Another R rated one. This one I'm really wondering about. Did Ridley Scott have the same theory I did, that PG-13 movies aren't really taken seriously? Most of this movie is a comfortable PG-13 movie. The language is pretty minimal. While the violence is intense, it is few and far between. There's one scene where Deckard walks in on a girl changing. For half the scene, Scott avoids showing nudity and seems to go out of his way to do so. All of the sudden, it just embraces the nudity (pun not intended) and then she's on screen nekkid. A weird choice.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
I have the vibe that the picture I chose above has been cropped to make the aspect ratio more dynamic. I looked up other pictures and those aspect ratios are all off too. I guess I'll just lie to myself and say that it might be accurate. I have an odd relationship to Blade Runner. It really hits a lot of the buttons I have when I'm looking for a genre film. My idols love this this movie. The problem is that the first two times I watched it, I didn't care for it at all. I was bored silly and found it far too pretentious to actually be considered good. But then I got caught up in the hype. The trailers for the sequel looked awesome and I really want to see it. The best thing I could have done to satisfy that itch was to rewatch the first movie, even if it was just to remind myself how I didn't like the movie. But then I watched it and really liked it. All of the story was still there, but something clicked in me that hadn't really seen the light of day before. I think I've changed my mind about Blade Runner.
Part of my issue is that I realized that Blade Runner was doing what I wanted genre cinema to do for a while now. Genre fiction is rarely seen as serious or part of the canon because it is always a little bit goofy. Blade Runner is actually a work of science fiction that doesn't see the term "science fiction" as a restriction. The movie is desperately trying to be something worthy and admirable. Why this might not necessarily hit the automatic genius status of 2001: A Space Odyssey or something of that ilk is the look of 1982. Upon initial glance, the film stock looks like it is a bit of a Cannon Film. It is grainy and dirty. There are oodles of films from this era of science fiction that use the dirty future to show off intensity. In many of these cases, the darkly lit world and grainy film stock are meant to cover up weak special effects budgets and overall flaws. However, Blade Runner isn't really doing that. Rather, Scott is applying the film noir mentality over a film that actually has remarkably masterful special effects, especially for the time period. Deckard really is Bogie in The Maltese Falcon. The fine line that Scott had to walk, however, is whether to straight up make a science fiction send up of the film noir or to simply pay homage to the genre through lighting effects. While I am not completely opposed to a sepia-toned Warner production of Blade Runner, I also acknowledge that would add an element of kitsch that wouldn't really vibe with the narrative of the piece.
What I also noticed upon this third viewing is that Blade Runner needs to be watched distraction free. The plot itself is deceptively simple, but can get confusing with a distracted audience. There's this whole subplot with J.F. Sebastian that left me flummoxed. I had no idea what his contribution to the main plot with the replicants was. I knew that he worked in genetic engineering, but I couldn't tie how Sebastian was tied to Deckard or how Deckard was able to work the case without a little bit of deus ex machina happening. However, if I was able to move my phone out of reach and I was forced to watch carefully (which I did!), the story makes perfect sense. When I realized that the plot wasn't all that intense, it freed me to examine the philosophy that Phillip K. Dick wove into his original tale Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick, like many of the science fiction greats, uses science fiction to comment on larger concepts. The theme of consciousness and the value of life are always present, regardless of how closely one watches the film. However, that frustration over the plot that I had before always got in the way and it annoyed me more than it should have. With that peace of mind, I was able to absorb the themes far better than before. I think the issue that distracted me previously was the absolutely brutal pacing. While Blade Runner could be chalked up as an action / sci-fi movie, the action really is used to continue the plot. Deckard isn't ridiculously violent. The concept implies that this should be a violent film, but Deckard tends to dispatch with the replicants quite quickly. He is cold and calculating, which doesn't fill the film with scenes of glorious violence. In fact, I don't even think that the violence is glorified. It simply happens and Deckard moves on with his life. That makes a boring movie. Maybe when I got older, I got okay with boring. Boring isn't bad. It's just bad if you are expecting a nonstop thrill ride.
The world of Blade Runner is darned impressive and I think that it only works in conjunction with the actors. I can't look at Sean Young after knowing that Batman Returns story. (If you don't know this story, Google it. It is bizarre.) But Young does a really solid job. It's Harrison Ford who puzzles me. Ford is a weird guy. He's got this personality like he's better than anything he does with the exception of Indiana Jones. That guy loves Indiana Jones. But this is young Harrison Ford. I honestly thought that he was trying to distance himself from Star Wars as far as doing sci-fi was concerned. I'm really glad that Deckard isn't Han Solo, but he's definitely a bit of Harrison Ford. Ford is charming as heck in everything he does for the most part, and there's one moment that really screams more Ford than Deckard. It's the same scene as the nekkid scene and it really kind of breaks the reality of the character. I know that a blade runner should have some tricks to get by the red tape of an area, but it seems a bit silly with him being a guy looking for peep holes. But the rest of the choices that Deckard presents are fairly cool. I like the hardened detective who just wants to be out of this life. Contrast that to Rutger Hauer, who crushes in this movie. I just realized that every actor in this movie has a dubious reputation. Harrison Ford hates everything he's in. Sean Young is a crazy person. Rutger Hauer is apparently a jerk to everyone. Perhaps it's only Edward James Olmos who seems like a nice guy, but he barely speaks. He does make some pretty rad origami (which I'm not quite sure I get, but it is a cool metaphor I guess...) Regardless, the cast's performance really works for the movie. I can even say that I normally don't like Rutger Hauer, but his performance in this movie is legendary.
Blade Runner hasn't really changed my life, but it is the kind of science fiction that I've been clamoring for in a way. It is extremely challenging. While the message of what constitutes life is interesting to me, it doesn't leave me staying up at night. But I like that it is slightly brainbreaky. The replicants in Blade Runner are mostly the bad guys of the film, but they have a darned point. If they wouldn't just murder all willy-nilly using eye gouges and skull crushing, they do have a right to fight for their own survival. Adding the complexity of Sean Young's character and the ambiguous status of Deckard as a replicant creates something to think about. It may not change the world and any contemporary philosophy would have to be heavily grafted on top of this, but it does make me think. That's the purpose of science fiction: we want people to think. It is challenging and I think I like Blade Runner more than I thought I did. Mind you, I really wanted to like Blade Runner, so I'm being a bit of a Pinocchio right now. (Pun intended.) This movie is pretty great. The aesthetics are phenomenal. It pushes philosophy and is challenging when it comes to expectations of science fiction. Now I really want to go see the new one. I just don't know when that is going to happen.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.