The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blade Runner

For years, I wanted to see Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Can you be intimidated by a movie though? I never sought it out because there always seemed to be a new version being released. Where was I supposed to start? Which one was the best one? Without reading up on it -- for fear of stumbling across some spoilers -- I dove in, renting the Director's Cut version. It was worth the wait.

It's 2019 in Los Angeles, a city vastly changed from the one we know. The Tyrell Corporation has created an incredibly human-like robot, called a replicant, that can almost pass as completely human. These replicants have caused problems though and are now outlawed on Earth, shipped to other planets where they work as slaves to create new colonies for mankind. Back on Earth, policemen called 'Blade Runners' work to make sure there are no replicants remaining, ready to execute anyone found. Among them is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a burned out Blade Runner brought back to the job to find four replicants (led by Rutger Hauer) running free after murdering their human holders. Can Deckard bring them in?

Reading up on Blade Runner, I found there are a handful of different versions out there, changes made to each of them, some big, some small.  I'm not judging the others or the movie on a bigger level, just this version. I really liked it, but I didn't love it. Science fiction stories are great because they open up whole new avenues of unexplored worlds that can ask 'What if?' 'Blade' is a step above the rest because it is a great, unique visual and creative story, but there's also a message, a deeper meaning. That comes across best in Hauer's Roy Batty, leader of the replicants. What separates humans from these replicants? Are they really so different, or are we just trained to believe that?

What is remembered so fondly about Blade Runner is the world Ridley Scott creates. It was nominated for two Oscars for its visual look, somehow losing to Gandhi and ET. The visual appeal of the movie is hard to describe. This futuristic version of Los Angeles has that crowded claustrophobic feel of modern Tokyo, the shadowy and smoky feel of a 1940s film noir, and the people and crowds out of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. It is a gorgeous film to look at, utilizing special effects that don't look dated now in 2011. You feel like you're part of this futuristic city as Deckard investigates the whereabouts of these four replicants. How often can you see such a well-made science fiction film noir? My list stops at 1.

Two stars jump out from Blade Runner as the most impressive, but really all the acting is spot on from small performances to the starring roles. Harrison Ford is the tortured cop -- a staple in film noir -- doing a job that he has begun to question. His stylish look; the long, knee-length jacket with collar turned up, the gunbelt at his waist, the close and cropped hair, just adds to the appeal of the character, almost a modern day gunslinger. Hauer too delivers an amazingly layered performance as Roy, the replicant who has begun to question his existence and his being. He goes from straight and easily read villain to a much deeper look into a character that hopefully will have you question your judgment of him.

Most of the rest of the performances are smaller, revolving around either Deckard or Roy. Sean Young plays Rachael, a high-end replicant who Deckard meets in his investigation. Like Roy, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. Edward James Olmos and M. Emmet Walsh play Gaff and Bryant, two other Blade Runners Deckard must work with in his case, Olmos especially making a sinister impression. The other fugitive replicants include Daryl Hannah in a nice supporting part with Brion James and Joanna Cassidy. William Sanderson, James Hong and Joe Turkel are some of the engineers/creators involved with the Tyrell Corporation. 

What I enjoyed most in Blade Runner was the last 25 minutes, bordering on the surreal at times but managing to ground itself in the end. A scene between Deckard and Roy is one of the more moving scenes I've ever come across, science fiction or not. Hauer is phenomenal in the scene, Ford doing a lot without saying a word. The ending too leaves it up to your own interpretation, not quite ambiguous but a bit of a cliffhanger. A good one though, not a 'You're kidding me! That's the end?!?' type endings. An all-around solid science fiction story, hopefully regardless of the version you see.

Blade Runner <---trailer (1982): *** 1/2 /****

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