Classic Reels: Blade Runner

It’s 2019 and Los Angeles is a dark and rainy, urban metropolis. Fire shoots from the tops of factories surrounding the city, the sides of skyscrapers are now used for large video advertisements and a large blimp constantly crawls across the night sky, shining eerie spotlights below. The Tyrell Corporation specializes in creating androids for slave labor in the outer colonies of space. The androids, known as Replicants, are identical to humans and possess super human skills, but lack the ability to feel emotions. In an effort to prevent the Replicants from developing any sort of emotions, the Tyrell Corporation has put a four year life span on all of them.

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a hard drinking, no-nonsense type of guy. He is a blade runner, a man whose only job is to hunt down illegal Replicants and kill them. When four Replicants hijack a ship, kill the crew and land it in Los Angeles, Deckard is assigned to “retire” them.

Blade Runner is not merely a science fiction movie. It’s a movie that uses science fiction as a backdrop and integrates stunning, atmospheric visuals to reveal the emotions of its characters. The world that Director Ridley Scott creates is one of a bleak, hopeless future. Los Angeles doesn’t even resemble the Los Angeles of today. Instead, it is more reminiscent of a run-down Tokyo, where technology is completely integrated with life. Crowds are everywhere, steam hangs on the streets and everyone seems to have an ulterior motive. It’s not a pretty place.

Instead of being completely science fiction, Blade Runner is birthed from the classic, Hollywood noir movies of the 40’s and 50’s. Deckard resembles a private eye more than he does a killer. He sports a trench coat while other characters wear suits, dresses and fedora’s. Rachel (Sean Yong), Deckards femme fatal, dresses like a movie star from the 40’s, clothed in black dresses and white fur coats.

Most films use music to set the mood for a certain scene; rarely do they set the mood for the entire film. The score for Blade Runner can only be described as futuristic jazz. Low hums from synthesizers and notes from a distant sax can be heard throughout the movie. It’s mostly sad music, adding another layer of darkness to Blade Runner.

With sparse dialogue and a nod to the detective novels of old, Blade Runner is a tour de force in the science fiction world. It was released when science fiction films were extremely popular and box offices were dominated with classics such as Alien and Star Wars. Blade Runner is cut from a different cloth, though. Its world is one that doesn’t involve space battles, aliens or a colorful cast of characters. What makes it so great, is that it is a believable notion of the future. It is not like some bright and shiny idea similar to the predictions that Americans in the 50’s had of the millennium. Yes, there are robots and flying cars, but instead of an ideal, perfect future, Blade Runner predicts one of constant darkness. Just like any good detective novel, characters are flawed, people are hurt and lessons are learned. And what’s scary, is that its notion of the future, just might come true.

If you happen to watch the film, I HIGHLY recommend the “Final Cut” version. Usually, I feel as though director’s cuts are gimmicky, but this is the first that I have seen with a noticeable difference than the theatrical version. Although the theatrical version has different ending, the great part of the final cut is that it omits the horrible narration by Ford. The final cut creates an ending that is more debatable, and in my opinion, far more enjoyable than the cookie cutter ending from the original.

Grade: A+

– Brian

Classic Reels is a weekly blog by Lariat contributor Brian Sanders. Sanders reviews old movies for those looking to brush up on their historic cinema or those that are looking to reminiscence on old flicks.

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