I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
With Blade Runner 2049 hitting theaters this weekend, it is time to look back at what many consider one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Keep in mind that since there are five versions of the film, I will be reviewing The Final Cut version of the film, and won’t be discussing the differences between each version. Also, this review will be more of an analysis of some of the themes of Blade Runner and how they have affected the viewing of the film so there may be some spoilers throughout the film.
In the futuristic year of 2019, Los Angeles has become a dark and depressing metropolis, with the city beings at brinks end. Rick Deckard is an ex-cop who is now a Blade Runner, people assigned to hunt down androids that look human known as Replicants. After four replicants commit mutiny, Deckard is pulled out of retirement to look and assassinate them. Along the way, he discovers a replicant named Rachael, who unlike other replicants, can express human emotions and thoughts, questioning his own identity and what is human and what is not.
Based on the Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has become one of the most influential sci-fi films ever made. Initially getting mixed reviews and underperforming in the box office, many were disappointed with the false marketing that made it look like a sci-fi action film instead of the cyberpunk neo-noir that was presented. In first viewing, many can be left confused and downright polarized with what the film actually means. With more understanding and viewings, this film sneaks up on you and one that you watched and admired rather than being entertained by it. Throughout the years, Blade Runner has garnered a cult following and has since been hailed as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made, become a film that is more respected than loved that has become a classic. It has influenced many films such as The Matrix, television shows such as Battlestar Galactica, and even anime such as Cowboy Bepop.
One of the reasons why it has stood the test of time is Ridley Scott’s beautiful direction and the world he created. The futuristic setting is one that is dark and melancholy, with many of the scenes shot in dark settings and nighttime. The city of Los Angeles, while being filled with futuristic technology, is dark, gritty, and polluted that filled with smog and a dirty aspect. It is one of the most logical depictions of the future world. The visuals and the world it creates is where the film succeeds most, given a very cyberpunk setting to the world. Everything about the way the film is shot and filled supports this dark and gloomy world, from the music to the mesmerizing cinematography by Jordan Cronenwealth all adds to the incredible world Scott created.
Ridley Scott’s film also succeeds in how it is able to blend different genres and make it all work in a seamless fashion. It was able to be a great homage to film noir of the 1940’s while also being the first to create the cyberpunk sci-fi film genre. Not only that, but it was also able to add elements of horror, suspense, romance and make it fit for the story it was trying to tell. Ridley Scott is also able to use the elements and genre and deliver a film where the world is cold and bleak, and one that is filled with a dystopian feel towards the whole world.
Blade Runner is famous for its themes and symbolism, and it is one of the reasons why the film is still discussed to this day. The film is able to tackle the themes of existence and survival, which are shown through the actions of the replicants. The replicants are depicted as ones who are more than just androids, who are able to express emotions throughout and are dealing with consequences that human face. They fear for the end of their time and death, and like their human counterparts are willing to fight for their survival by any means necessary.
The film is also able to take what it means to be human and the issue of humanity, specifically in the distinction between replicants and humans. The humans, such as Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard, are shown to be cold, stoic with very little emotion and almost seeming robotic thanks to the world that they live in. Ford’s performance is able to capture that aspect in Deckard, and it isn’t until his interactions with the replicant Rachael where we are able to see him evoke more human emotions. Meanwhile, the replicants, who are supposed to be androids devoided of human emotions, are shown to have love, fear, worry, anxiety, and are more human than the actual humans. This is able to open up the question of what does it really mean to be human, which is the overarching theme of the film. The humanity presented and the way it is expressed is able to be what Blade Runner is able to represent throughout the cold, dark, world that Ridley Scott created.
One of the best instances of humanity is in the film’s final moments, the “Tears in Rain” monologue, which takes place after a replicant save the life of a human after a brawl between the two. This was able to be one of the best cinematic monologues of all time, as it was able to capture what Blade Runner is about as well as the nuance of the performance by Rutgeur Hauer as the replicant Roy Betty in a career best. This sequence is able to capture the struggle the idea of existence and being remembered, as well as finding a way for your memory to live on through another life or through another person. This speech is able to underline the human characteristics of the replicants mixed with the artificial capabilities that are found throughout. It is perfectly acted by Rutgeur Hauer, and it is easily the best moment of the film that captures perfectly what the film is about.
In the common theme of humanity and what it means to be human, one of the film’s biggest unanswered questions is whether or not our protagonist, Rick Deckard, is a human or replicant. This has been up to debate throughout many years, as there are hints throughout the film that supports both sides of the argument. The characters were written to be human and show human characteristic throughout the film. However, there are scenes where it alludes to him being a replicant, such as the growing humanity as he gets while battling replicants, the mere fact that like replicants, he has a fascination of photographs, and the last scene of the film, which has become iconic as well. The debate of whether Deckard is human or not is one that film lovers discuss to this day, as it was left in an ambiguous state that might be solved in Blade Runner 2049. Until then, this question is open to interpretation of what it really means to be human.
While Blade Runner succeeds in delivering a great visual film with excellent themes, this is not for everyone. The best way to describe Blade Runner is that it is a flawed masterpiece. The pacing is slow, the character motivations are sometimes unclear, and there are issues throughout, there is very little action and it does meander. This is a film that does require additional viewing in order to respect and admire it for what Ridley Scott is trying to say, and there will be people who will either get bored or disinterested. While it took many viewings to fully appreciate and understand why people love this film, it is not my favorite sci-fi film or Ridley Scott film or Harrison Ford film. Blade Runner is a great and inspirational film that anyone who loves sci-fi or film as a whole should watch, but it is one filled with flaws that will make some people, not like it. The only way to find out if you love this film or not is to give it a watch.
SUPERSAM RATING – ★★★★