Is This To Be An Empathy Test?
“Memories. You’re talking about memories…” – Rick Deckard.
“Blade Runner is such an amazing movie. A mesmerising mix of sci-fi, action and film noir, it is quite unlike anything you have seen before…” were my words used to describe this seminal SF masterpiece, back in 1986. That school project required us to produce our own magazine. At last! Something to really engage my interests and talents.
The result: Film File – twenty pages, crammed with reviews and profiles written in different coloured ink – was awarded A+ by my gobsmacked English teacher. Blade Runner had had its TV premiere that year, and my VHS copy was swiftly getting worn out at an exponential rate. Naturally, consumed by Ridley Scott’s scintillating verve and vision – over and over again – when it came to compile this rag, Blade Runner took centre stage.
“Harrison Ford makes a fascinating lead character here,” my write-up continued. “The performances are particularly memorable, but it is the spectacular “visual futurism” created by Syd Mead that is sure to become the template in which all subsequent dystopian thrillers will thrive…”
“I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?” – Dr. Eldon Tyrell.
Even now – with just two years to go before we reach the timeframe created therein – what can Brad write about a movie that holds a reserved place in his All-Time Top 5: honestly, one does not just watch this movie – you experience it…
But then, remember that yours truly is a Professional Wordsmith – it’s my job to find the right words, ma’am.
What better way to begin than from the beginning: the opening shot of the imposing Tyrell Corp pyramid dominating the cityscape is sumptuous enough, but a seemingly mundane scene involving Holden testing a subject called Leon ends in such an unexpected, dramatic way, my attention was drawn in from that moment – still get goosebumps marvelling at its intricate editing – and the exceptional sights and sounds that unfolded kept me hooked right up to its melancholy conclusion.
One of the quintessential elements to enhance the classic status of this sophisticated replicant-busting package is the synthtastic score by Vangelis. As the movie has fuelled its fanatical fan-base to ask numerous questions over the years, there is one particular poser that always fascinates my speculative faculties:
Who – or what – else could have evoked better mood and enhanced the drama?
Choosing just ONE track from the classic Soundtrack is challenging enough, but this one gets me every time:
My very own unique arbiter of good taste: my father, loved the movie as well – ’twas he who had to stay up (extra late) that weekday night in ’86 and record it, editing out the commercials (bless ‘im!)
The “Boy, have you got a treat in store!” look on his face the next morning is one of those priceless moments @ Brad Manor…
Leon Kowalski (played viciously-cool by Brion James) had more of a profound effect on The Original Brad than on me. He really enjoyed quoting Leon’s lines non-stop:
“Wake up, time to die!”
“Okay, OKAY, I WILL tidy my room already…”
“What do you mean, I’m not helping?” – Leon Kowalski.
And then of course, the main female character became equally iconic.
The fashion sense and hairstyle of eternally-lovely Rachel (Sean Young) added a distinctive 1940s vibe to these “futuristic” proceedings -enhancing that elaborate noir touch in amidst all that neon…
“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachel.
“It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” – Gaff.
“Personally, the added unicorn dream sequence looks more incongruous than the original drive-away ending that consisted of outtakes from The Shining! If anything, this unwelcome addition looks like a shoddy outtake from Scott’s 1985 movie: Legend – an even more absurd anomaly…” so argued my write-up prepared for a local newspaper to coincide with the cinematic release of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut in 1992. The then-Editor didn’t seem all that impressed as my Review – like most of my best material – never saw publication.
Thankfully, my opinion towards this sequence has mellowed over time.
“To me, it’s entirely logical,” Ridley Scott explained in a 1982 interview. “Particularly when you are doing a film noir, you might as well go through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing. You could say it is corny or not corny. Something is usually only corny according to execution. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully.”
Although filmed for the original theatrical cut, there again, meddling studio execs advised him to extricate the scene because it complicated the narrative even further. Without it, of course, the later appearance of the origami unicorn makes no sense.
Part of the initial appeal was Ford’s droll narration. Never had a problem with it myself – was unaware that it was an explanatory device reluctantly added later. As a writer, it is understandable now: how the endless revisions and rewrites it had to go through became a source of irritation for the makers.
Actually, what about that other question: was Ford miscast?
Many of his fans thought so, and the negative word-of-mouth contributed to Blade Runner‘s surprisingly dismal run during its initial release.
On the other hand, his presence primarily influenced my decision to sit down, watch and have my life changed forever…
“Are you for real?” – Zhora.
Gaff: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte!
Sushi Master: “He say you under arrest, Mister Deckard.”
Deckard: “Got the wrong guy, pal.”
Gaff: “Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!”
Sushi Master: “He say you Blade Runner.”
Deckard: “Tell him I’m eating.”
To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, in 2007, Blade Runner: The Final Cut was released. Working abroad where it received no theatrical release, it was just a matter of time before finally seeing what Ridley Scott had originally intended.
Strangely enough, it has taken another ten years before getting round to renting a copy of Blade Runner: The Final Cut! Just last month, in fact, intricate rituals had to be undertaken to prepare me for this superior sensory sensation. Yes, that same tingling feeling throughout is still there…
Future perfect? Perhaps…
The most perplexing question: “Is Deckard a replicant?” has been argued to almost monotonous degrees among critics and fans alike.
Scott insists that he is; Ford has always denied this aspect of his character. Actually, look at it this way: it’s an aspect best left open and UNanswered; let viewers decide for themselves – very few movies possess the capacity to allow audiences to react in such a way. The point that people are still arguing over this issue 35 years later is a testament to the power and intrigue that Blade Runner has – and continues – to generate.
“We need you, Sebastian. You’re our best and only friend” – Pris.
“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave” – Roy Batty.
That other oherwhelming question: “Should this classic have a sequel?” has always been answered from this quarter with a stern:
NO, A Thousand Times No.
When news finally broke confirming the go-ahead of the dreaded Blade Runner 2, it seemed like such an abysmal admit-defeat scenario had unfolded.
In the promising hands of Denis Villeneuve, who lavished the extraordinarily impressive Arrival upon us all last year, prospects suddenly don’t look so dire. Plus, unexpectedly glowing initial Reviews have trickled in. Some critics have even had the nerve to comment how Blade Runner 2049 not only complements the original, but supersedes it in terms of depth and quality.
Uff, we’ll have to see about THAT…
So, always up for a challenge, your correspondent will give 2049 a go, and report back to you later in the week…
Let it be said: Villeneuve will have to go SOME WAY to try and produce anything to equal the original’s Final Act: still cited by many as the Greatest Scene in SF Cinema History – it is certainly one of the leading contenders.
Honestly, how could we finish This Post without it?
Tears in rain? Tears on my keyboard, more like.
“Reaction time is a factor in this so please pay attention. Answer as quickly as you can.”