January with the Replicants

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Year Released: 1982
Running Time: 116 minutes

For the first month of the year I watched Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner from 1982. Now this is a unique film in that I had to watch it twice in order to formulate a proper opinion.

Blade Runner has a few versions available. It’s one of the first films that came into public consciousness in regards to multiple cuts. I have the 3-Disc BluRay which has 5 versions: Theatrical Cut, Director’s Cut, International Theatrical Cut, Workprint and Final Cut. The Final cut is the one that Ridley Scott had full control over.

I watched both the International Theatrical and Final Cuts for my observation. Upon watching for the first time I was amazed at the world Scott had built. A futuristic LA, but still pretty grimy, almost similar to his previous picture Alien. Another thing that I had to do when watching this was change my view on the movie from my initial expectations. This takes place in the future, but it is not Sci-Fi. This is a noir. We have the hard boiled cop, the femme fatale, and we even have a narration by Harrison Ford throughout. Personally I was glad this was removed. Ford just had no delivery on the lines.

I’ve always known about Blade Runner’s history and that it’s a polarizing film. Thank goodness for future technology allowing us to see multiple versions of this film and I would highly recommend it. Even if you don’t like it yourself, it certainly is worth a viewing in some format.

March’s Shame: Blade Runner by @theactualkeith

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Blade Runner creeped up on my Shame List when after a failure in February, I felt I needed some true penance. Plus, I saw a few minutes of Blade Runner on TV and wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. (The scene I caught was Harrison Ford, Deckard, scanning the picture of the room while drinking his futuristic bottle of scotch.)

Blade Runner takes place in a future which has birthed organic robots referred to as “replicants.” Replicants have been banned on Earth and are used exclusively on off-world colonies. As we enter the world of the film, a group of replicants have escaped the off-world colony and returned to Earth to hide out in Los Angeles. Semi-retired Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, agrees to take the assignment of tracking down the escaped replicants. Blade Runner is the title for the police officers who are tasked with tracking replicants.

Harrison Ford is an excellent choice for the role of burned-out Deckard. The fact that a Blade Runner can get burned-out speaks a lot about the job. (It’s interesting to imagine what Blade Runner might have been had Dustin Hoffman taken the role in the first place.)

This film is what all science fiction movies should be. An exploration of the modern world through the prism of the future. And instead of looking at topics like social class and racism, Blade Runner actually explores the very nature of humanity. I already knew the great question of the movie going in. Maybe it was because I knew it, that I had trouble seeing the signs that brought it up in the first place. The same problem happens when you know directions so well that when someone asks you can’t give them landmarks.

So is the answer to the big question affirmative? Yes. Probably. But that wasn’t really the point, was it? The answer is the same as to whether the top falls at the end of Inception. 

ImageThe importance of the film is that it makes us consider what humanity is. What makes us know that we are human? What makes us know that someone else is human? Whether we are or not, how do other treat us and do they even care?

The larger questions aside, the film is beautifully crafted. Perhaps here would be a good time to talk about the various versions of the film. The film I saw was the only one I could get my hands on — The Final Cut. I knew that there were voice overs in other versions and I can see why Scott would have removed them for The Final Cut. They weren’t needed. If I ever find the time, it might be interesting to compare the many cuts of the film and see how they impact the story and the question of humanity.

But really, I’m content to watch and rewatch The Final Cut and look for all the details Ridley Scott hid in his world for us. The level of detail is immense — to the point that there are prices on the parking meters that are still illegible even in high definition.

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Blade Runner is a great film that has so much going on within its world, I feel only slightly less shameful than at the start of the year. What will fully relieve my shame? Several rewatchings of the film and a better understanding of its parts beyond a base knowledge constructed from parodies, references, and rip-offs.

