I first saw Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ way back in high school in 1982 and I really didn’t care it for all that much. Sure it was pretty to look at, but it seemed slow and disconnected from itself to this particular teenage boy. Looking back I don’t think that reaction is all too surprising considering this a movie that starred Harrison Ford coming off of a couple ‘balls to the wall’ action flicks with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Nope, ‘Blade Runner’ was not ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Add to the mix that this film was helmed by the director of ‘Alien’, so illogically one would think, upon entering the theater, that we’re going to get ‘Indiana Jones’ meets ‘Alien’. No, we didn’t get that either though ‘Blade Runner’ did possess the pace and sensibilities of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’. With that in mind I haven’t seen ‘Blade Runner’ since the first time I saw ‘Blade Runner’ twenty seven years ago and in that time the movie has gone through numerous changes to bring it closer to Mr. Scott’s original vision. So when I had the opportunity to purchase the complete ‘Blade Runner’ collection on now defunct HD-DVD, ‘The Look and Sound of Perfect’, I grabbed it as quickly as possible so that I could witness Ridley Scott’s ballyhooed ‘Final Cut’ of his seminal science fiction picture. This is the version that comes in a silly plastic carrying case, has 5-HD-DVD discs in it and a bunch of other miscellaneous junk that I’m sure even Ridley Scott wouldn’t be interested in possessing. The case would make a cool ass lunch box though. I should also mention that I am setup sweet to watch this movie almost in the way that Mr. Scott would want me to watch it, with the aforementioned HD-DVD player, projector, Pioneer surround and a 102-inch screen. All of this has altered my previous teenage opinion of ‘Blade Runner’ quite drastically.
Of course the film centers on the character of Richard Deckard (Ford) the hard drinking Chinese food loving retired Blade Runner, who has been dragged back into the
game by his former boss Bryant (M. Emmett Walsh) to track down four incredibly violent renegade Replicants, who have made their way to earth. These Replicants are robot androids identical to humans in almost every way, with the added bonus of supreme strength, and I guess really short tempers. These androids do our dirty work, our heavy lifting, populate our red light districts, but unfortunately this particular variant of Replicant has become a little too self-aware and has started to rebel, thus making them illegal on earth. When they do show up on up earth they can only be smoked out by highly trained Blade Runners and the best of these would be Deckard, especially considering the Blade Runner who they thought was the best was rudely dismissed in one of the films earliest scenes by Replicant Leon.
What exactly do these Replicants want? Well, to keep these humanoids from overrunning us, the ubiquitous Tyrell Corporation has built in a four year life span for our machines and our main replicant of note, Roy (Rutger Hauer), simply wants to track down his Gepetto and find a way to extend the lives of he and his comrades. Roy just isn’t much of a diplomat when it comes to this kind of thing.
The onus is on Deckard to find Roy, Leon, Pris (Darryl Hannah), and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) sooner than later because even though all of them will die off on their own soon enough, they’re still leaving a body trail in their wake. And then there’s Rachael (Sean Young), a primo replicant created by Tyler Corp CEO Elden Tyrell (Joe Turkel) who Deckard just might’ve fallen in love with, even though it’s his duty to take her out.
Watching ‘Blade Runner’ for the first time in almost two and half decades is pretty much like watching it for the first time. I remember very little about the alleged issues of the original 1982 film such as the Harrison Ford narration that was omitted for this cut, or the much hated ‘Happy Ending’ that was excised out of this version, in addition to other additions and omissions. The interesting thing is that my initial thoughts about the movie as a teenaged boy are still fairly accurate I believe, but my approach to these thoughts in relation to this movie are different now that I’m an adult and, at least theoretically, more mature.
For instance, years ago I found the narrative to be murky and unclear with sketchy characters, and while I see that this is as pretty much the same today, now it makes sense why we know so little about Deckard and his history as the looming question of his origin adds a deeper sense of mystery to the film. A pace that I considered slow back in the day comes off as deliberate and measured today. Because of the visuals and insane attention to detail in almost every scene of ‘Blade Runner’ it would’ve been foolishness to rush though this movie and in this sense it is every minute a Ridley Scott film.
I am still of the mindset that there isn’t a lot of depth in the core narrative of ‘Blade Runner’. If you want to start peeling away layers then sure, you’ll find a lot there, but this is film that invites you into its world via Syd Mead’s visuals more so than a fast moving narrative or edge of your seat action. And in 1080P on a big screen surrounded by atmospheric sound, the world has never looked or sounded better.
Looking back I can see why ‘Blade Runner’ wasn’t nearly as successful as I’m sure that Warner Brothers had hoped because it is a dark and gloomy film that takes it own sweet time getting where it needs to go, and has a story that is about as simple third year calculus. Even if this ‘final cut’ had made it into theaters I doubt very seriously that it wouldn’t have fared much better as it is even darker still, but does possess a clearer, better realized story than the original. But at the end of the day when approached as work of pure science fiction ‘Blade Runner’ has few peers as this is a film that is visually stunning, expertly acted and has a narrative that is difficult to pin down. Qualities which almost always define great cinema.