Movies That Everyone Should See: “Blade Runner”

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Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually identical to a human – known as a Replicant.

The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them.

Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets.

After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth – under penalty of death.

Special police squads – BLADE RUNNER UNITS – had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicant.

This was not called execution.

It was called retirement.

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“Blade Runner” is a movie that announces its impending awesomeness with authority.

Beyond the opening scroll quoted above, the opening shot of the movie is of the lights of the future city of Los Angeles, with flying craft coming and going. This is followed by a shot of the city lights reflected in an eye. It’s artistic, it’s creative, it triggers the imagination. You instantly feel this is a Director who has his fastball working. It’s not just this eye lighting up, it’s ours.

After the flyby of the city at night – and in the world of “Blade Runner”, it’s always some shade of night – we’re shown an interview scene, where an employee, Leon, is being given a psychological test. The questioner smokes. The room is dark.

I’ve removed Leon’s interjections, and done a little editing so you can get the feel for the test…

“You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and you see a tortoise, Leon. It’s crawling towards you. You reach down and you flip the tortoise on its back, Leon. The tortoise lays on it’s back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over but it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping.”

“What do you mean, I’m not helping?!”

Leon looks as if his head might explode as the question is read to him. His eyes are bugging out and his head is nervously twitching, as if you can see the shaking from the circuits frying-out within his skull.

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Welcome to the world of “Blade Runner”. A neo-noir movie that’s part detective story, part love story, and pure science fiction. Flying craft take people through the dark, rainy city of Los Angeles, 2019. Pyramids and cylindrical skyscrapers are the architectural choice of this future metropolis. Flame spouting smokestacks line the cityscape. Plasma jumbotrons flash commercials like a citywide Times Square. The denizens of 2019 L.A. walk and bike the wet, neon lined streets of a futuristic Chinatown.

But they’re not all human.

Our friend Leon failed his test. It was a test designed to elicit an emotional response which Replicants are not programmed to provide. Leon managed to escape, however, by killing his interviewer. Now he’s on the run along with three other Replicants.

Rick Deckard, a Blade Runner, is called in to track them down.

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Deckard, to me, is every bit as great a Harrison Ford character as Han Solo, or Indiana Jones. There’s a reason that Ford is one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history and it’s on display here, in spite of his legendary conflicts with Ridley Scott during filming. Deckard is tired. Reluctant. Lonely. He does his job begrudgingly at best. But he’s sharp, he’s clever. And above all, tenacious. He’s as distinctive and memorable to me as any of Ford’s other creations.

Deckard is sent to give the psych exam that Leon failed to a NEXUS 6 Replicant at the Tyrell Corporation headquarters. That way, he’ll know what to look for if he has to administer the test later.

“More human than human” is the Tyrell Corps’ motto, and indeed, the replicant Deckard is sent to test is so “human” it doesn’t even realize it’s a Replicant. She’s the lovely Rachael, played by Sean Young in her achingly beautiful prime.

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Rachael has been given memories. Artificial memories. She believes herself to be human.

Her memories are not her own however. Deckard knows them. He callously throws them in her face, unconcerned as to how it might affect her. She’s a “skin job”. Deckard “retires” “skin jobs” for a living. Why should he care what she feels? Technically she’s not even feeling.

And yet, he does care. Soon after he heartlessly shatters her illusions, he begins to feel remorse. Or is it more than that?

He had better figure it out. Rachael has been added to his list of assignments.

Deckard has more to worry about than just Rachael, however. He still has to deal with Roy Batty, the alpha dog of the NEXUS 6 replicants he’s hunting.

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Batty, shockingly to me, is not widely considered amongst the greatest villains of all time. Perhaps because Blade Runner is still somewhat of a cult film.

He first appears clenching his fist and ruminating about time. He quotes (or misquotes depending on your perspective) William Blake, and is fond of chess. Batty is Frankenstein’s monster, the prodigal son and Lucifer fell to earth all at once. He desires longevity and freedom, but at the same time, despises his creator. He is physically superior to humans, yet cursed with a four year lifespan.

