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Losing My Blade Runner Virginity

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

I like to consider myself a movie buff. My birthday parties are movie marathons. I spend a great deal of money seeing movies in theatres. I watch bad movies just for fun. I analyze movies quite thoroughly. I like to look at every angle of their production and think about they way the filmmakers went about realizing the world. I like to go on long diatribes and rants about how film could be improved–I’ve even done so, in print, on this site. Heck, I even want to write such things for a living someday.

However, it shames me to admit that there a great deal of movies I should have seen. Not just any movies–I’m talking classic movies: movies that define genres and are generally considered some of the greatest of all time. Why haven’t I seen these movies when I have seen the Star Wars Holiday Special? To be perfectly honest: I have no freaking idea. Every time I hear one of these movies mentioned and go to talk about it, all I have to contribute is, “Oh yeah…I, uh…really should see that.” Which as a movie nerd I find ABYSMAL. There are certain movies I despise not having seen, mainly because I have no idea if anyone else knows what they’re talking about.

[ad#longpost]I was thinking about this as I signed up for Netflix this month, thereby eradicating my other failure as a movie buff: not getting access to an endless treasure trove of movies. But now that I have access to almost all of these movies I should have seen, I’m going to watch them and write about them, because, well…why the hell not. I’ve already done snarky writing about bad movies, it might be a good idea to do some about good ones. So join me as I start my expedition into the realm of… The Movies I Should Have Seen.

And that brings me to my first utterly guilty admission: I’ve never seen Blade Runner. Not one bit of it. Not a scrap. Not even the trailer, nor a clip, nor a picture other than the box art. Heck, until I looked at the Wikipedia page getting ready to do this..I didn’t know who was in it, other than Harrison Ford. And prime Harrison Ford at that, right between Raiders and Return of the Jedi. It has Rutger Hauer in it and I love Rutger Hauer…and he considers Roy Batty his best movie role. I haven’t even read the book! Well that’s really not my fault, Philip K. Dick kinda makes me sleepy. I know that one’s on me. And, oh man…it has Edward James Olmos too! I love Battlestar Galactica. So anyway, you can see how I need to see this right? I just got it in the mail today and I’ve loaded it in to the computer and I’m almost ready to get under way.

A note on selection: I went with The Final Cut. I know this isn’t how most of you first experienced Blade Runner and usually for this exercise I would want to go with what the first viewers would have seen. However I am making this exception to my own arbitrary rule for one reason. If you don’t know this about Ridley Scott yet, let me tell you this, because I’ll be saving you a lot of time. His theatrical cuts aren’t as good. Every director’s cut I’ve seen of a Ridley Scott film is so much better than the original it makes me think of the original as utter crap that I wish I hadn’t bothered. Even if I liked it beforehand. Kingdom of Heaven is the best example; don’t even bother watching the original. The original is a silly action movie, the director’s cut is a moving period piece.

Alright. Here we go guys, it’s 11:56 PM on February 2nd, 2011 and I’m going to watch Blade Runner. I’ll see you all in 117 minutes.

Blade Runner: Tyrell Corporation

Post Blade Runner. Okay. Okay. Wow. Hmm. Where to begin? I guess right off the bat I should say that visually, this movie is stunning. When you watch this movie, you see where the next twenty years of science fiction film makers cribbed their ideas. Everything from the city slums to the Tyrell Corporation’s pyramid is meticulously designed. Everything you look at in this movie is so, I think “full” is the right word I’m looking for. Everything has this lived-in quality that’s notable in so many great genre films. Star Wars, The Fifth Element, Lord of the Rings and all the other greats all have it–Fifth Element especially–and for the ones that came after Blade Runner, I think that this movie informed them a great deal. So just on a visual level this movie deserves its praise and acclaim.

Thematically, again, great flick. This movie has so much symbolism if I went into it you’d think I was talking about Nathaniel Hawthorne. There’s a whole delicious level of moral quandaries to be found if you just look at the question of using replicants. Genetically engineering human beings with short life spans to do slave labor for the rest of the human race and hunting down the ones that don’t want to? How do people justify this? Then there’s the religious overtones of the Tyrell Corporation and their absolute control over the world. Dr. Tyrell is even treated as a sort of god throughout the movie as Rutger Haur’s gang of replicants works their way toward Tyrell through his network of geneticists. And again there’s amazing thematic questions about a replicant, essentially a human, going to his creator and asking for a longer life. When his creator tells him this is impossible he kills his creator. That had me quoting the Ian Malcolm speech from Jurassic Park in my head, “God creates man, man destroys God, man creates dinosaurs.” Or maybe Replicants?

Blade Runner: Deckard meets Pris

Alright, so far I have to say I found the direction in the movie fantastic, and the production design quite wonderful. On the acting side of things, we have a great cast doing top notch performances. Harrison Ford is, as I suspected, in his prime; he’s doing an amazing job. Edward James Olmos does a great job even though he’s stuck talking that nonsense street language the whole time. And I love full-on crazy Rutger Hauer. Unfortunately, this movie did nothing to dissipate my unwarranted dislike of Daryl Hannah. I think people just tend to mention her because they like the fact there was a sex robot in a movie. Or a sex…genetic slave person…whatever.

