My favorite film of all time, BLADE RUNNER is a masterpiece of science-fiction that had not lost an ounce of its luster even as the real 2019 rapidly approaches.
Loosely based on the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” the film introduces us to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a special kind of cop known as a “Blade Runner.” In the near future we have created synthetic life forms called Replicants and they are only allowed off world.
Four of them have made it to Los Angeles and it’s Deckard’s job to hunt them down and “retire” them. He could care less why they’re on Earth. There’s a job to do and he’s the man for it.
As it turns out, the four led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) are there to find their creator, Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). Not to harm him, but to beg his help in extending their lives. Replicants are built with a four-year lifespan and for these fugitives, that’s not long enough.
As Deckard seeks them out and kills them one by one, his mission is made more complex when he meets and falls in love with Rachel (Sean Young), a special Replicant designed by Tyrell with implanted memories of a past that she didn’t live and no clue of who or what she is.
As many of you might now there are no less than 5 different versions of BLADE RUNNER. The three most notable ones are the Original THEATRICAL CUT (1982), THE DIRECTOR’S CUT(1991) and THE FINAL CUT (2007). As much as I admire the improvements, especially in THE FINAL CUT, I will always prefer the THEATRICAL CUT for one very simple reason.
(SPOILER ALERT) In every other version it is suggested that Deckard may possibly be a Replicant himself. The idea being that it takes one to hunt one down. I feel that this completely destroys everything that I love about the movie. To me the most important theme of the film is that you have, for lack of a better word, “machines” acting like human beings and a human being acting like a machine.
I find that a truly haunting and tragic element that is played out in BLADE RUNNER with exceptional skill in the visual storytelling as well as the lyrical writing.
Many of you may argue that I am crazy and that it’s “cooler” if Deckard is a Replicant because who doesn’t like the unicorn scene. But what does the film gain by this? Nothing. It actually weakens the themes and confuses the narrative, leaving major plot holes and some additional explaining that is needed in its wake.
I can’t even conceive how it would work given that Rachel is supposedly the first of the Replicants with false memories and Replicants aren’t legally able to roam the streets.
How then do you explain them pulling Deckard out of retirement? His past life could be a false memory, but why all the obfuscation to trick a Replicant into thinking it was human, when the less human he is the better. The last thing the police force would want is a Blade Runner who may feel empathy toward his prey, right? (END OF SPOILERS)
A reason why many don’t like the THEATRICAL CUT is due to Harrison Ford’s lackluster performance during the voice over narration throughout the film. Word has it that both Ridley and Ford were against it but the studio insisted. Ford purposely did a poor job in hopes it would get scrapped, but it didn’t.
Regardless of how you feel about the quality of the V.O. performance, the words themselves are quite wonderful and add another dimension to the film: “Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life.” That’s poetry and not something you can easily extrapolate from the scene it accompanies without the V.O.
I honestly believe that people who were introduced to the film via the THEATRICAL CUT are incapable of watching the other versions (san V.O.) without filling in the blanks. I know I can’t help myself when I watch the other cuts. Every time I see Deckard in that first sequence the words: “They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop, ex-blade runner, ex-killer.” are spoken drolly in my head.
Ridley Scott has done a man’s job with BLADE RUNNER and it is a MUST SEE MOVIE for any fan of thoughtful science-fiction but promise me that you’ll be in the right frame of mind to watch it and free of distraction. It’s a movie that demands your attention. It’s not a typical action film. It is a film of ideas and questions about humanity in the guise of an action film.
BLADE RUNNER - Theatrical Cut (1982)