Batty is both a dangerous maniac and a sympathetic victim simultaneously. It’s a contradiction that might seem impossible to achieve, but Rutger Hauer accomplishes it. He has a psychotic intensity in his performance, yet the character is given such STRONG motivations that it’s easy to question whether you should actually be rooting FOR him.

I mean, what lengths would you go to to stay alive? If you were hunted? If you had an expiration date? How far would YOU go?

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I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I 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.

The dichotomy of Roy Batty is on full display in the film’s incredible finale. But “Blade Runner” isn’t finished… It still has one of the greatest denouements in film history up its sleeve.

With the simple placement of an origami unicorn, it poses the question, “Is Deckard himself a Replicant?”

Mind blowing. Mind blowing!

Although “Blade Runner” was a commercial flop when initially released, it gained an enormous cult following on home video. Over the years, several versions have been released, including the 2007 “Final Cut”, which is the only version to date over which Ridley Scott had complete control (and is THE version to watch) “Blade Runner” narrowly made AFI’s top 100, 10th anniversary edition (97th). It’s been preserved by the Library of Congress and The National Film Registry.

Scott has crafted a masterpiece here unlike any other. I don’t even care that it took him 25 years and 75 versions to do it.

Also of note in the movie is incredible, unique, evocative score by Vangelis. Ragtime era bluesy piano with Rachel and Deckard. Strange, long held, shifting synthesizer chords for the City. It’s every bit a boon to this movie as the Godfather’s score is to it, or the Star Wars score is to it.

In my opinion, “Blade Runner” is such a great film that it could potentially be considered the greatest film of all time in TWO different genres, Sci-Fi and Neo-Noir. It’s a fantastic movie WITHOUT any further analysis, but it’s one that’s practically impossible to watch without contemplating the themes presented. It practically begs interpretation. What DOES it mean to be human? What qualifies as life? What do creators owe their creations?

And above all, especially if you ascribe to Deckard as replicant, How can we be certain of our own reality?

Without a doubt, “Blade Runner” is a “Movie That Everyone Should See”.

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49 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “Blade Runner”

  1. Yes, everybody who says they love movies should see Blade Runner at least once, even if you don’t like it! Whenever I feel like being a film snob in front of my friends, I’m always like “my fav sci-fi movies are 2001 and Blade runner…” (or course that’s a lie) -.-

  2. Hell yes, Blade Runner is a masterpiece. And I’d agree about Roy Batty being one of the greatest villains in film history. Apart from being such a deep film with such provocative themes, and such a well crafted film, one of the best things about Blade Runner is the memorable lines.

    “More human than human is our motto.”

    “I want more life.”

    “If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.”

    “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

    And of course the tears in rain speech.

    Have you read the book it’s based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    • Absolutely. When this flick first came out, I read the book right after. And quickly there after ripped through a ton of Phillip K Dick novels. LOL. I was quite the reader when I was young.

      Yes, very quotable. The “Eyes” quote almost got into to my write up, I had it in a line for a moment, but it got deleted.

      My fave was always, “Wake up! Its time to die!” but of course, “They’re my firends! I made them!” is a keeper too!

  3. This is one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies. I have the original cut on DVD but now that you mentioned the Final Cut, I added it to my NetFlix list. Hopefully will be coming next week. I saw this when I was a teenager and have rewatched it so many times its not funny. To me this is like Lord of the Rings, no matter how many times I watch, I still love it.

    The movie is dark, I like those kind of movies for some reason, the Batman’s with Christain Bale too. It’s Sci-Fi and not a totally believable future. I’m not much into reality or close to reality, hence I like weird films. But this was a movie that was done so well for when it came out.

    I have a few Sci-Fi movies that I can watch over and over again, some are series. Firefly and Serenity are amongst those, Blade Runner, Star Wars and Dune (I preferred SyFy’s version over the theatrical release, though the theatrical release was good too) are amongst the others.

    My favorite line out of the movie is from Roy when he is fighting Decker on the roofs in the rain. When asked what he wanted, he replies, “I want more life, fucker”.

    • Well, it will be interesting what you think of the Final Cut.

      It is (to me, it is) VERY different from the original. I think its a much better film. It’s had a bit of remastering in terms of cleaning the print, some touches to the FX, sound remastering. But they did away with the voice-over, changed up the end… those things are the most important.

