February – Blade Runner by @campbelldropout

I can’t remember the last time I’ve given so much thought to one film. This is the fourth time I’ve tried starting this entry for CinemaShame. I’ve really struggled getting my views and feelings into a coherent essay. Blade Runner has been teetering on the edge of being despised or loved. After two viewings, reading various opinions and viewpoints and limited discussion with others, I’m still somewhat unsure how I feel about the film.  I’ve known about Blade Runner for years, seen the DVD on shelves, glanced over write ups in books, but never delved into the film. The main reasons include a lack of interest in science fiction films and a general lack of knowledge when it comes to noir. Also, the film has a huge history with its troubled production, original reception and the numerous versions, the Blu-Ray I purchased came with four different versions.

From the start, I knew I was going to view the original cut of Blade Runner, which may have been the wrong route.  Visually the film is remarkable, it creates a tone and atmosphere that really pulls the viewer into the film. The standouts in the film are Rutger Hauer and Sean Young. Hauer had the best scenes in the film. His ability to show such unstable emotion was really impressive. There are numerous enjoyable scenes with Hauer including his meeting with Tyrell, telling Daryl Hannah’s character about the status of the other replicants, and the showdown/monologue with Ford. Then there is Sean Young, well, she is just beautiful, it’s hard to take your eyes away from the film when she appears on the screen.  The scene in which Ford questions Young sums the entire tone of the movie, which comes completely from Young’s performance. The film has a compelling storyline that includes some deep themes, terrific performances and a great moody atmosphere. While it has strong, positive attributions, there are two aspects that hurt Blade Runner. The narration is awful. It felt like the story was being explained to a child, or the producers thought the viewer wasn’t capable of following the film’s plot. Every time the narration came on, I was pulled right out of the film. The tone or impact of a previous scene would be ruined by the narration. There was no thinking to be done by the viewer, it was being spoon fed to the audience.  The narration belonged in a parody or the opening credits of a Remington Steele episode.  The second aspect that hurts the film is the ending. The entire build up of the mood and atmosphere are completely thrown out. I was completely surprised by the ending, I anticipated the elevator closing shut and credits rolling, instead we leave this grimy world to a world of pristine national geographic footage. I was puzzled and annoyed with the original cut, but I will give it credit for being an intelligent film despite some huge setbacks which were clearly imposed by the studio.   I intentionally planned to wait a week before viewing the final cut. During the break, I did the worst thing imaginable. I jumped on the internet and went down a rabbit hole of Blade Runner information. A terrible, horrible mistake the more I read, the more irritated I got. The whole debate of Decker being replicant caught me off guard and reading various interviews in which Scott gives his opinions, was a shock. The film offered hints at the possibility with Young questioning Ford, the reflection in Ford’s eyes and the photographs but nothing that really stood out and said yes, Ford is a replicant..  When it came to time to watch the final cut, I was already disappointed, the online information impacted my viewing of the final cut.  The overall changes to the final cut were small, in fact the running time for both versions was the same, but each one is an entirely different film.  The biggest changes were the removal of the narration and the original ending. Even with the biggest issues of the original cut resolved, I had already soured on Blade Runner. The idea of Decker being a replicant was solidified with the introduction of the unicorn dream sequence and Scott’s statements.  There are two potential reasons I dislike the film: 1) I’m too dumb to notice the clues and unwilling to accept the storyline; or 2) the film tries to be deeper than it really is. It does have deep themes and meaning pulling from various concentrations such as human interaction with technology, philosophy, Greek mythology and religion. The idea of Decker being a replicant is too 50/50 for my taste, maybe I’m a viewer that needs it to be 51/49 so it’s not so ambiguous. Maybe I’m a viewer that the studio thought needed to be spoon fed. Or maybe it was just a tough film to make and put on screen. There were so many problems with the production of the film with Scott and Ford disagreeing over the interpretations, the interference of the studio and the overall reception during its original release. This film has to be a labor of love for Scott, to spend so much time working on this film 30 years after it initial release.  I want to believe Scott had more clues with Decker being a replicant but these scenes never show up in the original or final cut. The version Scott showed to the studio/producers was nearly four hours long. I’d like to think that version had more insights to the replicant theory.

I’ve been back and forth with my rating on this film. It originally started out with an 8 out of 10 but it has fell to a 6.5 out of 10. It’s an interesting film but I got frustrated with the story when I let outside information create interference. I will come back to Blade Runner before the year is over, mostly through commentaries and documentaries in the set. In fact I even order a book about its production, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. I’ve grown as a film lover watching Blade Runner, it has been the first film in a long time I’ve had to sit down and really put time and effort into thinking critically about a film. While it has been nice, I do hope all my films won’t be this challenging.

Rating 6.5 out of 10

Well here is to March, The Wild Bunch.

One thought on “February – Blade Runner by @campbelldropout

  1. What you’re experiencing is the only natural response to a first watch of Blade Runner with too much information. I first watched it when I was 13 or so. I had no idea what to do with this bizarre brand of science fiction. I filed it away for many years. And there it remained with the WTF tag strapped to it.

    I revisited Blade Runner when it first came out on HD and Blu-ray. I’d forgotten nearly everything I knew about it. And upon this second viewing I became enraptured by the visuals and dream-logic. I stopped trying to label it. And when I stopped trying to watch it as a sci-fi film, it began to blend together with the film noirs and the B-pictures from the 40s and 50s. When I just let Blade Runner be Blade Runner, it took on an entirely new life.

    Maybe the answer is to give it 15 more years to simmer and then come back to it. That’s what worked for me. And I honestly didn’t care about Decker/replicant theories or any of the other half-brained readings of the film. Take from it what you will. No more… and certainly, no less.

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