Blade Runner… the cult classic that almost wasn’t.
In 1982 Ridley Scott released this polarizing and loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Yes, the basic plot of Deckard being assigned to track down and retire replicants is there, but that is really about it. The book goes deeper into Deckard’s home life, his relationship with his wife, her emotional state and use of “mood organs” (a device which allows you to dial the mood you would like to have) and his obsession with wanting a real animal. The later is something that isn’t easy to come by in this future. This last little bit was slightly hinted at in Blade Runner 2049 which was a nice little nod. So, if you haven’t read the book, you should. I know that I need to revisit it again one of these days.
But, I digress.
Here we have Ridley Scott, coming not so hot on the heels of his last masterpiece, Alien (1979), to create an ambitious neo-noir science fiction story set in dystopian Los Angeles, 2019. Guess that didn’t pan out the way he envisioned did it? From the opening scenes and first notes of the amazing score by Vangelis, this movie sucks you into this decrepit world that not many movies since have been able to pull off. The movie is a visual wonder with its flying cars, giant lifelike billboards and seedy underbelly.
But, unfortunately the movie failed to connect with critics and audiences alike. And coming off of Alien, it was a box office failure. Having the summer box office dominated by two films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Rocky III didn’t help either. Yet, over the last 30 plus years it has become a massive cult film and is highly regarded by many in the sci-fi world, influencing everything from TV shows to video games. How’d that happen?
Scott created something so out there, that it took years for its impact to really sink in. So much so, that there have been numerous re-edits over the years, trying to perfect it. I don’t mean bullshit George Lucas edits either. These were legit changes that improved on the things the studio made Ridley put in.
I remember my first time watching this movie in the late 80’s and being bored to tears by it. I believe at that time I had seen The Director’s Cut and was confused by how anyone thought it was a great film. I was 12… what the hell did I know? Over the next few years, I saw the movie a couple of times more, and one day, I finally caught the theatrical cut on TV to compare it to. The Director’s Cut really was an improvement. The “happy ending” was removed and so was Harrison Ford’s voice-over. The movie grew on me. With each subsequent viewing, I found more subtle nuances, that made me like it more. It was brilliant. It IS brilliant.
The Director’s Cut was the only version available for years, until 2007 when Ridley Scott was able to release his “Final Cut” of the film for it’s 25th Anniversary. The Final Cut contains the original full-length version of the unicorn dream, which had never been in any version. Additionally, all of the additional violence and alternate edits from the international cut have been inserted back into the film.
One of the biggest arguments that came from Blade Runner is whether or not Deckard is a replicant or not. Director Ridley Scott has said that he is, but co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Harrison Ford are in the opposite camp and have said that he isn’t. I tend to believe he isn’t. And we can discuss that in the comments. I’d love to hear what you guys think.
I will admit, this movie is not for everyone. It’s a slow paced noir thriller with a Casablanca–like love story in the mix. But as Roger Ebert said,
“Blade Runner” is worth attending just to witness this artistry.
And he’s right, everyone should see this movie once. And then maybe a second or third time to pick up on it’s true brilliance.
I’m sure there is a lot more to talk about with this film, but I didn’t want to drag on. What are your thoughts on Blade Runner and its impact on sci-fi films after it?