Revisiting Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner"

Original theatrical poster (1982)
Original theatrical poster (1982) | Source

Re-Evaluating a Cult Classic

More than three decades after its original release, Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982) remains one of the most polarizing films in the science fiction genre. If you scan its review pages on IMDb or Amazon, you'll find hardcore fans who will defend "Blade Runner" to the death, claiming it to be the single greatest sci-fi movie of the last 50 years, as well as unimpressed viewers who condemn it as boring, incomprehensible, pretentious, and overrated. Until recently, I wasn't sure which side of the fence I stood on with "Blade Runner." I had only seen the film once on cable TV in the mid-'80s and though I thought the film's visuals, special effects and set pieces were phenomenal (and still do) I never felt that I really "got" it and was left wondering what all the whoop-de-doo was about. Looking back, the main reason that I was disappointed in "Blade Runner" back then was most likely due to my age (I was in my teens). My experience with the science fiction genre was rather limited at the time and I was probably expecting "Blade Runner" to be a shoot'em up action film, simply because Harrison ("Han Solo," "Indiana Jones") Ford was in it. I certainly wasn't prepared for Ridley Scott's extremely dark, film-noir injected vision of life in the hellish Los Angeles of the future

Cover art for "The Final Cut" DVD
Cover art for "The Final Cut" DVD | Source

Versions?

"Blade Runner," based on the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by science fiction icon Philip K. Dick, enjoyed a measure of critical acclaim upon its release in 1982 but was not a financial success at the box office. It wasn't till the film was released on home video in the mid '80s that word of mouth began to spread about it and "Blade Runner" soon achieved status as a cult film. As the years passed, the film's reputation grew and critics regularly praised "Blade Runner" to the Heavens. After reading dozens of articles and reviews citing it as a landmark in science fiction cinema, I eventually became curious about re-visiting the film. The problem was deciding which version of "Blade Runner" to revisit. I'd seen the "theatrical" cut of the film back in the '80s, but since its initial release "Blade Runner" has been the subject of numerous re-edits, revisions and re-releases. According to Wikipedia, there are no less than seven (!) "official" versions of "Blade Runner" in existence. Some of these versions differ only slightly from the original theatrical cut, while others were major overhauls that actually changed some audience members' viewpoint of the entire story. Some of these alternate versions include the Workprint (a pre-release version screened for test audiences in early 1982), the International Version (shown in theatres outside of the U.S.), the Broadcast Cut (which edited certain scenes to meet television standards), the so-called Director's Cut (which, despite the name, is not truly a "Director's Cut" since it was released without Ridley Scott's final approval), and most recently, the "Final Cut," which was supervised by Scott himself. "The Final Cut" had a successful theatrical re-release in 2007 before becoming a top seller on DVD. Each of the different "cuts" seems to have its own set of supporters and detractors, but I opted for the '07 "Final Cut" when it came time to finally re-experience "Blade Runner," figuring that if this version was good enough for the notoriously picky Sir Ridley Scott, then it was good enough for me.

Marvel Comics adapted "Blade Runner" as a two issue mini series in 1982. Art: Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon.
Marvel Comics adapted "Blade Runner" as a two issue mini series in 1982. Art: Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon. | Source

The Story...(Spoilers ahead!)

Los Angeles 2019 doesn't look like a very nice place to visit, and I certainly wouldn't want to live there, either. It's dark, dirty, overcrowded, and constantly rainy. Gigantic skyscrapers rise up above the polluted landscape and flying vehicles zip past huge billboards advertising the Off-World Colonies, which promise tired Earthlings a fresh start. A pre-credit crawl informs us that the Tyrell Corporation has perfected the Nexus series of "Replicants" -- genetically-designed "artificial humans" with superior strength and intelligence. Replicants are used as servants and slave labor on other planets, performing the dangerous or unpleasant jobs that humans can't (or don't want to) do themselves. After the Replicants attempted to revolt against their human "masters," their presence on Earth became illegal and if any Replicant sets foot on the planet, the Blade Runners - an elite squad of policemen whose specialty is tracking Replicants down and "retiring" (i.e. killing) them - are called in. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a burned-out former Blade Runner who's forced back into service after a group of particularly nasty Replicants escape from a shuttle (causing the deaths of numerous humans in the process) and make it Earthside. The escapees are part of the newest, most advanced series of Replicants, the "Nexus-6," and are superior to humans in almost every way except one - their life span. As a fail-safe option against their sometimes-dangerous nature, the Tyrell Corporation programmed each of the Nexus-6 Replicants with a mere four years of life. It is believed that the escapees are nearing the end of that time and have returned to Earth to find out how to extend their "lives."

