fi action. It houses a visual style that reinvented the genre. The eternal downpour of rain creates a foggy locale and sets the scene for the washed-out characters that drag their long-coats from sidewalk to station. Deckard feels like the one man who understands the hopelessness. He glumly eats his noodles, and has a cynical approach to his duty. This isn’t Ethan Hunt, or a Sci-Fi Indiana Jones; this is a man raised in a world that is overpopulated and under-resourced. A world that houses an oppressive corporate-culture that, as we eat a Maccy D’s or listen to an ipod, we know only too well. Have we all become as pessimistic about the future as Deckard?
Clearly, this is a spectacular picture – but that pessimism can fuel unnecessary criticism on that virgin viewing. Even Roger Ebert held Ridley Scott to account for his choice of characterisation (“The movie has the same trouble as the replicants: Instead of flesh and blood, its dreams are of mechanical men”). As many of those initial audiences might’ve not known, Blade Runner isn’t Star Wars, despite the Han Solo lead actor. It’s not as clear-cut as Alien or The Terminator. It isn’t balls-to-the-wall sci-fi – something that can be a shock to modern teenagers who only know the gun-holding promotional material that decorate posters and DVD sleeves. Blade Runner’s master stroke is how nuanced and detailed it is. The final act, for example, is a sight to behold. Roy Batty, leaping and running between torn down walls and urban ruins, poetically taunts Deckard. Echoing wolf howls and bird calls, Batty is at one with nature and Deckard is out of his depth. Deckard desperately clings to the destroyed sides for cover, but it seems that the weak-walls are against him too. He leaps out the window, and holds the side of the building. He climbs the structure, only to clamber onto the rooftop. Batty has him in his hands and toys with him. This leads to one of the best cinematic monologues ever written – something more astonishing, is how Hauer himself wrote the unforgettable final coda: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain”.
For some, you may have seen it before and weren’t sold. That first viewing is often dominated by the expectations of pace; a what’s-gonna’-happen-next thought-process that every subsequent watch won’t need. Savvy folk who appreciate the time of release (1982 for godssake!) will realise how incredible the special effects are at the very least. Then, maybe an hour later – maybe a few days – you’ll recall that visual style. The porcelain-doll design of Pris (Daryl Hannah). The fearsome anti-villain in Roy – and the grotesque head-handling of the closest thing he had to a Father. The niggling rea lisation that, of course, Roy isn’t a villain at all… and Deckard was sent by his superiors to kill Rachel in those final moments. Is he the bad guy? To utilise a phrase too-often used on social-media: Mind blown. Inevitably you’ll be pulled back to those opening titles again (if you’re lucky, you’ll choose wisely to watch it at the cinema). The sound of a weight dropped forty floors: Blade Runner. It’s at this moment that you understand the hype – and this re-release provides the opportunity. This perpetual night that led to The Matrix is, what Guillermo del Toro decribes as “Pure cinema” – so don’t wait any longer. This is the time to see it.
Review written for Flickering Myth on Wednesday, 1st April, 2015