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Blade Runner (1982)

by on 2011/08/16

“It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.”

* * * *

Every once in a while I know I’m going against the grain . . . the geek grain in this case. It doesn’t happen often, but it does from time to time: The Frighteners, Hobo with a Shotgun, and The Triplets of Belleville, to name a few.

For many years I’ve felt similarly conflicted about Blade Runner. I saw the original in the Eighties. I caught the theatrical release of the Director’s Cut in the early Nineties. I’ve purchased at least three distinct SKUs in the last decade.

I’ve even seen the oft-forgotten semi-sequel, Soldier.

Why expend so much time, money, and energy for an experience I didn’t enjoy? In short, I’m trying to “get” it. As with Unforgiven, I’m hoping at last to see the light.

To be fair, my estimation has waxed and waned, but it’s never quite matched the regard in which Blade Runner is usually held. I’m not unaware of its new classic status, of its esteemed director (Alien’s Ridley Scott), or of its frequent appearance on “best of” lists . . . as science fiction, as neo-noir, and even as a film, full stop.

And yet, to this day, I still find the story of its production more fun than its fiction. (The documentary extras alone are worth the cost of its set.)

Set in 2019‘s Los Angeles, the title’s “Blade Runner” is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark), a hunter of replicants. These short-lived artificial beings are stronger and faster than humans, but traditionally unstable. Their roles are played by Joanna Cassidy, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Brion James, and Sean Young. Plot threads alternate between their efforts to survive, and Deckard’s investigation.

Less an action flick than an uneven procedural, its strongest assets are neither adrenaline nor momentum, but ideas and visual effects.

In the arena of ideas, the movie asks or suggests numerous philosophical matters. Must a predator resemble its prey? Is their likeness inevitable? What is the relationship between creators, creations, and their flaws? Are memories worthless — or worth less, for that matter — if they are not real? And what makes something real? What constitutes living? Feeling?

The effects are comparatively unchallenging: distinct, convincing, captivating. With minor exceptions, the visuals rival many pieces made in the thirty years since. Aliens vs Predator, Attack of the Clones, and Stargate all came to mind as I watched, but only as similar points of relative failure. This picture has aged exceedingly well. The model work is stellar, rivaling CGI for realism.

Other aspects were less impressive. The motion of spinners — the flying cars — were unconvincing to me, as was the “aging” makeup on J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson). Plus, several of my personal pet peeves showed up to distract: a “555” phone number, a saxophone-driven love scene, and the 3D navigation of a two-dimensional photo.

To be clear, though I recognize the substance and the timelessness of its craft, Blade Runner gives me little to hold on to. Thought provoking, yes, and with intellect to spare, but it doesn’t make me feel enough to care. Its future is cold, dark, desolate, distant and aloof. I understand and appreciate . . . I just don’t find it fun or entertaining.

* * * *

Rated 14A (Canada) / R (United States)

117 minutes (2007 “Final Cut” version)

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