Original Theatrical Trailer (1982)

Deckard visits the Tyrell Corporation headquarters to get information on the group from the Replicants' inventor, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, and also meets his mysterious assistant Rachael (Sean Young). During Deckard's questioning, Tyrell confidentially reveals that Rachael is also a Replicant, although even she doesn't know it, thanks to advanced "memory implants" programmed into her genetic structure which lead her to believe she is indeed human. Deckard is later visited by Rachael at his run down apartment, where he drunkenly reveals the secret to her. Needless to say, she's less than thrilled by this revelation and runs off sobbing into the streets. Deckard begins pounding the pavement searching for the rogue androids, eventually "airing out" the first of the group - Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), a female working as an exotic dancer - after an extended chase through the crowded L.A. streets. When Deckard's police captain arrives on the scene, he informs Deckard that Rachael has now been added to the "retirement" list as she's disappeared. All the commotion attracts the attention of the escapees' leader, Roy Batty (an ice cold Rutger Hauer, in his career making performance) and his goon Leon (Brion James), who is sent to kill Deckard. Rachael saves Deckard from Leon at the last second (two down, two to go!), which earns her a pass from Deckard after an awkward love scene (when she asks him "If I run, will you hunt me?" he replies "No...but someone else will").

Meanwhile the remaining Replicants, Roy Batty and Pris (Daryl Hannah) have "befriended" J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), an eccentric genetic designer and toy collector/inventor who works for the Tyrell Corporation. Through him, Batty forces an audience with Tyrell himself, where he begs Tyrell to give them "more life." Tyrell informs Roy that this is impossible, but that he should take comfort in the fact that he has "lived" more in his short four years of existence than most humans do in their entire lifetimes. Enraged, Batty kills Tyrell (and Sebastian, offscreen) which sets up an epic Final Battle between Deckard, Pris, and Batty at Sebastian's run-down warehouse home. The scene in which Batty and Deckard go mano-a-mano has become legendary in film circles for its brutality and for the famous soliloquy Batty delivers as his life comes to an end. ("I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." ) Depending on which "version" of the film you see, the movie ends with Deckard and Rachael driving off into the sunset (in a forced "happy ending" that was dictated by the studio) or simply leaving Deckard's apartment together to face an uncertain future before the screen simply goes dark.

"The Final Cut" Trailer (2007)

Japanese poster art
Japanese poster art | Source

Summing It Up...

After seeing "Blade Runner" through more mature eyes, 20+ years after my initial viewing, I can definitely say that I enjoyed the film a lot more this time around. The futuristic landscapes are still breathtaking and the action scenes are realistic and gritty. Virtually every shot of "Blade Runner" is artful and packed with eye candy. The pacing of the film, while admittedly rather "slow" by today's standards, allows the story to unfold naturally, rather than moving things along by jamming in random scenes of violence or explosions every few minutes (which is how most "sci-fi" movies nowadays operate). I may not be totally convinced yet that "Blade Runner" belongs on the list of all time film masterpieces, but at its core, it's a pretty damn good detective story/police procedural that just happens to take place in a futuristic setting. In addition, the DVD transfer of "The Final Cut" looks fantastic; the scenery, costumes and backgrounds leap from the screen, looking like the film was shot yesterday rather than nearly 30 years ago. Visually, "Blade Runner" is still a marvel and holds up well even when compared to the 'advances' of modern special effects. To sweeten the deal, the 2-disc special edition of "The Final Cut" also includes "Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner" - a three hour (!) documentary about the film's lengthy and troubled production history that will provide a source of endless trivia for the diehard Blade Runner geek - on a separate disc.

So Is He, or Isn't He?

