Blade Runner: An old story on a fun, futuristic set (1982)
By Daryl Miller, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Arizona) June 29, 1982
“Blade Runner,” the long-awaited new film starring Harrison Ford, may well become a modern classic.
The movie looks like a classic, first of all, because it imitates the style of film history’s great detective movies. And secondly, “Blade Runner” will be phenomenally successful because it is an extraordinarily clever film in the manner of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Star Wars.”
The recipe for this achievement is the same already cooked up in those two other films, in which Ford also starred.
Like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” ‘Blade Runner” is fun because it uses various styles of classic films. Many elements of the film mimic the great detective movies of the ’30s and ’40s. And like “Star Wars,” “Blade Runner” gives life to an old story by retelling it in a new setting.
The movie’s plot is as old as the film style it copies. Yet, although most people already know the story — basically a detective chasing down bad guys — the film still entertains, because a 1930s plot has been reset in the early 21st century.
“Blade Runner” is ultimately reminiscent of an old Humphrey Bogart movie. Ford plays a hardened detective-type character named Deckard. Like Bogart, he first bullies and then falls in love with a Girl Friday. The voice-over narrative Ford uses is so much like Bogart’s that one expects him to slip a “shweethaht” into the commentary.
Yet Bogart has been zapped through a time warp and into the “Twilight Zone.”
Los Angeles in 2019
The setting for “Blade Runner” is Los Angeles, 2019. In this imaginary world of the not-so-distant future, many technological advances have been made, the most intriguing of which is in the area of genetic engineering. Man can biologically manufacture beings so much like humans that they are barely distinguishable from the real thing.
Problems arise when a superbreed of these replicants, as they are called, is manufactured. Several replicants escape from slavery on an outer-space labor colony and return to Earth to terrorize and kill their human creators. Ford’s ex-cop character is called out of retirement to track them down.
Ford hunts his quarries through an ingeniously conceived city of tomorrow, inhabited by a tough breed of street punks.
Theirs is a world of glaring neon lights and massive traveling billboards that talk. Telephones are equipped with two-way viewing screens. Stoplights not only flash their signals, but drone, “Don’t walk, don’t walk,” in a computerized monotone. And cars are no longer confined to the ground, but spin through the air.
The filmmakers have paid meticulous attention to detail in creating this futuristic set. Their prophecy for the not-so-distant future is based on technological advances that already are being explored.
The “Blade Runner” setting fascinates because it is plausible. Los Angeles 40 years from now could easily look much like it does in this movie. What makes the city come to life, however, are spectacular special effects and stunning cinematography.
The creative genius behind “Blade Runner” is impressive. Director Ridley Scott’s last work was the film “Alien.” Special effects are by Douglas Trum- bull’s Entertainment Effects Group, responsible for the innovative work in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Trek, The Motion Picture.”
The producer is Michael Deeley, who also produced the Academy Award-winning “The Deer Hunter.” “Blade Runner’ is based on a fine novel by Philip K. Dick, and music is supplied by Vangelis, who did the fine soundtrack for “Chariots of Fire.”
With a crew like this, how could the film miss? But there’s more. The cast is equally stellar.
Of course, Ford is a well-known movie figure from his roles in “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” His acting in “Blade Runner” is as impressive as it was in his previous roles. Ford convincingly plays Deckard as a man with a tough-guy veneer, who actually despises fighting and killing.
Sean Young plays Rachael, Ford’s love interest. She is a beautiful woman and an intelligent actress who adds insight to a multidimensional role. The hurt and fear Young portrays as Rachael seem genuine.
The most impressive performance in the movie, however, is turned in by Rutger Hauer. One of Holland’s leading actors, Hauer is cast in the role of Batty, the bad-guy leader of the errant replicants. His role is a demanding one, because Batty is a villain the audience ultimately feels sorry for.
Batty is also a character moviegoers relate to. He seeks the answers to questions everyone asks: “Who am I? Where am I going in life? How long have I got to live?”
This preoccupation with seeking answers to life’s unanswerable questions 1s only touched on at the end of the film. Yet the focus is fascinating.
Man has made himself a god in “Blade Runner,” creating humanlike beings. Then man’s creation returns to him asking the same questions man asks of his maker. A new level has been established in the relation of man to God.
