Blade Runner (1982)
Release Date: June 25th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ridley Scott Actors: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong
ecades after the theatrical release of Ridley Scott’s nightmarish science-fiction masterpiece “Blade Runner,” the film still retains every bit of its visual brilliance (made even more gorgeous with digitally remastered picture and sound and re-edited special effects for the 2007 “Final Cut” debut). But it’s crystal clear that more than just the imagery makes Scott’s third film one of the most important, influential, and entertaining of its genre. With stirring suspense, beautifully foreboding sets, poetic dialogue, poignant themes, gripping violence, and a love story to boot, this darkly brooding foray into serious dramatic fantasy is an uncontested champion.
In futuristic Los Angeles, androids designed to be nearly indistinguishable from humans are banned from Earth after mutinous actions off-world. These Replicants, as they are called, that attempt to return to civilization are to be hunted down and “retired” by special police units known as Blade Runners. When one such enforcer, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), is assigned to eliminate a gang of extremely dangerous Nexus 6 Series Replicants, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Rick begins to acknowledge the thin line that separates humankind from artificial intelligence. The murderous group slaughtered 23 people during their escape and now infiltrates the Tyrell Corporation, the company responsible for their manufacturing. It’s up to Deckard to discover the motives behind the incursion and to dispatch the renegade automatons. In his eventual confrontation with Batty – and through encounters with another Replicant named Rachael (Sean Young), who is unaware of her own origins – Deckard will learn just what it means to be human.
The deliberate, careful pacing of this sensational epic allows for more powerful revelations into the intricacies of each character’s emotions and rationale. Undoubtedly, this will also deter many impatient viewers from appreciating the notion of a predominantly science-fiction-themed film that pushes action/adventure into the background. Harrison Ford, handling grit and reflection with equal ease, perfectly captures the initially remorseless Deckard, who appears indifferent toward Replicant existences until he encounters one who changes his perception and appreciation of the seemingly indecipherable limitations of AI. Slowly falling for the beautiful creation, Deckard begins to question his own connection with society and the capacity to love something not entirely human. Thanks to the multiple versions of the film, many audiences believe Deckard is a Replicant himself, generating even more philosophical questions about identity.
Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty embodies a fitting antagonist to Deckard’s antihero, a violent and ruthless killer who wants what he cannot have – an extension on life itself. A sporting Terminator of sorts, Batty possesses many attributes that Deckard does not (and vice versa), creating a parallel and supplementation to each other’s existence. He starts with a clear purpose and mission, yet ends meeting the inevitable fate so cruelly inherent to his kind. Deckard has a less focused presence and is forced into an unwanted assignment; he only begins to value life when he sees the desperation of Batty and Rachael, both programmed with a failsafe of a four year lifespan. Rick gains life and love as Batty loses both. Batty’s haunting final words echo a loss of substantial accomplishment, not the simple shutting down of a robot, while fellow policeman Gaff’s (Edward James Olmos) portent closing admonition matches Deckard’s desire to cherish what time he has left with his newfound companion.
The set designs and overall look of the film are nothing short of inspired. Turbid steam flows freely from every mechanical object that hovers, glides, or scampers about; murky water plummets from the sky, drips from ceilings, and skates across the trash-ridden streets of a futuristic Los Angeles. Styled to look like Tokyo if it had succumbed to gross overpopulation, pollution, and a totalitarian government, the streets of the 2019 metropolis are covered in highly stylized denizens not that far removed from the cantina of Mos Eisley (but boasting an anti-“Star Wars” sense of wonderment). A feeling of dread, alienation, and claustrophobia lingers about every blackened, sordid street, while the smattering of languages creates a further isolation from the comforts of contemporary acculturation.
In addition, enormous, uninviting skyscrapers tower above the dusky horizon, as blinking spaceships scurry around the bustling airways. Every bit of scenery is blanketed with smog, shadows, and smoke, while shimmering neon signs and electric billboards peek through the dismal vapors. The atmosphere of “Blade Runner” is wholly unique, adding a striking seriousness to every event, no matter how outlandish or peculiar – or seemingly insignificant. And in the arena of weirdness, this movie boasts a marked abundance, culminating in a cat-and-mouse chase through a dilapidated building with a somersaulting mannequin assassin and a lamenting maniac. It emphasizes the distinct tone of uncertainty, dehumanization, and fear surrounding mortality, as well as the symbolisms of religion, subsistence, and time. Pulsing electronic rhythms by Vangelis correspondingly permeate the grim happenings, further narrating the moody film noir elements of this seminal science-fiction tour de force.
– The Massie Twins