Friday, November 16, 2012

Blade Runner (1982) Review

Blade Runner 1982 poster
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, M. Emmet Walsh
Genre: Science Fiction, Tech-Noir

First off it should be said that you have to watch the right version to truly enjoy Blade Runner. By all means do your best to avoid the theatrical version and the International cut. Those ones suck. Seriously, they're awfully; if I was rating this film based on those version it's be like a 2/5, 2.5 tops. Make sure you get the Final Cut, which was released in 2007. That's widely regarded as the best, most complete version by fans and by the director. If you can't find the Final Cut for some reason then the 1992 Director's Cut isn't too bad, certainly better than the aforementioned first two, but the Final Cut is what you want to try and get. This will be a review of strictly the Final Cut version of the film. Onto the review...

Ridley Scott has directed films of varying genres, but his work in science fiction always seems to be his most remembered and celebrated. The last film Scott directed before Blade Runner was Alien, so this guy, Ridley Scott, directed two massive films in the sci-fi genre...in a row.

The story follows a blade runner (Ford) whose job it is to hunt down and 'retire' any escaped androids, or as they're called in the film: replicants. The plot isn't too complex; it plays out like a film noir mixed with cyberpunk, which would later go on to be referred to as Tech-Noir, a name that was coined by 1984's The Terminator, another great film of the genre.

The film is loosely based on Philip K. Dick's amazing novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The novel was much more centered in philosophical thought, whereas Blade Runner focuses more on the actual plot. So in that sense it doesn't really do the novel justice. Overall though it's a pretty solid adaptation. For my review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? check out my review on Goodreads.

Harrison Ford and Sean Young in Blade Runner

The name of the film, Blade Runner, comes from a novel written by Alan E. Nourse and the adaptation novella by William S. Burroughs. Though the similarities essentially end at the name.

The story can sometimes feel like it's going a bit too fast. Not in an action type of way, it just feels like it doesn't take its time. The film is rather slow paced but it has so many ideas going on at once that it should have been a bit longer. The Final Cut is just short of 2 hours long but I think the film could have greatly benefited from a little extra time. At least 30 minutes more. The characters never really have a chance to grow on you and the climax arrives way too soon. Just as things feel as if they're getting intense, the film is nearly over. The film should of been longer or somehow implemented better pacing and development. I'd prefer the former.

Daryl Hannah as Pris in Blade Runner

Blade Runner flirts with serious ideas and themes such as religion, humanity, morality, oppression, etc. This makes sense since the novel Blade Runner is based on dealt with many of the same issues. However, when put to film it doesn't work as well. The film doesn't have enough time to fully explore these ideas and questions and it instead presents them in a quick, unsatisfactory manner. Maybe it's just because I can't help but to compare it to the book, but in comparison to the questions and issues dealt with in the novel, Blade Runner's philosophical elements are pretty disappointing. However, this isn't a book, it's a film, so I must judge it accordingly. And Blade Runner is vastly superior to most of the other shit that comes out of Hollywood when it comes to provoking thought and presenting philosophical inquiries, so I guess for a film it's pretty sophisticated. 

The cyberpunk world in Blade Runner is amazing. It's very believable and mood-setting. The entire film is very visually pleasing and stylized. Wonderful atmosphere, set design, and even costume design. Every shot looks beautiful, every scene dazzling. The world is somewhat reminiscent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but it truly is a unique world of its own. Even Philip K. Dick, who generally hated anything that came out of Hollywood, said that the world was how he had imagined it when he wrote the novel which Blade Runner was based on.

The cyberpunk world of Blade Runner

The soundtrack, composed by Vangelis, not only sounds amazing but also suites the film's style perfectly. The score definitely succeeds in giving the film that extra atmospheric edge.

All the acting is good. Harrison Ford doesn't do a bad job (is that even possible) but it's nothing you wouldn't expect. Decent job on Ford's part, he plays a very unemotional character which works well for the film. The star here though I would say is the massive Rutger Hauer. His on-screen presence is larger than life and proves to be a very terrifying and intimidating antagonist. 

Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner

A very good science fiction film that has a philosophical edge (though not nearly sophisticated as people seem to make it out to be) and deals with existential issues that will manage to be thought provoking to anyone who isn't too familiar with philosophy. Visually beautiful, great soundtrack. I just can't stress enough the importance of watching the right version (Final Cut), it has an awesome, dramatic, ambiguous ending, it doesn't have those unnecessary voice overs, and the Final Cut is improved in essentially every aspect.

4/5 stars
Pros:
+Visually pleasing stylish world and atmosphere
+Great soundtrack
+Good actors
+Very sophisticated for a Hollywood film; philosophical appeal
+Entire film is open to interpretation
Cons:
-Should have been longer
-Didn't have enough time to develop the characters or explore all the ideas presented

Purchase Blade Runner on Amazon (Final Cut) : Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream
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