Blade Runner review
This has been a long time coming for me, this is the first time I’ve seen bladerunner. Which is surprising both due to my love for science fiction, but also considering “Alien” is among my favorite movies. Which is also a Ridley Scott film, claimed to take place in the same universe.
I knew a bit about the film before seeing it, that it was a massively impactful science fiction film that shaped the genre for many years after with its visuals and style, but it didn’t do well upon initial release. It came out the same year as “E.T.” and “John Carpenter’s The Thing”. E.T of course performed excellently, but Blade Runner and The Thing were panned and ultimately underperformed, becoming cult hits rather than big box office performers.
Big critics like Ebert acknowledged the visuals of the film, but ultimately considered it style over substance. Which I can see how someone could get that impression.
I saw the “Final Cut” version of the film, which lacks the infamous narration. I may go back and watch the other versions to get a more complete picture, but this version is said to be the best overall.
But I’m this version, there is a lot of dead air. Much of this film is people walking through alleyways or staring into the distance looking for someone. Which does make sense given the noir influence, but noir is a very esoteric genre that rarely performs well. Not very often do you find blockbuster hits that are slow, meticulous, moody, brooding, and thought provoking.
Personally I do feel this film is too slow. There is substance here but not quite enough to warrant its pace. But I think that’s my only major complaint.
It definitely does fit into the noir category, with its bleak story, sad setup, and morally grey to downright unlikeable lead character.
The story is about the bladerunner, effectively a special forces cop who hunts down replicants. Synthetic humans used as slave labor that have recently revolted and started killing their masters, now outlawed on earth, but a group has attempted to come back to find their creator, and perhaps save themselves from an early grave determined by their programming.
The main themes of this film are about humanity, are these replicants simply machines or are they deserving of empathy? Are they truly sentient? Do they deserve fair treatment? What defines a man, his blood or his consciousness?
I’m inclined to be sympathetic towards them, or at least the character Rachel given her innocence, and the fact that she was assaulted by the main character (this is why I said he was downright unlikeable). The main group of replicants, while they were slaves, also killed several dozen people for their freedom.
Outside of the films text, I notice the influence of this film in more recent media. One of my favorite video games is fallout 4, which takes pretty direct inspiration from this film for its plot about a secret institute creating synthetic humans, and you are given the choice as to whether you believe they are simply machines or something more. The outfit worn by the lead replicant seems to be nearly the same as the coursers in that game. And the referral to their creator as “father” I think was at least a reference.
Ridley Scott’s other work comes to mind though too. Alien, Prometheus, and Alien Covenant all had Scott directing, and they’re even supposedly in the same universe.
They all share the repeating themes of creation, meeting your maker, parenthood or motherhood more specifically, femininity, rape and the perversions of creation. The last few are especially heavy in his more recent works, Prometheus and Alien Covenant.
Alien is more concrete in its themes than the others I’ve mentioned. A strong woman barely surviving the onslaught of a demonic alien attempting to force itself onto others and ultimately kill them all. She survives because of her intelligence and instincts, but just barely.
Prometheus and Alien Covenant go into the abstract, where man has been made aware of its origins, and now wishes to meet its creators, only to find them wanting to kill them for undisclosed reasons. Then, man’s own creations, a self aware android, decides to make what he considers ultimate life. The engineers made man, man made the android, the android made the alien. Each creating for its own purpose, the engineer seemingly to spread life, man to make slaves. Then the android rejecting his place at man’s side, and finding the notion of these creators arrogant, then decides to make something he considers perfect.
In bladerunner, we see the arrogance of creation on full display. The company made these replicants as close to human as possible, giving them the ability to learn and have their own experiences, but only allowing them to live for a few years, and using them as slaves and entertainment. Then they step up the arrogance, by creating a replicant that doesn’t even know if it is one. Rachel has memories of a life implanted in her head, she believes herself to be human, and has fully human emotions, wants, and needs. But to the company she was simply an experiment, to see if they could do it.
Seeing how Scott made this as well as Alien, and how James Cameron created Aliens after he made Terminator. I wonder what a Ridley Scott Terminator film could be like. The themes of creations turning on their creators obviously appeals to Scott, and some of the most affecting scenes in Bladerunner are when we see the falsehoods in the replicants, especially the reflective eyes. I think it could be interesting, despite it likely never happening.
Ultimately I have mixed opinions on Bladerunner. It did make me think about many things, especially its connections to other media. But I found the film itself rather slow, and at times it leaned towards pretension. I imagine I may watch other versions to get a better picture, and will likely seek out the sequel, but for now I think it’s a 7/10.