Blade Runner: A Look Back

It has been a couple years since I have seen Blade Runner. I have alot of fond memories of the film and I never got a chance to review it. What made me decide to was that the film has seen many incarnations over the years. Some say there are 7 distinct cuts of the film. Three that were unauthorized by director Ridley Scott. So since it has come to Blu-Ray with 5 versions of the film in one slick package, I thought I would take a look back at the movie.

The 1982 film finds futuristic detective Frank Deckard (Harrison Ford) hunting rogue androids who are bent on destroying their maker. The question the movie presents and in the story by Phillip K Dick, is that if we can make a “replicant” so close to who we are do they develop a soul as well. When does the line between man and machine blur? What is too real?

We have been asking that question well beyond Deckard’s debate, in the 1950s we were all obsessed with jet-packs, androids who would do our chores and spaceships. Oh also before that for some reason we speculated that the moon was in fact made of cheese. But with the dawn of the space race and the red menace, we lost that innocence and space travel became a reality and we all thought maybe we could actually achieve the things only dreamed about in comic books. Maybe Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon will be jet-packing past us one day soon.

The space race was a great time to be alive because it was thought that anything was possible. When Phillip K Dick wrote his story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968, he was probably thinking the same thing. The Apollo missions were in full swing and well a year after his book was published Neil Armstrong did in fact walk on the moon.

Blade Runner came in Harrison Ford’s career when he was knee-deep in Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It was the only standalone film he did between 1980 and 1985. Basically this was your classic Harrison Ford. He plays Deckard as part Han Solo, part Dirty Harry and it is brilliant. You have those typical Harrison Ford facial expressions and grunts as he’s hit pumpled and well broken. This film was also one of the most brutal of the films that Harrison did in his early career.

Another performance that could rival Ford’s is that of Rutger Hauer, who plays the film’s main baddie. He is brutal, unsympathetic and brilliant. Hauer’s Roy Batty should be considered one of movie’s greatest all-time villains. He is just so unforgettable.

The reason Blade Runner  is such a classic is because it has so many layers, was such a departure from other futuristic films and well there was the inside movie debate. (Spoiler: Is Deckard a replicant or not?) I have found with each viewing of the film that I arrived at a different answer. That is what is also great about all the different cuts of the film, sometimes they push the debate to one side or the other. Obviously there is no right answer but it is fun to speculate. I have my own answer. What’s yours?

Joanna Cassidy as replicant stripper, Zhora.

For Blade Runner Final Cut, the restoration team went back and fixed some of the errors in continuity and effects the film had. They also did some daring green screen shoots to replace some of the footage. In one scene Deckard is chasing an android (played by Joanna Cassidy). A stuntwoman replaced the actress when she was supposed to crash through many many glass windows. The scene in the original cut was very distinctly the stuntwoman. So 25 years later they brought in Joanna Cassidy shot her in front of green screen and replaced the stuntwoman’s head. It sounds utterly bizarre but somehow movie magic pulled it off. They did a similar feat when they replaced Harrison Ford’s chin with that of his son so that Ford’s lips would match the dialogue. These restoration feats, the clarity on Blu-Ray and well the multi-layered story make viewing Blade Runner a whole new experience. I am not sure if we needed the film to be corrected but just witnessing what they can do is amazing.

The film’s bleak look at the future, mixture of cultures, “replicants” and flying cars is a rich tapestry to tell a story. I almost wish there was a prequel to the movie so we could see what happened to Deckard that made him want to give up hunting androids. I think it would have been cool to expand on the Blade Runner universe as a whole. Was he off-world when he was hunting before? What different kinds of androids are there? I am not sure if Phillip K Dick expanded on this in his novel but it would be interesting to know.

If I were reviewing the film, I would give Blade Runner 4 out of 5. The only real flaw with the film for me was some of the pacing. It does drag on in places.

So Says the Soothsayer.

One thought on “Blade Runner: A Look Back

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