      I think its way better now, and its ALWAYS been a movie I love.

  4. Apparently Roy Batty’s speech at the end was scripted to end with “all those moments… they’ll be gone”. The change to “will be lost in time… like tears in the rain. Time to die” was an ad-lib by Rutger Hauer. Considering we all refer to it as the “tears in the rain” speech, Rutger did one heck of a good job with that ad-lib.

    I need to pick up the complete collection one of these days. I’ve only seen the director’s cut on the initial DVD release, not the theatrical cut or the final cut. It would be interesting to do a comparison.

  5. I caught the ending of the movie a few days ago on TV but I definitely need to check this out properly someday. Love Harrison Ford and I’m not sure why I haven’t seen this movie yet.

  6. Great, great, great, great movie! When I first saw it, it was an old VHS copy, and it was the theatrical version with the narration. I thought it was “eh” and didn’t feel it was all that amazing. Years later, I bought the four-disc set with The Final Cut included. After watching that version, I changed my opinion completely. Now I see its influence, and I understand why it is so lauded. I’ve watched it a number of times since then, and always finding something new. Interestingly, the most recent time I watched it I went back to the theatrical version (just to check it out) and found myself incredibly bored. The lesson is to only watch The Final Cut.

  7. I’ve never seen the movie because, wait for it, I was too scared as a kid. I knew I loved Harrison Ford Indiana Jones is my dream man and in that Anne Heche movie he was yum! (As you can tell my taste in movies ain’t to amazing but at least my favorite movie is Chinatown :d) I will have to check it out!

  8. Excellent review sir. I really should review this myself at some point. I feel as though what would be a better idea is to do something that encompasses all the various versions. CDould be setting myself up for a horribly difficult task but maybe I could watch each version (I have 5) and write a piece about what effect the differences all have.

    More likely I’ll just review the Final Cut version because it is the best.

    Have you ever read the book? it’s so different in many ways but it’s tone is so similar.

    • First off… very glad you swung back to check it out. That’s great.

      I wanted very much when I was writing this to go back to the theatrical release, but I couldn’t. I didnt have time. Final Cut is indeed, the best. I’d stick to that. Definitely let us know when you writ eit up so we can check it out!

      Lastly, yeah… I read the book. When I was young though. When this was first released. Never revisted it and… honestly can’t recollect it much. It was a long time ago, you know? :D

  9. Truly a breathtaking masterpiece and my favorite Science Fiction film (I consider 2001 to be the greatest). Roy Batty is without a doubt one of my favorite character of all time and his quotes are so damn memorable. I also love the vulnerability Harrison Ford brings to Deckard. Visually, this film completely blew my mind the first time I saw it and it continues to do so today. Great write-up Fogs! You really hit everything I love about it on the head. I love the enthusiasm in these MTESS posts, its really infectious. One of my favorites so far even though I have alot more to read through and enjoy. :D

    • Well, cool Blain… you know, thats what they’re there for. And dont hesitate to comment on any of them. I always see the comments, and you’re proof yourself that a lot of people like to comb through and check them out. I appreciate your support, its great to hear stuff like that… really keeps me cranking on these.

      I’m a BIG BR fan, I really am. Doing this write up actually made me bump it into my top ten movies.

      Coming down the pipe this week, I’m going to post up about how I have a chance to make Blade Runner the movie of the Month on the LAMB. Which means it will trigger a bunch of blooggers to do essays about it, and I get to guest on the Lambcast again. Hope you’ll help me out and give me a vote. :D I’ll be posting the link when the time comes.

      You hit it right on the head with Batty. How incredible was Rutger Hauer here? And Ford was great too, although I think a lot of the backlash that this flick got initially was that people were expecting more Star Wars. LOL.

      Hey man, thanks again for taking the time to check these out!

  10. I know I’m late commenting here, but I just wanted to say great review. For Me “Blade Runner” is a movie that never gets tiresome. I actually enjoy watching the theatrical version with the narration although I agree that the final cut is the best version to watch. There is a great comic book of “Do Andriods Dream Of Electric Sheep” that is very cool

    • Dont worry about that Vern, you know how it goes… I get to see all the comments regardless.

