Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) goes after a fugitive group of Replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in a dystopian future Los Angeles of 2019. He meets with Rachel (Sean Young), an employee of the Tyrell Corporation who builds the replicants, in the film directed by Ridley Scott.
This is the greatest science-fiction film ever made. Good, now that I let that out, I can explain why. So many versions of the film exist; the US theatrical cut and the international theatrical cut, which were both released in 1982, the Director’s Cut released in 1991 and, finally, the Final Cut released in 2007. I’m not sure I’ve seen them all. Since the theatrical cuts are really producers cut, and I hate the voice over they added to explain everything to the audience, I won’t talk about those. I mostly watch the Final Cut, which is essentially the only cut that Scott was fully in charge of, and which features reworked special effects.
In a time when science-fiction films were mainly made only for entertainment purposes, one film had the guts to be that too, while also reflecting on our modern society. Blade Runner is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, written in 1968. In many ways and form, it takes the Dick’s questioning about our humanity and transposes it into a film. What makes us human? In a pure sci-fi tradition, Blade Runner won’t impose its answer to that question, but will give sufficient elements for us to answer, or to make up our own mind. Same goes for what the ending implicitly asks: is Rick Deckard a Replicant? I totally and frontally reject Scott’s answer on the subject. It is only his own point of view and worth as much as anyone else’s. I won’t tell you what mine’s is for that same reason. But, yes, the film succeeds in that realm and delivers big in the final confrontation between Batty and Deckard. Not the fight, which is great, but the infamous scene. The monologue stands as one of the finest pieces of writing and acting in film history.
Some may see Blade Runner as a classic. I see it as a masterpiece.
Blade Runner is also memorable because of its ambiance. It takes much from the film noir genre. In fact, it is pretty much a film noir set in a futuristic Los Angeles. The whole plot consists of following Deckard in his investigation to find the rogue Replicants. The production design and special effects are immaculate. I have never seen a more gorgeous cyberpunk city, filled with huge advertisements under the pouring rain. In many aspects, it mirrors our own world: skyscrapers built higher and higher as time goes on, omnipresent advertisements, a civilization built and sustained on technology. Agreed, flying cars do not yet exist. But the 2019 depicted in Blade Runner is closer than our own 2019 that we’d think. Artificial Intelligence like Siri or the Google Assistant have entered our home via devices like the HomePod, Google Home or Amazon Alexa. We are slowly but surely growing dependent on technology through our use of smartphones and other smart-devices. They might not have the aspects of humans, yet, but they are very much present in our lives.
It took me a lot of viewings to truly appreciate Blade Runner. I didn’t get it in full at first, but saw it at a very young age. I liked it a lot, don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t see what was so fantastic about it. As the years went by, I felt strangely drawn to this film like a magnet. I needed to see it again, and again. And again. Until it hit me. Under its gorgeous production design and visual effects stands a truly profound film. It is not pure entertainment. It is meant to be dark, to be disturbing. It does not fill all the holes. You have to do that. You have to bring a little of yourself into the film. You have to actively participate, mentally, in what the film delivers. Some may see Blade Runner as a classic. I see it as a masterpiece.