Blade Runner, 1982.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and Edward James Olmos.
A blade runner must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
As part of the BFI’s Science Fiction season, Ridley Scott’s visionary dystopian cyberpunk film will be screened on December 14th, before a nationwide re-release next April. The film has gone down in Hollywood legend for its complicated existence. From the troubled, often tortuous shoot, to misguided marketing, through to a theatrical release that tore critics and (disappointing low numbers of) audience members straight down the middle. It truly was a love it or hate it affair.
In 1992, following the film being re-appraised on the burgeoning home video market through the 80’s, Ridley Scott was able to then release a Directors cut, which omitted the originals occasionally Sesame Street-esque narration and happy ending. Once again the film was put before the public for consumption and judgement. This time the verdict was more unanimous. Blade Runner was finally recognised as a master work of a film-maker at his pinnacle in terms of dedication, creativity and stringent attention to detail. In 2007 following a lengthy wait for a DVD release worthy of such a unique and visual dazzling film, Scott was then able to release his final cut which would polish a few moments of the film that stuck in his craw over the years. The final version doesn’t differ drastically from the Directors cut, merely digitally polishing a few rough shots here and there (including the stunt man in the wig shots).
So what makes Blade Runner one of the most iconic Sci-Fi films ever? A ground breaking achievement in design, with visual effects which still hold up today. It was Scott at his most visually obsessive, and a film that had performances to match. Harrison Ford is a world away from the wry smiled heroics of Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Deckard is a weary assassin tasked with “retiring” Replicants. He’s emotionally jaded and ethically obtruse. There’s something a little inhuman at times about Deckard, which of cause only adds to the ongoing debate as to whether he is or is not, a Replicant himself. For Ford it remains one of his most interesting performances, one requiring more than his easy-going charm.
In addition to Ford there is an interesting mixture of cast, particularly with the Replicants themselves. Darryl Hannah and Sean Young, both fresh to Hollywood at the time are both excellent. However in the eyes of many it is Rutger Hauer who steals the entire film as Roy Batty, the leader of the rogue Replicants.
Hauer is an actor known for his intensity, unpredictability and occasionally playful approach to his craft. Never has he been better than he has as Batty, a role that was interesting, but a portrayal taking it way beyond what was written in the screenplay, and indeed in Philipp K Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, the book on which Blade Runner was loosely based. Hauers depiction of the erratic Batty’s struggles with his emotions (a lifetimes worth crammed into a four year lifespan) and the ever dwindling sands of the hourglass that bring his short life ever closer to its end, is enthralling. It’s such a great performance and the sort of great supporting role that would ordinarily attract more Oscar buzz, but the film, due to it’s initial mediocre box-office and critical response was largely overlooked.
Visually of course, Blade Runner, while itself owes to some Sci-fi films of the past, became a blue-print for many future set films to reference (or even downright copy). It was also a vision of the future that doesn’t seem too far wide of the mark as we approach the dates of the films setting. One only needs to go to such cities as Shanghai, Tokyo or Bangkok for example and you could almost be walking on the set of Blade Runner. A strange cacophony of influences. Old buildings next to post-modern skyscrapers. A hodge podge of times, designs and a mass of people bustling in smoggy, dank streets. A view of organised chaos which somehow works. Likewise the vision in Blade Runner, which is now particularly prevelant in parts of the US and UK now is of a diverse mixture of races and culture all together in the masses of overpopulated streets, which despite what the Daily Mail might have you believe, is a good thing.
One other element of the film cruelly overlooked in the Awards season in 82-83, was the unique and beautiful music by Vangelis. Blade Runner’s score is unlike anything before, and really a one of. It’s highly emotive and wonderfully evocative, and it’s marriage with the glorious visuals is a perfect unison of sound and vision.
For anyone taking a trip into London tonight (14th), a trip to see Blade Runner is certainly recommended, but most certainly upon it’s re-release in April, it’s an aboslute must see for film fans.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★