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Video Review: Blade Runner (1982)

June 23, 2011
  • Dir. Ridley Scott
  • Released by Warner Bros.
  • Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel
  • Rating ****
Original Laserdicks Review:
 
 
Roger Ebert admitted in his Great Movies review of Blade Runner that he has always struggled with his feelings about the film (notably, he had previously given the picture only three stars). So have I, and the 2007 Final Cut does not magically fix all of the problems with the film. This is not a movie that immediately endears itself to its audience, and Ridley Scott almost asks too much of everyone by making the picture so emotionally distant from both the characters and the viewers. He tried to address this problem in the ill-conceived theatrical cut with a clumsy voiceover narration, and he failed to find a more effective replacement for the 1991 director’s cut.
 
However, the film has an astonishing effect upon repeat viewings: the humanity hidden within the film reveals itself more each time, and the powerful atmosphere eventually begins to envelop the viewers rather than pushing them away. In other words, the film improves as the movie-goer invests more time and attention to it. The story, which seemed so clunky and underdeveloped the first time around, reveals itself to be deliberately subdued to serve the subtext (much like a Bergman film, perhaps). The acting, which seemed too wooden and understated in 1982, now fits the mood and saves the film from devolving into a corny pastiche.
 
The first time I saw Blade Runner, I gave it two stars. The first time I saw the director’s cut, I gave it three stars. Now, with the Final Cut, which is really not much of an improvement over the other incarnations, I give it four stars…with the understanding that you, the viewer, have to be dedicated to see the greatness of the film. The effects are as stunning as ever, Rutger Hauer still steals the show as the villainous Replicant Roy Batty, and the score by Vangelis remains an earworm, but the exploration of the meaning of humanity in an impersonal world ages like wine as the prophetic nature of the film reveals itself to be increasingly accurate.
 
The Phillip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the source for this loose adaptation, and both takes on the story work for their respective medium. Dick develops his detective Rick Deckard more thoroughly than do screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (the latter of whom wrote a lame side-quel called Soldier, directed by the hack Paul W.S. Anderson), and he also gives more details about the cause of the dystopia. However, the strongest part of the film, the climactic confrontation between Deckard and Batty, is practically absent from the novel, and Batty’s thought-provoking “Tears in Rain” speech is film-exclusive.
 
The film still has its weaknesses, such as the love scene, which comes off more like a rape scene (except in the extended and racier version that Scott opted not to use, which clarified that Sean Young’s resistance was due to a lack of self-confidence rather than a lack of desire), and the transition from the opening teaser to the introduction of Deckard, which never quite worked because of the inexplicable placement of the opening credits before the teaser. Even so, quibbles aside, the movie is brilliant, and if you didn’t think so the first time…or the second time…or the third time, please try again. You might find that the movie is more human than human after all.
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From → Film Criticism

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