Blade Runner: Movie Review

I’m really trying to like this movie (1992 Director’s Cut, mainly, though I look at the Theatrical Cut as well) because I know it’s place in the sci-fi canon, which I respect. Some movies have taken quite a bit from it – Fifth Element is a strong homage, Dark City takes a lot stylistically. But the move it reminds me of the most is the Crow (I’m aware that sounds weird. Of course the Crow came afterwards. But that’s not the order I saw them in). What they share is they take forever to get where they’re going, they’re often dark (literally) and rainy. They’re shot really well (this movie exceptionally well). They don’t telegraph action – they post it in the mail, go inside and listen to Vangelis, come back out to make sure it’s in the mail, and go back inside and watch some shows about rain. It takes forever to get anywhere, except in scenes where things happen too quickly and are over too quickly (I could have watched a lot more interrogation at the beginning, it was the best-written part of the whole film).

The shot that's in every reference to Blade Runner.
The shot in every reference to Blade Runner in books.

The narration in the theatrical version is terrible. Narration, in general, is fine – this narration doesn’t work. Wrong tone, wrong delivery for this film, which is an artistic, sci-fi “thinker”. Have a listen:

[audio:bladerunner/narration.mp3]
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The narration’s like the dopey cousin who wanders into the shoot thinking he needs to clarify things when they don’t need clarified. Harrison Ford’s often not sure of what he’s doing here. He smiles, grimaces, stares, etc. but not consistently or in a way that builds a specific character. The best performances were from Joe Turkel as Dr. Eldon Tyrell and William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian. Check out this scene from Dr. Tyrell where he questions Deckard about his process for determining if Rachael was an android:

Turkel, channeling Boris Karloff.
Turkel, channeling Boris Karloff.

[audio:bladerunner/turkel.mp3]
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James Hong, in a small part as Hannibal Chew who makes eyes (“just eyes, I just do eyes”) for androids was good as well. Rutger Hauer was solid as an android with feelings (it’s clear why he’s the leader) until the last scenes where he got down to his biker shorts and tiptoe-ran around the big wet gloomy apartment building with glee. There is no hyperbole in the last sentence – watch it and tell me that’s not what he does. Sean Young as Racheal is fine, but pretty cold for someone who (gasp!) might be an android. Daryl Hannah was pretty good as Pris – innocent enough to con her way into a meeting with Tyrrel but apparently a killing machine with the thighs.

A couple of differences between the book and the movie:

There are many, but here are a couple of the most dramatic.

  • Book: Deckard is in a troubled marriage, the opening scene with them arguing about the setting on their mood-altering drug tells us about their relationship.
    Movie: He’s single (director’s cut) or divorced (theatrical cut).
    Does it work? Makes him look like less of a jerk sleeping with the android. Fits with noir theme (troubled wife doesn’t).
  • Book: Rachael, the android, does know she’s a replicant, and is a full-on femme fetal. She seduces Decker to keep him from killing her replicant friends (you have emotional attachment to me, have emotional attachment to them, the approach) and then kills his real goat  (on the roof with his android sheep) in revenge when it doesn’t work.
    Movie: Rachael just finds out she’s a replicant during the process of the story. Decker seduces (forcefully) her and they drive off together at the end, supposedly to try to work out human/android marriage and it’s consequences on society.
    Does it work? The book is pretty depressing, even though it’s so enjoyable. The movie would have to be 20 hours longer to sustain it’s gazey pace with the complexities of human behavior described in the book.

The book is a good read. It approaches (APPROACHES) actual literature – nuances in mood and character are observed pretty well, and it isn’t formuliac. It makes me want to read other Phillip K. Dick stuff, when I want to get depressed about the future.

I think at some point they just lost track of what the hell they were doing and gave it to some goth kids in drama to take care of. “Go ahead and finish. There’ll be a movie out later called the Crow. You’ll need to inspire it quite a bit. So heavy on the drama, and heavy on the weird. Heavy on the slow.”

Randomocity:

  • Deckard plays piano? Because he has a Past, I guess, with a unicorn, no less.
  • Roy kisses his maker on the lips. Probably a lot of people want to do that.
  • It takes people too long to get places – it’s taking Harrison Ford about 5 minutes to get up these stairs. Just head on up, brother! They ain’t gonna break!
  • This scene where he goes to get Darryl Hannah is nice and creepy.
  • Between you and me, they got the noir thing down. If it isn’t rain, it’s dark with fan, shutter, or hole-in-the-ceiling lighting, an emotionally mute and troubled cop (ex-cop pulled out of retirement, even), even a femme sort-of-fatale.
  • There are very few uncool shots. There are a lot of cool shots. Most of it is really beautiful to look at. Which may be why it took so long to get anywhere narratively – everyone just kept getting distracted?

3 thoughts on “Blade Runner: Movie Review

  1. I bought the blu-ray of Blade Runner (with all of the different editions including the Final Cut). You know what … the film looks fabulous. However, I still can’t “get into” it. I’m not sure if the problem lies with the film or the fact that, as a sci-fi fan, I’m supposed to love it.

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