Blade Runner (R)
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This 1982 film is based on the 1968 book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick, which I haven't read. I'm sure I must have seen it on TV sometime in the 80s, but I remember almost nothing from that viewing. I'm writing this review in 2017, after watching it on DVD. I'm sure I was too young for it the first time I saw it, and I expect I didn't entirely understand what was going on. (I mean, I'm definitely old enough and understand it better now, but I still don't think I entirely understood it.) I also need to say that there have been several versions of the movie. What I watched on DVD is the director's cut, which I'm sure is different from the version I watched on TV years ago. (I think the version I saw on TV probably had some narration that's not in the director's cut.) And obviously there must have been edits to even make it conform to broadcast television standards.
Anyway... it's set in L.A. in November, 2019. (Considering I'm watching this in 2017, it's not really a 2019 I can believe in, but whatever.) The film begins with some textual info about the world, to let us know that in the early 21st century, the Tyrell Corporation began making synthetic humans called "Replicants." (I don't want to call them androids, because I get the sense that, physically, there would be no way to distinguish them from humans. Although they are stronger, more agile, and smarter than most humans.) The Replicants were used as slave-labor, mostly offworld. And I guess there was an incident that led to them being outlawed on Earth. So a special police department was created, of "blade runners," whose job is to identify and kill (or "retire") any Replicants they find on on Earth.
So... there's a guy named Leon (Brion James), who is applying for a position at Tyrell. He is being administered a special test by someone named Holden, who we later learn was a blade runner. (The test involves the use of a special machine and a series of questions.) Anyway, Leon seems... of somewhat low intellect. But suddenly he shoots Holden. (I assumed Holden was killed, but I guess not.) Subsequently, police captain Bryant sends some cops to "arrest" a guy named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). But that's just to force Deckard to meet with him. Deckard is a former blade runner, who is now retired. But Bryant forces him to take on a case of hunting down Leon and three other Replicants. (Actually, I think he mentioned six Replicants who had escaped from an offworld colony and come to Earth. One of them I think was explained as having been killed, or something, which should leave five. But Bryant only says there are four that need to be found and "retired," which confused me. I dunno if I missed something, or what.) But the Replicants Deckard is supposed to find include Leon, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), and their leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer).
Deckard goes to the Tyrell Corporation, where he meets a woman named Rachael (Sean Young), who is the assistant of the head of the corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell. The doctor wants Deckard to administer a test to Rachael, using the same machine Holden had previously used with Leon. Supposedly, it's to provide a "negative" (non-Replicant) result, before testing a Replicant. (I suppose it's legal for Tyrell to have Replicants on Earth, since they're the company that makes them.) But Deckard finally figures out that Rachael is a Replicant. Dr. Tyrell tells him she's an experimental model, which is unaware of its own nature, having been implanted with false memories to convince it that it's human. Oh, and we also learn that Replicants have a built-in lifespan of four years.
Meanwhile, the rogue Replicants are trying to find a way to increase their lifespans. Roy and Leon visit a scientist (played by James Hong), who makes eyes for Replicants. From him, they learn that their best chance to gain an audience with Dr. Tyrell (the only person who could possibly help them), would be through another of Tyrell's scientists, J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson). Pris pretends to be a homeless orphan, and lies in wait to befriend Sebastian.
Eventually, Deckard follows a clue obtained at Leon's apartment to find Zhora, whom he kills. Subsequently, Bryant tells him that Rachael has gone missing, and Deckard now has to track her down, as well. (He certainly has no desire to kill her, though.) And um... well, Rachael shows up at his place. And she's very distraught to learn that she's not human, and her memories are not her own. And I'm sure I'm saying things out of order. There are a couple of different scenes with Rachael at Deckard's apartment. But the order of things doesn't seem very important, really. Um... I want to mention that I've long been aware of a question in the fandom as to whether Deckard himself might be an unwitting Replicant. I don't remember getting that idea the first time I watched the movie, but watching it this time, I was really trying to see if there was any reason to think that. And there was only one, vague, clue that jumped out at me, which was when Rachael asked if he'd ever taken the test himself. The one blade runners use on Replicants. But he never answered that (because he fell asleep drunk). And as far as I could tell, it never really came up again. And it's kind of hard for me to believe Deckard had only been alive for... well, less than four years. (I have zero reason to believe he could be a Replicant who'd somehow lived past that failsafe.) And it's really not important to the story, whether he is or isn't.
There's also a scene where... well, it's safe to assume Deckard and Rachael have sex, though it's not actually shown. But in the buildup to it... watching the movie now, I can't help but feel like Deckard essentially raped her. (And I'm certainly not the only one who thinks so.) I think we're not meant to interpret it that way, and I really don't want to... but like I said, I can't help it. So I can't really like him. And that... is on top of the fact that I can't really dislike the Replicants for doing whatever they could to try to extend their unfairly shortened lifespans. They may be willing to do terrible things, but I still think they're victims.
Anyway, Sebastian helps Roy get to Tyrell. And I don't want to spoil how that turns out. And later, Deckard finds Roy and Pris. And... man, so much happens in the movie, I feel like I'm forgetting a lot even right after seeing it, and again, probably saying things out of order. And always I try to avoid spoiling too much. So I really don't want to say how any of it ends.
So... all that's really left is for me to give my impressions of the film. I do think it's interesting to combine various genres, like sci-fi, film noir, a dystopian society, and... probably other stuff. Visually, I think the movie is great. Thematically, I'm sure there's a lot that went over my head, but I still thought it was good. Unfortunately, I couldn't manage to like it quite as much as I wanted to. Partly that's because of the fact that I thought what happened with Deckard and Rachael was rape (even if I'm not meant to think that). Partly it's because I feel like the villains got a totally raw deal. (And I feel like we're not meant to think that. I could be totally wrong about that; maybe we are supposed to sympathize with them. But I just cannot manage to believe we're meant to. And I think that's bullshit.) And, to be honest, I never got the sense that Deckard was a particularly good detective. Though I'm not sure I can blame him for that; I kind of blame the screenwriters. Oh, also, I want to say that one cop who sort of worked with Deckard, a guy named Gaff (Edward James Olmos), seemed to be pretty much a background character of no importance, most of the time. But in the end, he had what I always thought was the most memorable line of the film. Except that in my recollection, it was one of Roy's lines. In fact, until re-watching the movie in 2017, I had absolutely no memory that the Gaff character even existed. I also kind of want to say I have always vaguely remembered Pris doing something that never actually happened. (At least not in this version of the film. And now I have no way of knowing whether it's something that happened in whatever version I saw years ago, or if it's something I completely invented in my head. Well, mostly invented; she does do something similar to what I remembered. But not similar enough, to my way of thinking.)
Anyway, I dunno what else to say. I like the movie. I'm just disappointed that what I like most about it is the atmosphere of it all. The atmosphere was amazing. Everything else... was okay. Mostly. But just not as great, in my opinion, as it could (and should) have been. But, you know... to each their own.
In 2017, there was a sequel set thirty years after the first film, called "Blade Runner 2049." It was preceded by a trilogy of short film prequels, to fill in some details of events in between the two movies.