Back in December, we listed our “8 Coolest Sci-Fi Flicks” and got some heat for not including “Blade Runner” (1982) on the list. We remembered Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction classic “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” as being a disappointment – as well as a bit heavy-handed.
It did, but our opinion of “Blade Runner” remains mediocre.
We agree with film critic Roger Ebert: “Watching the director's cut (of “Blade Runner”), I am left with the same overall opinion of the movie: It looks fabulous, it uses special effects to create a new world of its own, but it is thin in its human story.”
Ebert gets this one right. “Blade Runner” is slick on production. The special effects are so impressive that Scott lets them take over parts of the movie as he pans the camera back to take in breathless shots of his futuristic version of
We’ll give Scott credit here. He does a magnificent job in crafting his world. It’s a bleak one, but it resonates as realistic: the driving, black rains, the pollution-scarred skies, the blinking, moving billboards, the strange fashions, and the crowds of vampire like citizens.
But this is all background.
The rest of the movie doesn’t live up to the set. The plot is achingly mediocre and stolen from half-a-dozen film noir movies. It relies on characters hand-picked from central castings old stereotypes closet.
The usually dynamic Harrison Ford is wasted here. Ford sleepwalks through the role of a world-weary police officer who quits to crawl inside a whiskey bottle. But predictably his crusty, insensitive boss calls him back for one last job. Then there is Sean Young as the femme fatale – smoking cigarettes and looking both confused and earnest at the same time.
Ford plays Deckard -- a blade runner (a police officer assigned to hunt down and kill “replicants” also known as cyborgs). The replicants are illegal on earth and only used on other planets for jobs too dangerous for real human beings. It’s never explained why the replicants are not allowed on earth (can’t we all just get along?).
The movie carefully avoids another major problem: if they are illegal on earth then why are the replicants designed to look exactly like human beings? They are also designed to look differently from each other – no two are alike. In fact, the only way to tell a replicant from a real human being is to take a complicated oral exam which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to administer.
Wouldn’t it be easier to design the replicants with blue skin, for example? Or make them all look exactly alike? That way they couldn’t escape and hide among the population of real humans. Seems like an easy fix especially since the replicants have become such a dangerous nuisance that it’s necessary to create the job of blade runner to hunt down and kill them.
But then, of course, we wouldn’t have a movie.
Another problem with the replicants is that they only last four years –but no one – not the replicants or their creators – seems to readily know the expiration dates. Given that the replicants are used for dangerous off-world work wouldn’t it be prudent to know when they “die”? After all wouldn’t it be a disaster to send replicants on a mission and have them start expiring halfway through?
Deckard is assigned to kill four replicants that murdered a shuttle full of people and now are hiding out in LA. His investigation is riddled with holes and convenient consequences that only happen in movie scripts (he finds a tiny snake scale in the bathroom tub of an old haunt which lead him, of course, to a stripper who uses a snake in her act. She happens to be one of the replicants). He even calls them at their secret hideout and… they answer the phone.
We were also amazed at how Deckard never ever calls for back-up – even when he finally locates the replicants’ hide-out and knows he will be up against two super powerful androids that have already murdered more than 20 people.
“Blade Runner” wants to be a film about the definition of humanity – an action flick with a philosophy. But it fails in both aspects. It spends too little time exploring the idea of manufactured life being real life because the characters don’t really care about the answer. And the action sequences aren’t even as good as the average fare on TV.