#74 Blade Runner

(1982, Ridley Scott)

“It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?”

I don’t really talk about the origins of adaptations much here on this blog, but that might have something to do with the fact that I’ve not experienced many of the original books or source material of these films. Until now. I have read Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, the basis for Blade Runner. So as a result, expect a lot of comparison.

Blade Runner is set in 2019, in a world that’s falling apart, and humans are fleeing to off-world colonies on other planets. Amongst the population are replicants, robots produced to such a standard they are indistinguishable from real humans, often employed to do dangerous jobs. They need to be kept in check though, which is where Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes in. He’s a blade runner, a police officer trained to identify and “retire” (read: kill) any replicants that pose a threat. He’s been called in to track down a series of Nexus 6 replicants who’ve escaped from an off-world colony and are trying to break into the Tyrell Corporation, the company that made them.

Blade Runner is a very visually impressive movie, especially considering its age. The shots of the dilapidated city are stunning, and the sets are impressive. The only thing that breaks the illusion is the extremely outdated computer displays we see from time to time. They were clearly made with existing technology in 1982, and now look laughable 30 years on, especially when the in-car computer display in the movie look significantly worse than a real-life modern sat-nav.

However, truthfully, the visuals can’t save the movie from being as bland as it is. Often held up as a classic sci-fi movie, it’s hard to see why. The movie drags on quite a lot without really achieving anything. There are far too many scenes where nothing happens at all, such as endless shots of hovercars flying through the city, or a scene where Deckard sleeps on his piano. The movie picks up pace a little during the actual replicant hunts, but it can be a chore getting to these scenes. It doesn’t help that Ford seemed aware of the film’s slightly bland nature and phoned his performance in, since he seems bored most of the time. He completely lacks the kind of charm he exhibits as Indiana Jones, and while this kind of fits the character, it’s hard to connect with him in any way.

There are also massive plotting problems. The main issue I spotted was the lack of explanation regarding artificial animals. I’d seen Blade Runner numerous times over the years, but it was only after reading the book that I understood the need to talk to a street vendor about a snake scale with a serial number on it. It feels like such a poorly explained part of the story, something that gets significant attention drawn to it in the novel. It’s a big part of the plot, too, so its lack of real explanation is frustrating.

In fact, most of the novel was jettisoned to make the movie, and the parts that remain feel a little disjointed as a result. The book is a genuine classic, but the movie falters far too often. While it’s understandable that a movie will always trim a novel down in adapting to the big screen, it feels like too much important stuff was left out, leaving large gaps in the story that can be confusing. Scott changed too much. He dismantled the entire novel, and then failed to really piece it back together again into something coherent.

It’s a shame because Blade Runner has so much promise when it starts out. But the awkward pacing and disjointed story drag the film down, even when the replicant chases are genuinely thrilling. My advice is to read Dick’s novel instead.

Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young & Edward James Olmos
Written by Phillip K. Dick (novel – Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?), Hamton Fancher & David Peoples
Produced by Michael Deeley
Music score by Vangelis
Cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth
Edited by Terry Rawlings & Marsha Nakashima

Favourite Scene: The climactic battle between Deckard and replicant Roy Batty. Rutger Hauer is pretty damn creepy.
Scene That Bugged Me: Tracking down the first replicant. Deckard wanders into a stripper’s dressing room and casually chats with her while she gets dressed into some 80s-tastic “futuristic” clothing. Everything just feels awkward.

Watch it if: You like to see big dystopian cityscapes
Avoid it if: You read the book

Originally posted on Blogspot Tuesday 3 April 2012

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Posted on April 15, 2012, in 1980s, Sci Fi. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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