So that brings us to the script: as a burgeoning screenwriter, I am naturally hardest on this and…I’m pretty hard on it really. Nothing. Really. Happens. I’m sorry, it’s true. Now I know what you’re thinking, “The characters do a lot of things.” However, most of these things that they do are not significant. In most films, a scene where a police investigator finds a clue should take about a page, or a minute of film time to deal with. In Blade Runner, however, going to an engineered animal market to find out about a snake scale takes far, far too long. To me it just seems as if the writers knew what a cool looking world they were creating, so they decided to spend as much time wallowing in it as possible. So a lot of the Deckard plot is really, really tiring to sit through. The replicant plot’s pacing is much better, each scene with them is tightly written and very nice to watch. However, on that side of things, nothing really makes much sense. Replicants are supposed to have these four year life spans to prevent them developing emotions and independence. Seems like a major system failure since the four escapees spend their whole time on screen producing both.

However, there is some great stuff here, specifically the question of Deckard as a replicant. There’s so many visual and thematic clues that lead you to believe he is one, I’m not going to list them all in case you’re in the same boat as I was on this movie. But it is really compelling trying to figure out if our Blade Runner is a replicant himself. But the thing of it is, if he isn’t a replicant, he may as well be. Deckard has no past, and essentially no future, the only bit of his life that exists for us is his present: what we see him doing in the movie. And the structure of the movie follows it. The film is a whole lot of middle–there’s not really a beginning and there’s not really an end. Some people would see this as a flaw but given the themes of the replicants I think it’s a real strength.

So, overall, I kind of liked Blade Runner, but I’m in no rush to watch it all again. So if I had to condense all this to a cup rating, I’d give it two. As a movie alone, three cups and definitely worth seeing once. As a miniature film studies course, five cups, there’s a lot to be learned about film making here, tips and perils. So if you love film as a medium, watch Blade Runner and critique it yourself. There’s a lot to work with. Oh and definitely go with the director’s cut, the Ridley Scott rule holds true with this.


  • I’m a huge fan of this film. I have the 5 disc Blu-Ray, read the book, Vangelis’ score has a permanent place on whatever MP3 player I can get to work at the time. There is no better crafted vision of the future on film.
    But it’s hype is it’s worst enemy; and evrwrldBB is absolutely right, the film is a complete trudge to get through. The story is a high-gloss version of the reality of police detective work; the endless paperwork and questioning citizens that may somehow be remotely linked to the case. Sure, it’s all pasted over a gorgeous framework of symbolism and metaphor, but that loses it’s greatness when you’re doing that shaking-your-head-to-try-to-stay-awake thing through the entire second act.
    It would be interesting to see the exact same film, except scripted now, in the ADD quick-cut CSI-era (though, not necessarily by the CSI writers). I already blame Blade Runner for CSI’s Magic Enhance Button anyway.

  • All I can say is if you want a no-gloss version of the reality of police detective work, watch Kenneth Branagh in WALLANDER. It’s like watching paint that’s already been dry for twenty years. I couldn’t watch past the first TV movie, and we’re talking about a series that has Branagh AND David Warner, for God’s sake. That being said, I never found the thing a trudge, but I realize that can be just me. That also being said, I’m kicking myself for having bought the Ltd. Edition briefcase 5-DVD and now I need the Blu-Ray. Damn me and my lack of long range planning!!

  • Like PhantomV48, I also consider myself a HUGE Blade Runner fan. I have all versions of the film, a couple versions of the soundtrack that I usually play at least twice a week and generally can’t go a full year without seeing the movie at least three times – that’s the original cut. I have to say it, it just wants to burst out with no holds barred – evrwrldBB, you need to see the original theatrical version. For anyone who has never, ever seen Blade Runner and starts out with the Final Cut is actually a sin according to my Blade Runner bible.
    Ed Chapter 1 verse 1: Thou Shalt not watch any version of Blade Runner before the original theatrical version.
    Despite my deep love and affection for this movie, and generally get thoroughly offended when I hear someone talk bad about this movie, I found your opinion regarding the story of Rick’s investigation interesting. In a whole, since this movie is about the meaning of life, I think it would be interesting to see a completely different movie where there is more focus on the replicant’s search for the meaning of life and Tyrell and less on Rick’s investigation for these “villains”.
    Sorry that I am making this comment a short novel. I will wrap it up now by saying that I am glad to see that you enjoyed the movie and pray, with the Blade Runner bible gripped tightly to my chest, that you will consider watching the original theatrical version, and soon.
    Good article.

  • Ed-

    Normally I would totally agree, theatrical cut first everytime. But as I say in the article, every other Ridley Scott movie where I’ve watched both, I regretted the time wasted on the theatrical cut. For instance,

    Kingdom of Heaven
    Robin Hood
    and the big one

    All of these films presented to me that I really should just wait for him to retool them. I have to admit that the forest boys showing up at the end of Hood was way less silly with all their scenes put back in. But i’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’ll have to consider watching the theatrical cut, it is on instant play.

  • Nice review. I have never read a review of Blade Runner before. It has been one of my annuals since BETA-MAX.
    I would say having seen all five versions over twenty-five years the “Final” is my preferred. Though having seen the theatrical cut first I would agree with Ed.

    Legend Oh yeah!

    Widge, at least the 5 disc blu will only set you back 20 bucks now. I too have a tiny origami-ish unicorn. They see me coming a mile away.

  • Greyawl: Thanks for the comment/reminder…it’s kinda nuts it’s that cheap, but I’m not complaining. I shall make the leap soon enough.