Panned by critics, sci-fi movie
Blade Runner becomes cult classic
Reviewed by Glenn Cutforth
- Writers: Hampton Fancher (screenplay), David Webb Peoples (screenplay), Philip K. Dick (novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Joe Turkel
- Release Date: June 25, 1982
Blade Runner has been my all time favourite movie for a long time, but I almost missed it altogether. Stupid me, I listened to the critics when it first came out, to my regret. Before the film’s release, I saw the trailer and thought, “that looks like a great movie” However, when the film came out, film critics overwhelmingly panned it, so I skipped watching it during it’s first run in theatres and initially it was a flop at the box office.
However, as luck would have it, a year later I was working part time in a video rental store. We always had a film running and that day, the boss put on the VHS video of Blade Runner. I didn’t pay much attention to the film as I waited on customers but then I heard this haunting melody coming from the TV and I went over to investigate. It was the film’s love theme.
I was so smitten by that beautiful sax melody I started watching the film’s scene and I was hooked. Since the store was closed on Sunday, I asked my boss if I could take a VCR and the film home for the weekend. He said okay.
That Sunday I watched the film twice and was engrossed by the most amazing opening flight across the dystopian Los Angeles in the year 2019. The scene was breathtaking in it’s beauty and still gets the same reaction from me to this day.
Throughout the film I was also electrified by this amazing electronic soundtrack by Greek composer Vangelis that fit the atmospheric beauty of the cinematography. The music was unique to film at that time, as it’s various themes fit each scene perfectly in a unique way.
This film score is still my favourite instrumental soundtrack of all time. I saw a version of the film with a “normal” orchestral soundtrack and it just didn’t work. In fact, it diminished the film.
Now, briefly to the plot.
After the opening credits it’s explained that the technology that created synthetic humans has entered into the “Nexus phase”. Replicants are sophisticated androids, virtually identical to humans, but are now superior in strength and at least equal in intelligence to their creators.
Replicants are designed and built by the Tyrell Corporation, a giant multi conglomerate headquartered in two pyramid-like towers. The latest and most advanced version of Replicant technology is the Nexus 6 model. Replicants are predominantly used as slaves for manual labour on the “Off-World Colonies” out in space.
Following a violent mutiny by Replicants on an Off-World Colony, the Replicants were outlawed on Earth. Specialized police units called “Blade Runners”, were charged with the complicated task of detecting Replicants who illegally come to Earth and executing them, which is not considered murder, but simply “retirement.”
Rick Decker (Harrison Ford) is a retired Blade Runner, but is forced to take on the task of “retiring” four Replicants who have made their way to earth. They are Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Leon (Brion James) and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy). And so the violent chase begins.
Tyrell realizes Batty is angry and disappointed and tells him, “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long — you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.” Roy’s anger overwhelms him and tragedy follows.
Many film critics, to this day, consider Blade Runner boring and “slow” which tells me they probably love mindless superhero films filled with fake CGI characters and repetitive space battles that get shown over and over again in every superhero movie. It takes a few more brain cells to appreciate and understand the beauty and depth of this film. It’s far from boring.
However, it did take me a few viewings to understand it’s main theme about life and death. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? Why are we here? What’s our purpose?
To date, I’ve watched Blade Runner more times than any other film, with the exception of Mary Poppins, which I watched 27 times because I had to while working as an usher at age 14 in the old Centre Theatre in Chatham, Ontario. Blade Runner is still my all-time favourite, followed by La La Land.
With Blade Runner, I’ve lost count, though I watch it every year around New Years. I’m sure it’s reaching that Mary Poppins number as I did get to see Blade Runner on a big screen when it came back for it’s second run.
The film builds up to the inevitable violent confrontation between Roy Batty and Decker and it’s a humdinger. As Batty’s life span begins to expire during the fight something changes in him and he goes from being an evil anti-hero to a Good Samaritan in an iconic scene that raises the film to heights unexpected but beautiful in it’s appreciation for life.
Rutger Hauer who played Roy Batty said before his passing on July 19, 2019 that this was his favourite film role and I can’t imagine any other actor doing the character justice. He was amazing.
Over the years Blade Runner became a cult classic as it’s popularity continued to grow and I, like so many of it’s fans waited anxiously for new versions of the film including the Director’s cut, and then the Final Cut that came out years later.
I had no problem with the Rick Dekker narration in the first release of the film but this was removed in future releases. And even though director Ridley Scott says Dekker was also a Replicant, I’m on Harrison Ford’s side when he says he believes Decker was human, which is how he played the character.
If Dekker was a Replicant, the film just doesn’t make sense to me, especially in the light of the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049.
Finally, David Peoples who co-wrote the script also wrote the script for Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award Best Picture winner Unforgiven, as well as 12 Monkeys and Ladyhawke which also starred Rutger Hauer.