AFI List: Blade Runner – 1982 (97)

15 Mar

Movie: Blade Runner Year: 1982 Genre: Science Fiction

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah

My friends… it took me a while to write this post. Partially because I wasn’t left with a strong feeling about the film either way, and partly because I started a related project to this one, but I won’t comment on that just yet… I don’t hate “Blade Runner”, but I don’t love it, either. I’m just… I’m just…


I have discussed this project with my friends at work. When the subject of this film came up, the men were pretty excited that I was going to watch Blade Runner. They all seem to have a very positive impression of it and seemed to love it. Their excitement about it is somewhat infectious, so admittedly, I got caught up in their excitement and became excited about seeing Blade Runner, too. I do like some films in the Sci Fi genre – I am a fan of the Star Wars franchise (even using the nicknames Vader and Yoda for my kids). So, when I admitted I hadn’t seen it, those same men that were super excited about my seeing it let out a collective gasp followed (almost in unison) by the phrase “YOU’VE never seen ‘Blade Runner’?”.

(sigh) No… no I haven’t.

I don’t know what it is about this genre – some I love, some I’m apathetic about. I don’t hate any that I can think of, they – collectively – just don’t “do it” for me. I appreciate the creativity that goes into these stories and the imagery, but I guess, in my heart, I’m more of a realist. So… having said all of that, here’s my (most likely longer-ish) post…

Here’s where my “research” ahead of time might get me into trouble… once I started reading about this film, I went down a veritable rabbit hole of information, all leading to interesting facts and debates about this film. I know all about the various cuts. I know all about the actors and how they felt about Ridley Scott. I know how they felt about the final product (and I agree with Harrison Ford on a lot of it). I read the Wikipedia Cliff’s notes about the book and I think I got a good image of what the story was supposed to be… and am (as I usually am in this situation) profoundly disappointed in the departure from what I thought the story should have included from the book. But the debate of the versions… that intrigued me so much so that I felt like I had to see both the original 1982 theatrical release and the Scott Final Cut versions.

So… I did.

I get the debate now.

Short version of the long story: Blade Runners are bounty hunters for Androids called replicants. Replicants look like humans and are really only distinguishable by their lack of empathy (which can be measured by a VK machine – kind of like a lie detector). The replicants were banned from Earth long ago and are used on colonies for dangerous work. When they come back to Earth, they are “retired” or killed by a Blade Runner. In this case, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired Blade Runner who is enlisted to find 4 rogue replicants that have made their way back to Earth because the end of their service (about 4 years) is approaching and they want more time (read: longer life). His first stop is the manufacturer of these replicants who has an assistant (Rachael) we soon discover is also a replicant (with implanted memories), but doesn’t know it. Deckard leaves so he can find the first on his list – he finds and retires her while another replicant witnesses the retirement. Seeking revenge, the witness replicant tries to kill Deckard, but Rachael saves his life – after which he promises not to hunt her.

Meanwhile, on the non-crowded side of town, the other two replicants (Roy and Pris) befriend a lonely bio-mechanical engineer named JK Sebastian who lives alone in a huge building, but is surrounded by these creepy Franken-Toys (I can’t believe I’ve used that phrase in two posts now…) – he says “I make my friends”. Sebastian is suffering from a degenerative condition that ages him faster than his years – which is important in how the replicants relate to him. The replicants talk Sebastian in to taking the leader (Roy) to the owner of their manufacturer (Tyrell) and, after realizing there is nothing even Tyrell can do to help them live longer, Roy confesses his sins and kills both Tyrell and Sebastian (by poking their eyes into their brains – a pretty graphic thing I chose not to watch). While Roy is away, Deckard finds Pris (the last replicant) and retires her. Roy arrives shortly after Pris is retired and the two fight until Deckard almost falls off a building – Roy saves him at the last minute, delivers a soliloquy and dies. I’m ending it there because there were two different endings.

So… the things I liked about the film:

  • I liked the Neo-Noir feel to it – the mashup of early 1980s with early 1940s in the attire of all the characters – I actually even noticed a few cars that had that same mixed feeling.
  • I liked – generally speaking – the idea of the story – it made me think a little more about humanity and longevity and how we’d all like a little more time to just do a little more here on Earth.
  • I preferred the Final Cut version – I thought the clean up they did on the color and contrast looked much better and the imagery was just brighter
  • The hover cars were pretty damn cool

Here’s what I didn’t really like about it…

  • I hated the narration of the domestic theatrical release. I get what they were going for, I do – the noir narration typical in the 1940s, but you could really tell that Harrison Ford was *not* on board with it and he sounded so irritated. Thank you, Scott, for getting rid of that.
  • Although I didn’t read the book, I know that a major plot line in it (hence the name of the book) was the animals and that owning an animal was a big deal – it was a status symbol and it helped prove you had empathy – that’s why all the humans wanted one. Deckard wanted to buy an animal and had motivation for taking the job of bounty hunter. He didn’t really have any motivation for taking the job in the movie. He got up to leave Bryant’s office all huffy and “I’m still quit!” but Bryant said “Sit down – you *have* to do this” and he sat down like a chump and took the job. No real motivation.
  • Animals are only mentioned 4 times: the turtle during a replicant VK test, an owl when Deckard comes to Tyrell’s office the first time, the snake one of the Replicant uses in a strip tease show, and the owl at Tyrell’s office appears again in his apartment when Roy kills him. The turtle was a completely hypothetical situation and the owl and snake were both replicants – the characters talk about the fact that they are expensive, but never are real animals discussed… maybe I don’t have enough imagination for this or maybe, perhaps, I was sullied by an important plot line in the book missing from the film and would have been none-the-wiser had I not read that.
  • There is a unicorn dream that Deckard has (while in a drunken stupor, no less) – the unicorn doesn’t do anything – it is just running through a field. This 15-seconds is supposed to symbolize the fact that Deckard may also be a replicant and had implanted memories (because another cop played by Edward James Olmos puts an oragami unicorn at Deckard’s front door). The “dream”, though, was cut from the original theatrical release so the oragami unicorn at the front door in that version made no sense at all… aside from that, unicorns aren’t real, so it isn’t like he was remembering something from his past… so, the whole “planted memory” thing doesn’t hold water for me…
  • Did I miss the news that Noah is making a visit to LA in 5 years? Since when did LA ever get that much rain? It would have been better if they just didn’t say what the city was…
  • The eyes thing kind of creeped me out… I get the symbolism of it (eyes are the window to the soul and all that), but I just didn’t like seeing people die by having their eyes poked out. That gave me nightmares a couple of days later…

So… I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I found holes in the story, but I think that my imagination might have been turned off that day. I dunno. On to the next one…

Next up:  Do the Right Thing (1989) #96 starring Danny Aiello and Ossie Davis – I saw this one in Film Class, but as I talked about it today, I honestly couldn’t remember much about the story. I remember that I liked it when I saw it about 19 years ago… let’s see what I think now.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 15, 2012 in AFI 100 Years List


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One response to “AFI List: Blade Runner – 1982 (97)

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