Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Movie Review #17: Blade Runner

I think I've been wanting to watch Blade Runner for a while now, but I never have. Maybe it's because I was intimidated by the various versions, and I could never remember what versions to avoid.

But hey, I've figured it out, if you happen to be in the same boat: watch either the Director's Cut or the Final Cut. They're both good, and neither one has what was apparently an awful narration. Final Cut has a few added scenes and some continuity/color corrections, too, so it's considered the superior version by many, but not all.

That said, I watched the Final Cut version. Short review: Woah, what a world. There's a reason it's considered an important moment in science fiction. Well worth watching.

Blade Runner is a film noir set in the future, in which man has colonized space and created robots that can think and look like humans.

However, those robots are illegal on Earth, being primarily used for labor in the off-world colonies. When a group of these androids sneak back to Earth, retired blade runner Rick Deckard gets called back into service to bring these replicants to justice. Blade runners are agents trained to identify replicants; a difficult task, since they seem so human. Deckard was one of the best.


Blade Runner is a movie about the evolving definition of life as we understand it.

It's kind of a popular theme in science fiction, but I think that's largely due to the book on which Blade Runner was based: the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. Moreover, I think it's something we're going to need to keep exploring forever, especially as we continue to develop artificial intelligence.

That said, Blade Runner feels important to me for many reasons. It's creating a fascinating world without outright explaining everything--simply mentioning them in passing: for instance, it's a world in which people create artificial animals for pets, presumably because real animals are rare now on Earth. To state that again: artificial, realistic, robotic animals are more affordable than real animals, and that's by no means a main plot point of the film. It's a note about the world, which feels much bigger than the story being told. There are tons of small things like that in the movie.

The story itself plays out as I expect from a film noir: a hook, a slow build-up of making connections and solving a series of mysteries, all leading up to a showdown. It feels slow at times, but it feels like it's necessary in order to establish the mood and the setting.

The city of Los Angeles, circa 2019, is a depressing, perpetually dark city, incredibly crowded, and multicultural.

The music is very 80s-version-of-the-future which, really, just feels like the 80s now.

One of the more interesting parts is the amount of time we spend with the replicants, the androids hiding out in the city. They are intelligent, strong, and a not just a little creepy, yet it's hard to call them villains: the world is dark, and the replicants are trying to come to terms with their imminent nonexistence, since replicants have a life span of only about four years. The final confrontation between Deckard and Roy is harrowing on both sides, as the clearly outmatched human desperately tries to get away from a replicant whose body is rapidly failing.

This is a movie that captures your imagination, makes you examine yourself and your life, gives you reason to relate to both the protagonist and the antagonists, and, above all, managed to entertain and make you think at once. What more could you want out of a movie?

Clearly, I'm impressed. I think I've found my new favorite sci-fi movie.

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