I haven’t ever watched Blade Runner, and since I saw it on Blu-Ray at the library I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to catch up and earn some geek cred. The movie seems to have all the ingredients necessary for sci-fi cult success: Harrison Ford, matte painting backgrounds, robots, Harrison Ford. But something kinda went wrong. Spoiler alert from here on out!
Blade Runner takes place in a future where androids are kind of indistinguishable from normal humans. But they rebelled against us and now we want to kill them all. This makes them want to kill us. Man, things get complicated quickly. People who hunt down androids are called “Blade Runners.” Harrison Ford is a blade runner. There are some androids (actually they’re called replicants) that Harrison Ford needs to kill. This movie has a really simple plot.
Blade Runner is apparently supposed to be really good. The Blu-Ray version has like, five versions of the movie. Either this means that the movie was so good that it was worthy of having five versions, or it sucked so bad that they needed to fix it multiple times! I am thinking the latter.
The issue is that Harrison Ford’s character is supposed to be a badass blade runner who retired to get out of the game. But really, he’s just lousy cop with incredible luck. Blade Runner is like an exercise in how to perform Deus Ex Machina bailouts, one after another.
Example 1: Harrison Ford (his movie name is “Decker” but let’s just call him HF) is trying to trick one of the replicants in her dressing room. She figures out he’s a cop and starts choking him. She obviously has the upper hand. But then some girls walk into the dressing room so she splits and then somehow Harrison catches up to her and guns her down. Very sporting.
Example 2: One of the replicants sees Harrison killing replicant 1. He obviously has an advantage. He sneaks up on Harrison and starts kicking his ass. He’s also about to deliver a final blow and the other “good” replicant saves his life by shooting the bad guy in the head.
Example 3: Harrison lets the replicant catch him by surprise and she jumps on his head, twists it 180 degrees backwards. For some reason she lets him go so she can do some kind of backflip finishing move. She really should’ve just snapped his neck or something. Harrison has a chance to get up and shoots her in mid backflip. This also seems unsportsmanlike.
Example 4: The replicant boss guy kind of plays around with Harrison, breaking his fingers and chasing him around. But eventually gives up since he’s (the replicant) gonna die anyway. Harrison lives to see another day.
So really, Decker just lucked out every single time. It makes sense; how is a human supposed to beat a super-strong replicant? Decker’s only real skill is that he’s incredibly lucky. This sort of puts him in the same league as other HF characters like Han Solo (remember when he chases that stormtrooper into a room with a billion stormtroopers?) or Indiana Jones. But the movie portrays him as some kind of a Dirty Harry or Rambo-esque killing machine. He’s more like Mister Magoo or Maxwell Smart. But somehow I don’t think that connection was intended by the filmmaker.
Besides the whole plot thing, some critics apparently had problems with the pacing. I thought it was okay, except there are long stretches of Decker stuff, then long stretches of replicant team stuff. As if there were two separate plots and movies going on. I mean, it seemed like they showed two days’ worth of Decker action then two days’ worth of the other guys, but they happened around the same time span. So there’s some weirdness in continuity.
The plot also seems to only lightly address the heavy plot points. For example, the moral implications of giving life to these replicants and then limiting their lifespan. That’s in addition to basically making them illegal and then killing them. Instead the movie tends to antagonize them even though they’re really the victims in this story. It turns into a simple cat and mouse hunt rather than anything particularly meaningful.
One thing the filmmaker got right: The future sure has a lot of Asians in it! Japanese, Chinese, etc. I sure am glad we’re represented (though also sort of tokenized) in the future!
I really have no idea why this movie is considered a classic. Maybe I’m being too hard on it. It was, after all, released in ’82, before I was born. But plenty of sci-fi movies made before then stand the test of time. I feel as though Blade Runner is just a bit overrated. Just to give Philip K. Dick a chance, I grabbed “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” from the library. I think it may end up being a more thoughtful exercise.