One of the debates about "Blade Runner" that rages to this day is whether or not Rick Deckard is also a Replicant, and if so, whether or not he is aware of it. I'm told that this idea is not even present in the original Philip K. Dick novel (I've never read the book myself, so I can't say for sure), but Ridley Scott apparently believed Deckard was a Replicant and framed the film version to support that theory. On the other hand, Harrison Ford himself has said in interviews that he does not believe that Deckard was a Replicant, and Rutger Hauer agrees with him, saying that making Deckard a Replicant would reduce their big fight scene at the end to simply "two machines beating each other up" rather than the more epic "Man Vs. Machine" face-off that both actors intended it to be. Since Ford was the guy playing Deckard, I'd be inclined to go along with him. Some articles and web sites offer lists of the clues strewn throughout the film that were intended to lead viewers to the truth about Deckard's origins, but all I can say is that they're either buried very deep, or I was simply too dumb to catch them. There certainly aren't any "hints" in Ford's performance as Deckard, because when you get right down to it all he does is drink, smoke, brood, and get the crap beaten out of him every twenty minutes or so for the whole film. Maybe the truth becomes clearer with repeated viewings, or maybe I just didn't watch the right "cut" of the film. Either way, "Blade Runner" is still a worthy watch that's bound to spark conversation.

More by this Author


Comments 29 comments

theJOKERiv profile image

theJOKERiv 5 years ago

Excellent write up!!!!!!!! BTW - the ending with them leaving the apartment works best


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Joker - get this: from what I understand, the "happy ending" with them driving off into the sunset is actually leftover footage from the opening of "The Shining," that the studio insisted on shoe-horning in. Bizarre.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Great Hub...interesting and informative. My husband and I saw this when it came out in our early twenties and it blew us away. We bought several versions over the years and watched it every three years or so.

It is extremely well-made and the main characters are so memorable. And the film plays off so many of our fears about robots.the future, you know, the staple themes of so much science fiction.

I definitely think it is a great classic, legendary. What other film of its genre (Maybe War of the Worlds) is being hotly discussed ten years, much less thirty years after its release?! Enjoyed the trip down memory lane.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx for stoppin' by and for the kind words, phdast7.


Caging 5 years ago

Good review, very balanced. The essence of the movie version to me seems to be what does it mean to be human, But the manner at which Blade Runner asks is what makes it unique and inspired other movies and writers to pose the same questions in their own ways. This version for sure is what the director wanted to convey. Reminds me of Usual Suspects, Even Bryan Singer and the writer could not agree on what really happened on the boat :-).


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nicely done. I love this movie...I saw it at the theater when it first came out with a mostly empty theater. The graphics are awesome and Ridley Scott does an awesome job of creating a very plausible futuristic world. As for the great debate....I am on the side that Deckard was human. I know Scott went back and made Ford's eyes eyes....but if the source material does not say he was a replicant then I will go with the original writer's intent. Plus at the end when Batty saves Deckard's live it has much more meaning when a Roy Batty a replicant chooses to save Deckard a human's life...thus picking life over death. It is only after many viewings have I come to the conclusion that Roy Batty is not really the bad guy in the movie. Awesome hub that was tons of fun to read. Keep up the awesome work.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx for the comments, fellas. Cogerson, you can count me in the "Deckard is human" camp too. Like Rutger Hauer sez, making Deckard a replicant would just reduce their big fight scene at the end to "two machines beating each other up."

But then, I suppose it might actually be up to each individual viewer to decide for themselves.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Well Sir Ridley Scott would say we were idiots for thinking Deckard was a human...as he says..."It's all right there for you to see"....from one of the special features disks. Well I will stick with my, yours, Harrison Ford and Phillip K. Dicks thinking.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Right on. I have nothin' but respect for Sir Ridley but Harrison is THE MAN ...I'm not gonna argue with Han Solo. Haha.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

I didn't like some of the changes in the director's cut, maybe I was too used to the theatrical version after seeing it so many times. But the blu-ray release was excellent, they remastered the crap out of it. You can see the rest of the city in the background now, you couldn't before.

I saw reports that Ridley Scott might be working on a Blade Runner sequel. Might be interesting. Will Ford be involved? This wasn't one of his favourite films.

Good review. Voted Up.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Steve. Yeah, the "Final Cut" version I saw was so crisp that it looked like the film was made yesterday, not 30 years ago.

I've been sort-of following the rumors about a Blade Runner sequel. Last I heard, Ford was not involved, but who knows, that may change.