      Thank you! I appreciate it. I love Blade Runner, its one of my favorites. I’m actually going to be doing a Lamcast on it next weekend… I can’t wait for it.

      I’ll keep an eye out for that in TPB, thanks for the recommendation!! :D

    • I can! For sure. Having fun with the review exchange… although it’s tough on “Tossing it out there” Tuesdays. LOL. Eesh.

      Anyways? You a Lamb, Mark? Didnt see a logo.

      Riddle me that…

      • I only started my blog in January Fogs but I was put onto the LAMB last week by Adam at 3guys1movie. I’d never heard of it before but I’ve sent an application. Apparently I need to wait a while before the guy gets through all applicants. I should recieve an email confirmation soon though.
        Yeah, sorry to bombard you with reading material when your time is stretched. Hopefully, get a further chat on one of your quieter days. Thanks for following me by the way, I’m honoured.

      • Ah, well, lets go easy on being “honored” and whatnot, but its all good, you made some really good points on your BR review, for sure.

        So Adam scooped me on a recruitment huh? That $#%&er off to Twitter to bitch him out. LOL. I’ll cc you. :D

      • Lol. I had actually been following your blog already but, yes, Adam speaks highly. I just dent have much time to interact as much a I’d liked before. Anyway, yer a busy man Fogs. I’ll let you get on. Chat soon bro. It’s been a pleasure. :-)

  11. Yes! Absolutely! Ridley Scott has made one of the greatest science fiction films of all time with this one. His vision is revolutionary in terms of dark sci fi. What a masterpiece!

    Oh wait, sorry… i thought I was commenting on your Alien post. My bad!

  12. I need to throw this into the mix here. But Dustin Hoffman was apparently the original choice for the role of Rick Deckard. What’s your take on that? Can you honestly see him dangling from a roof top or being trapped between the thighs of Daryl Hannah?

    • LOL. God no.

      I love looking that stuff up when I learn about these classics to do these writeups. You know, who was being considered, who passed on the part, those type of things.

      To me, I cant imagine anyone else in this role though. I’m just too attched to it.

      • Apparently Hoffman was interested but wanted to change the character altogether. Probably because he’s only about 4ft tall ;-) There was a big selection of actors considered… Nicholson, Hackman, Eastwood, Connery, even Pacino. I totally agree though, Ford is the perfect choice. He’s played iconic characters like Solo and Jones, and as much as i love them, I think this is probably Ford’s most understated an finest performance.

      • Ford supposedly hates the film. I don’t know if that’s because of the the film’s end product or the difficulties in making it but it’s a good argument for directors to make things difficult for an actor in order for them to produce a good performance. Kubrick apparently used this technique. He’d push actors to the limit, to gain an on-edge sense. Ford is rarely happy looking in this but I think that’s what adds to his onscreen character. If only all actors were displeased on-set, we night see mie thruth from them.

      • Heh. Yeah… I just read all about Kubrick and the shooting of “The Shining” a couple months back for when I was prepping up for the Movie of the Month. Apparently he pretty much drove everyone off the deep end. :D

  13. Out of curiosity, when you happen to watch ‘Blade Runner’ there is so much to analyze and make you think about – so what other movies would say should be suggested and not just movies that make you think, but ones that you could analyze just as deeply

    • That’s a good question… I can tell by your nickname you’d probably have a few good suggestions…

      There are few that work as well as entertainment and as thought pieces as this one does. I’ve been able to get a lot of mileage personally out of “No Country For Old Men”, and I had a blast dissecting “Vanilla Sky”… although “Sky” falls pretty flat on the surface – just as a piece of entertainment. Although it works really well as a metaphor for the Buddhist cycle of life/death/rebirth kind of cool. “Being John Malkovich”… any of Kaufman’s films, really.

      If you swing back, I’d be interested to hear what some of your favorites would be in that regard. :D

    • All these moments will be lost… like tears in the rain.

      So so so poignant isnt it? It completes the movies themes about mortality SO evocatively. I love it.

      Glad you checked it out, man… this is really one of my favorite movies, too. I was so happy to write about it!

  14. Pingback: Follow Friday: Fog’s Movie Reviews « Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights

  15. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | Movie of the Month/LAMBcast #108: Blade Runner

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