“Blade Runner” is certain to spark a lot of questions in moviegoers’ minds about the morality of man’s work in the field of genetic engineering. The movie itself doesn’t try to take a stand, however. It merely uses the field to add interest to the plot.
“Blade Runner” doesn’t pretend to be a deep, meaningful movie. It is meant only to be an entertaining detective thriller in the proud tradition of its predecessors. And at this “Blade Runner” is a huge success.
Out of order: Confusing plot takes the edge off Blade Runner (1982)
By Desmond Ryan, The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) June 28, 1982
In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott has seen the future and made it work on a visual level. The same cannot be said for the story he has set in it.
Predictably, with Scott directing and Douglas Trumbull contributing his invention as special photographic effects supervisor, “Blade Runner” is a handsome and imaginatively designed film.
Indeed, so much care has been lavished on this bizarre and very convincing vision of urban America in 2019 that what the film looks like has taken precedence over what happens in it. This proves a great pity since Blade Runner is crammed with interesting and adult ideas and brims with the potential to be a truly memorable film.
The problem is that Scott has forgotten some of the basics of telling a story, a lapse one would not have expected from the director responsible for the high terror and suspense of “Alien.”
“Blade Runner,” about the genetic development of androids, lacks vital parts of information and exposition and is replete with arbitrary splicing. It is a movie that has been assembled without a blueprint so that its narrative order is haphazard and often capricious.
The film offers an instance of a talented director who has much to say about where current trends in society are leading, but finds himself confined by the requirements of making a commercial adventure film for the currently bullish science-fiction market. What he has done is absorbing and exasperating — a film of adult themes locked inside a youthful format.
Harrison Ford takes a well-earned vacation from the rosy views of the future (“The Empire Strikes Back”) and the past (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) to turn in a gutsy and well-rounded lead performance in “Blade Runner.”
His portrayal of Rick Deckard has elements of Bogart neatly blended with those of a sort of burned-out Indiana Jones and it is his presence more than anything else that lends some semblance of order and continuity to the movie.
The Los Angeles of 2019 that Scott envisions teems with a vast, polyglot underclass of Asians and Hispanics. They glut the streets and talk in a gutter argot called cityspeak.
Fast-food, sushi and noodle bars have supplanted Burger Kings, and above the heads of the aimless masses, vast television billboards sing the praises of work and play in the off-worlds — work colonies in space. At the same altitude, jet-powered police cruisers zoom between the skyscrapers.
Throughout Blade Runner, Scott astutely makes the audience infer the state of things to come from these kinds of sly asides. Unfortunately, he adopts the same approach to the Story development of a complex situation full of dramatic possibilities that go unrealized.
Genetic science, especially as practiced at one sinister corporation, has developed to a point where androids called replicants resemble humans in every way except in emotional response and memory. The replicants are used as slave labor on distant space colonies, given a four-year life span and forbidden residency on Earth.
The non-residency law stems from their habit of killing people and has given rise to a breed of futuristic bounty hunters called blade runners. Ford, as the best of the breed, is Supposed to run down and kill replicants who have come to Earth. The screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples does incredibly muddled things to this promising premise.
“Blade Runner” wants to raise the topic of the responsibility of scientists for what they can or might create and the state of recombinant DNA research certainly makes the topic timely. The script attempts to engage this larger theme through Ford and the irony of a man who has lost his humanity by hunting down almost-human beings, and who has it restored by the very androids he pursues.
In the end, Blade Runner is a film that confounds both the viewer and its own aspirations. It seems to be going somewhere and then stops dead in its tracks and takes a new direction that ignores what has gone before.
The vagaries of the plot also put undue strain on Ford. It is hard for an actor, and he is a good one, to make much of a character in the midst of so much narrative confusion — he keeps tripping over loose ends. Blade Runner undermines an otherwise fine performance that is reminiscent of Ford’s brief but memorable work as a devastated Vietnam war veteran in “Heroes.”
“Blade Runner” can be savored for the sourness of its vision of the future, but it is messy enough to be brought up on disorderly conduct charges.
It earns its R rating by being too violent for the children who make up so much of the science-fiction audience, and it is probably too confusing for them as well. That is a shame, because misplaced attention to youth-market considerations is exactly what takes the edge off “Blade Runner.”