Right now Scott has "Prometheus" on the way and that film supposedly will take us back into the "Alien" universe. Maybe when he's done revisiting that classic, he'll move on to picking up the Blade Runner saga.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

Has it been confirmed that Prometheus is in the Alien universe? Its one of my most anticipated films of next year.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

"Prometheus" has been rumored to be an "Alien" prequel, but Ridley Scott seems to be playing it very close-to-the-vest when asked whether or not it's an "Alien" movie. Entertainment Weekly magazine printed some production stills a few weeks ago that looked very "Alien"-like to me, but supposedly Scott said something to the effect of "it's set in the same universe, but it's not an 'Alien' movie" - for whatever that's worth. Even so, he also said that there will be elements in "Prometheus" that will make Alien fans happy. Make of that what you will, I guess.


theJOKERiv profile image

theJOKERiv 5 years ago

I read that he enjoyed re-visiting the Alien universe (quickly added that it's not an Alien movie, just in the same universe) that he's considering re-visiting the Blade Runner universe with a totally different story that just takes place in the Blade Runner universe. I am guessing that means the a story in a futuristic film noir setting.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

There have been a couple of additional "Blade Runner" novels published over the last 20 years or so (not written by Philip K. Dick, obviously, as he died while this film was still in production) so Lord knows there's enough material to make a second film.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi freddy; I've read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and I've seen the film. The book was better but i liked the film. I don't think it was quite as great as some might make it out to be but none-the-less, it was a good sc-fi flick. As for the Human vs. Replicant debate, I wrote my own hub on that one so I won't go into it again here, but I will say I'm with Harrison on this one.

Fun hub,

Rob


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Robwrite -- yep, I remember readomg your Human Vs. Replicant hub a while ago, in fact I am fairly sure I left a comment on that one that said I hadn't seen "Blade Runner" in many years and that I was thinking about revisiting it. So in a way I guess I have you to thank for making this hub possible! Haha.


parentsreview profile image

parentsreview 4 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

I love this film, and you did a great job on the write up. If you want to know where the hints are for Deckard being an android, you have to look into Dick's life. He was a very crazy person, who often times believed we weren't really here. This book, and many others by Dick, surmise that what is the difference between man and machine, when neither in his eyes were real. I recently saw this in a show called, Sci-fi Prophets, where they took a close look at the authors life, and it was really insane. He had schizophrenia, and was an avid drug-user, and struggled to comprehend if things that were happening were actually happening.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx for stopping by, parentsreview. Sounds like Philip K. Dick may have had some, err, "issues," but then I think that most creative people do.


RetroBrothers profile image

RetroBrothers 4 years ago from Sunny Scotland

I just watched 'The Final Cut' last night in HD

For the first time I really got into the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. The clean-ups in certain sequences are great and the overall atmosphere in the movie as as good as it ever was.

Your write up of it is great - nice to come across this after watching it last night.

:-)


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Cool! Thanx for the comment, Retro.


SPomposello profile image

SPomposello 4 years ago from NY

Excellent work! They don't make sci-fi like this anymore. Let's see if Ridley Scott still has it in him come June 2012... "Prometheus".


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx "S"... and yes, I'm eagerly anticipating "Prometheus" as well!!


Redberry Sky profile image

Redberry Sky 4 years ago

Another of my favourite movies :). I admit, I'm a sucker for the 'tears in rain' soliloquy, always has me in floods :(. Deckard is obviously a replicant, the movie would lose one of its major points otherwise, and what about the origami unicorn and the dream he has? But enough of my geekery! Great review, FatFreddysCat :)


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Redberry!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 2 years ago from United States

I watched Blade Runner for the first time a few years ago, for very similar reasons as you. It occupied nearly every sci fi movie countdown, yet I had never seen it. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started, but it definitely wasn't what I got. I think the one I saw was the theatrical version and it was the only one available on netflix. I did enjoy it, and it left me pondering its story long after it was over. So, I think in that regard, it still succeeds to this day.

But I've also noticed that Ridley Scott movies can sometimes be a little too vague. Prometheus was another movie where, after you leave the theater, you think: 'but wait, what about that one thing?'. Which I suppose is a good thing. It's better to have your audience talking about the film years after its over, rather than letting it get forgotten in the nether of cinema.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi M.T. - I agree, if people are still talking about your movies 30 years after their release, you're obviously doing something right


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 17 months ago from The Garden State Author

Updated

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working