Arts & Culture

Grimy Gold: What It Means to Be a Human (Or an Android)

Title: Blade Runner

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (aka Blade Runner: The Definitive Cut) 2007 Release*

Year: 1982

Director: Ridley Scott

MPAA Rating: Theatrical Version: Rated R for violence

Final Cut: Rated R for violence and brief nudity.

 

Shirtless and dripping from the pouring rain, Roy Batty, an Android, steps closer to Rick Deckard, chasing him into a corner. Clenching a dove in his hand, he sits down and locks eyes with the frightened Blade Runner. He collects his thoughts before speaking slowly, enunciating each word with care: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” he chuckles cynically before continuing. “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time.” He gulps sorrowfully. “Like tears in rain… time to die.” Smirking one last time at Deckard, he bows his head. Rain pours down over his head and drips down from his chin in a single stream. The dove flutters out of his hands and ascends.


Blade Runner 2049, the long awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, is arriving in theaters October 6, 2017. Why, after thirty-five years, have they decided to make a sequel? It’s possible that there is something of value to be discovered in the new film. And to give an answer to the long gap between films, maybe the original Blade Runner was so hallowed for its near-perfection in the craft of filmmaking that producers considered it wise to leave it untouched. If the original film is nearly perfect in every way, why have I allotted it a measly five out of ten in my quality rating?

One of the first shots we see in the movie is of an eye reflecting the entire city of Los Angeles. There are eyes everywhere in this movie. The Voight-Kampff test focuses on its subject’s eyes. The first place Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) breaks into for information is a genetic eye design factory. What does this movie find so intriguing about eyes? Think about it: eyes see the world, reflect it, and give color and emotion to it. Eyes are our identity. As much as Blade Runner is about androids, robots that act perfectly human to a fault—“more human than human”—it is about humans more than anything. On the surface, it poses a question—a question that critic Roger Ebert phrased so well I’ll use his words: “Does it make an android’s personal memories less valid if they are inspired by someone else’s experiences—especially if the android does not know that?” What the movie shows focuses on the androids, but it wants us to ask a complementary question that follows with what we see on screen: since our memories are solely ours, what do they make us, as humans, and how should we use them?

The year is 2019, and androids roam the galaxy but are prohibited from earth—this is the gist of the opening crawl in the movie. 2019 is only two years from now, and it is hard to imagine Androids being much more than an operating system. But that’s what they are. And, being prohibited from earth, Blade Runners are a branch of the police force that “retires” (aka kills) such rogue Androids. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, one of these Blade Runners, as he’s hired to catch and “retire” these robots. Thing is, he’s unfamiliar with this model of Android—the Nexus-6—not knowing that Tyrell, the creator of the Androids, has installed a unique catch inside this brand: they have a paltry four-year life span.

Although many consider it the best sci-fi flick of all time, some modern viewers now may find it not only slow, but confusing. Even as a sci-fi-action film, you won’t find many action scenes, so really, you won’t find much violence in this. Every shot lingers, and there’s a story in each one. The dialogue is sparse and is, like Vangelis’s score, meditative. But again, the dialogue is also confusing. And what dialogue isn’t confusing is shocking and, frankly, creepy. But what struck me negatively the most wasn’t its confusing dialogue or its slow, meditative pace, although those may be grounds for others’ complaints of the artistry in this film. Instead, it had to do with the overall vibe and filmic tone that did not click with me. There was a unique feel with Blade Runner that I never felt in any other movie before. It felt almost dreamlike. Maybe more like a melancholy nightmare than a dream. It was too fantastical to seem real. That could’ve been the goal of Ridley Scott, but whatever the case, my mind drifted off more than once.

The only anchoring point that I remotely related to was Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, and without Harrison Ford’s human performance, maybe I wouldn’t even have had that. I’ve never seen Harrison Ford so vulnerable in a role before. You always see him as a dashing but flawed protagonist, ever wearing his confident smirk, from Han Solo to Indiana Jones. If you searched the dictionary for the word “cool,” you’d see his face plastered onto the page. But not in Blade Runner. The audience is drawn to him even through the small quirks in his facial movements, not to mention the truly human desires he entertains. He eyes retirement thirstily. He gets easily frustrated and flustered, especially by his own screw-ups. He drinks. And above all, he desperately does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, even an Android’s. If an Android cries, especially through a fault of his own, he takes it personally.

 

Like I stated previously, there aren’t many action sequences and thus the violence is sparse, but when there is, especially at the end, it doesn’t hold back. At one point in the Theatrical Release, an Android, just before he crushes the skull of his maker, calls him a certain obscenity, but this is dubbed over in later versions of the film with “father.” Additionally, in the director’s cut and on—not in the Theatrical Release, however—there is a scene where a snake dancer undresses and showers, which the camera captures from her waist up for nearly half a minute.

I tried. I really tried with this movie. Yet I was not absorbed by the overall depressing atmosphere of paranoia it presents. There is much to like. It explores so many complex themes, adding to Phillip K. Dick’s peculiarly-titled novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the themes tied in with that. Blade Runner provides much more to explore. Its trailblazing in the cyberpunk genre paved the way for future films, and the ending showdown provides much to explore—and it is still being scrutinized today, thirty-five years after its release. It’s not a movie I’ll forget soon; I will give it that. And right now, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I guarantee you that I’m coming back for at least a second viewing in the future. But right now, it’s not for me. Not today.

Quality: 5/10

Content: 4.5/10

*Many versions of Blade Runner have been released. Too see which one is best for you, I recommend these two very helpful links for reference and study:

Versions of Blade Runner – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Versions_of_Blade_Runner

IMDb Parent’s Guide to Blade Runner: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/parentalguide?ref_=tt_stry_pg

As an additional resource to dive in deeper into Blade Runner’s themes, here is a study done by Rhode Island College in 2009:

http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=etd


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One Comment

  1. Good job on this review! I liked how you talked about why you gave the movie a lower review in much detail. As I have read many newspaper reviews about the new movie but don’t have time to watch the original movie, this review gave me a lot of information about the movie in general.