|Genres||Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller|
|Starring||Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young|
|Directed by||Ridley Scott|
|Release info||25 June 1982|
Blade Runner opens with a panoramic shot of a dark and rainy Los Angeles skyline. The year is 2019. People who can leave Earth to populate other planets are leaving as quickly as transport can take them. The exploration to find and prepare habitable worlds is done by replicants, humanoid androids barely distinguishable from their human makers.
Replicants are built with a predetermined life span or termination date. Four years from the date that they are animated, they cease functioning. They also lack certain human behavioral traits tied to empathy, much of their existence is based on the memories of others rather than their own experience. This leaves small gaps in their ability to relate like a human-being would in certain circumstances.
Detecting their differences requires a special tool, the Voigt-Kampff empathy test, and a discerning eye. Rick Deckard, an ex-cop, possesses the skills required to separate the wolves, replicants gone rogue, from the sheep, hapless humans who get caught in the battle between the replicants and their human makers. He left his position as a blade runner, a member of a special police unit dedicated to “retiring” rogue replicants, because he felt like a killer. Despite his personal feelings, Deckard is recruited to hunt and retire four replicants. The group has returned from off-world to track down their creator Eldon Tyrell and convince him to turn off their internal timers; they want to live. Unfortunately, they are also leaving a path of destruction by which Deckard is able to track them.
The band is led by Roy Batty, brilliantly played by Rutger Hauer. Hauer’s performance elevates the combat model replicant Batty from the status of an apparent sociopath to that of a sympathetic character. Batty is ruthlessly single-minded in his quest to prolong his life, yet child-like in the questions he poses to his maker as he asks for a longer life and simply eloquent as he faces his end.
Deckard finds himself in an awkward position as his empathy for the replicants increases over the course of the film. He discovers that Rachel, Tyrell’s niece, is a replicant, but she does not know it. This is relevant, because Deckard is attracted to her. Will he have to hunt her too? Does she have a termination date or did Tyrell spare her, because he based her on his niece?
Blade Runner may not appear at first glance to be a grand philosophical exploration, but it is. The film and its characters pose questions which have fascinated mankind for millennia: What does it meant to be human? What would I say if I could meet my maker? How can I be immortal? Do we make our reality or do our memories?
The film, now considered a noir styled science-fiction classic, gained a loyal following after its initial failed release in 1982. The film only grossed $27.6 million in ticket sales. Some critics found the film visually interesting, but considered the story less than satisfactory. Other critics thought that the visual impact of the film distracted from the intriguing questions posed by the story. Viewing audiences also found the film somewhat inaccessible as well as disturbing. Blade Runner contains quite a bit of violence and some scenes depicting people and animal replicants under construction. The original cut of the film was modified after test screenings. Harrison Ford’s low key voice- over narrates the original wide release version of the film and an extended ending with a happier twist was added in an attempt to make the film more palatable to viewers.
The film explores the questions posed by its characters with stunning imagery and intense special effects. The darkness, smoke and rain that begin the film put viewers in a meditative mood. As the film progresses, images are layered upon one another creating a wonderful montage of images and ideas. The imagery seems representative of the memories of the replicants who want to have their arbitrarily limited life spans extended as well as those of the humans that hold them in bondage. We follow Deckard as he walks the dank and dirty streets of Los Angeles, then flies above them in his hover car to show the brightly lit and distinctive architecture of the Tyrell Corporation and its neighbors. Origami figures rendered by Gaff, the cop who drags Deckard back to active duty then shadows him as he hunts the replicants, punctuate the film. Director, Ridley Scott seems to be saying that all is a dream or maybe it is not; it depends on who is looking and who is remembering.