*The following review will account for the Final Cut version of Blade Runner, as I feel it’s the only one worth watching.*
In honor of the new film, Blade Runner 2049, which is due out in October, I felt it was appropriate to review the original classic. This neo-noir sci-fi thriller- written by David Webb Peoples and Hampton Fancher -released on June 25th, 1982. It vastly underperformed both overseas and domestically, only grossing $33.8 million against a $28 million budget. And that includes rereleases. But now it is considered among the best in its genre and one of the most highly regarded films of the 1980’s. Disclaimer: this review will contain significant spoilers, so read at your own discretion. It’s the not-too-distant (And not too absurd) future of 2019 in Los Angeles. Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is the type of human who is tasked with finding androids that look like other humans and even imitate them. When a group of these androids, called Replicants, escape from custody on an off-world colony, he has to track them down and kill them all. Dystopian sci-fi futures aren’t anything new in cinema. Nor are stories that attempt to have sociopolitical allegories infused into their overall narratives. And yet, there is just something about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner that makes it feel so singular, so original, and so memorable in almost every frame of the motion picture. But it’s not just a science-fiction story. Hell, even if you erased the flying cars, and any mention of future technology, what you’re left with is still a compelling drama. This is a movie focused on the question of general ethics and our capacity to follow them. Not just human beings but Replicants as well. In fact, some of the Replicants are more humane than some of the human characters we meet at all. This movie never did get enough recognition, especially when it first debuted in 1982. It bombed so hard because few people were interested in a science-fiction film that made the audience think about the story rather than big explosions or sentimentality. It also failed to recoup its budget because it premiered at the same time as E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, a fantastic movie in its own right. But in terms of filmmaking, Blade Runner is an infinitely more fascinating picture. Everything you see on screen, there is more of it to show behind the curtain. From the history of the Tyrell Corporation to the details of the off-world colonies, the whole universe oozes with detail and layers of personality. Being based on a Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, It would have been so nice to see more of this interesting yet somewhat gloomy world. No one directs science-fiction films like Ridley Scott. From the original Alien in 1979 to 2015’s The Martian, every single one of his films looks absolutely gorgeous. They have lived in worlds made with sets that probably took several days to design and build. These sets seamlessly blend with CGI and bluescreen to create a unique and wholly original vision of what 2019 might look like. Even the way they are directed feel thematic, from the sexually-charge mystery of Alien to the isolation of Prometheus. And then there’s that ending. An ending that has had so much discussion that it puts the finales of both Inception and Birdman to utter shame. After saving his life, Roy Batty peacefully dies in the rain a content man. Not a machine, not a Replicant, a man. And when Deckard goes back to that apartment, he picks up that origami unicorn. “Too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” he remembers Gaff telling him as a warning. And then he runs out. Is Rick Deckard a Replicant, the type of being that he’s been hired to track down as a Blade Runner? Or is he still just a human and feeling a sense of imagination or paranoia? It’s a great question to ponder with other people who have seen it. Personally for me, though, it would make more sense if he turned out to be a Replicant. Why go through all this trouble and all this discussion just for it to be untrue? It has to be true, for the sake of the themes of the story. While I ultimately have mixed feelings about Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming sequel set in 2049, I have no doubt in my mind they will address either of the two. How they approach it is the real trich, though. Blade Runner is not strictly speaking a perfect movie. The pacing, especially around the middle act, wanders from time to time. And some of the effects don’t necessarily hold up very well. But this is still one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time, and one of the greatest films ever made, period. Even with epic works like Gladiator, Alien, and even The Martian, this has to be Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, and one worth watching many times just to pick up something new each time.