Retro Review: Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of those films that I’ve never tired of and it honestly gets better with every year that passes. Ridley Scott’s vision of the classic Philip K. Dick story, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?, is pretty much universally lauded as one of the most important science fiction films ever made. But it hasn’t always been this way. Like I said, time has been very kind to Blade Runner. As Blade Runner 2049 looms in the distance, why don’t we take a look back to the origins of the story?

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The theatrical release of Blade Runner was pretty terrible. It went through production hell and the execs at the studio were not at all happy with the end result. They found the film to be overlong, confusing, and forced director Ridley Scott to insert a cheesy voiceover track to explain what was going on. Scott intended for the movie to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. Moreover, Harrison Ford didn’t want to do the voice over track and tried deliver the lines as deadpan as possible in the hopes that the studio wouldn’t use it. Unfortunately, they did. It’s worth hopping over to YouTube and doing a search for “Bad Blade Runner Voice Over Montage” and cringe your way through the worst scenes. As you can see below, the trailer is even badly cut.

Thankfully, in 1992 Ridley Scott released a director’s cut. It ditched the voiceover and inserted quite a few scenes, including a now famous unicorn scene (that I won’t ruin because it is part of the story that’s very open for interpretation). Now that the voice over distraction is out of the way you are free to enjoy the completely immersive vision that Scott has created. The film takes place in a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles. The world isn’t shiny or new. It’s a lived in, grimy, and dark world. To this day it blows my mind how amazing the film looks. It blows my mind that it came out in 1982, and watching it again last night cements it even more into legendary status in my book. Also, as a comparison, check out the much better director’s cut trailer.

The story revolves around a retired blade runner (a specialized police officer that hunts illegal androids known as replicants) who gets caught up in the hunt for some androids that have escaped into the maze of Los Angeles. These replicants, especially Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer in the role of a career), have become self aware and are afraid to die…especially since learning they have a built in lifespan. There are tons of overlapping metaphorical themes, enough to write a thesis on, and the depth of the story is what makes Blade Runner such a rich experience. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Are the replicants really bad for wanting to be free and not live out their lives as slaves?

Blade Runner is one of those movies that everyone should watch at least once. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, this is a movie lover’s dream. It has a deep narrative, an ending that makes you think and question things, and music (provided by Vangelis) that ties it all together. The biggest complaint that Blade Runner gets is its pacing, and it can tarry a bit into long dialogue sequences, but I immerse myself into the world of Philip K. Dick through Ridley Scott’s eyes and enjoy the ride.

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