 

February – Blade Runner by @campbelldropout

I can’t remember the last time I’ve given so much thought to one film. This is the fourth time I’ve tried starting this entry for CinemaShame. I’ve really struggled getting my views and feelings into a coherent essay. Blade Runner has been teetering on the edge of being despised or loved. After two viewings, reading various opinions and viewpoints and limited discussion with others, I’m still somewhat unsure how I feel about the film.  I’ve known about Blade Runner for years, seen the DVD on shelves, glanced over write ups in books, but never delved into the film. The main reasons include a lack of interest in science fiction films and a general lack of knowledge when it comes to noir. Also, the film has a huge history with its troubled production, original reception and the numerous versions, the Blu-Ray I purchased came with four different versions.

From the start, I knew I was going to view the original cut of Blade Runner, which may have been the wrong route.  Visually the film is remarkable, it creates a tone and atmosphere that really pulls the viewer into the film. The standouts in the film are Rutger Hauer and Sean Young. Hauer had the best scenes in the film. His ability to show such unstable emotion was really impressive. There are numerous enjoyable scenes with Hauer including his meeting with Tyrell, telling Daryl Hannah’s character about the status of the other replicants, and the showdown/monologue with Ford. Then there is Sean Young, well, she is just beautiful, it’s hard to take your eyes away from the film when she appears on the screen.  The scene in which Ford questions Young sums the entire tone of the movie, which comes completely from Young’s performance. The film has a compelling storyline that includes some deep themes, terrific performances and a great moody atmosphere. While it has strong, positive attributions, there are two aspects that hurt Blade Runner. The narration is awful. It felt like the story was being explained to a child, or the producers thought the viewer wasn’t capable of following the film’s plot. Every time the narration came on, I was pulled right out of the film. The tone or impact of a previous scene would be ruined by the narration. There was no thinking to be done by the viewer, it was being spoon fed to the audience.  The narration belonged in a parody or the opening credits of a Remington Steele episode.  The second aspect that hurts the film is the ending. The entire build up of the mood and atmosphere are completely thrown out. I was completely surprised by the ending, I anticipated the elevator closing shut and credits rolling, instead we leave this grimy world to a world of pristine national geographic footage. I was puzzled and annoyed with the original cut, but I will give it credit for being an intelligent film despite some huge setbacks which were clearly imposed by the studio.   I intentionally planned to wait a week before viewing the final cut. During the break, I did the worst thing imaginable. I jumped on the internet and went down a rabbit hole of Blade Runner information. A terrible, horrible mistake the more I read, the more irritated I got. The whole debate of Decker being replicant caught me off guard and reading various interviews in which Scott gives his opinions, was a shock. The film offered hints at the possibility with Young questioning Ford, the reflection in Ford’s eyes and the photographs but nothing that really stood out and said yes, Ford is a replicant..  When it came to time to watch the final cut, I was already disappointed, the online information impacted my viewing of the final cut.  The overall changes to the final cut were small, in fact the running time for both versions was the same, but each one is an entirely different film.  The biggest changes were the removal of the narration and the original ending. Even with the biggest issues of the original cut resolved, I had already soured on Blade Runner. The idea of Decker being a replicant was solidified with the introduction of the unicorn dream sequence and Scott’s statements.  There are two potential reasons I dislike the film: 1) I’m too dumb to notice the clues and unwilling to accept the storyline; or 2) the film tries to be deeper than it really is. It does have deep themes and meaning pulling from various concentrations such as human interaction with technology, philosophy, Greek mythology and religion. The idea of Decker being a replicant is too 50/50 for my taste, maybe I’m a viewer that needs it to be 51/49 so it’s not so ambiguous. Maybe I’m a viewer that the studio thought needed to be spoon fed. Or maybe it was just a tough film to make and put on screen. There were so many problems with the production of the film with Scott and Ford disagreeing over the interpretations, the interference of the studio and the overall reception during its original release. This film has to be a labor of love for Scott, to spend so much time working on this film 30 years after it initial release.  I want to believe Scott had more clues with Decker being a replicant but these scenes never show up in the original or final cut. The version Scott showed to the studio/producers was nearly four hours long. I’d like to think that version had more insights to the replicant theory.

I’ve been back and forth with my rating on this film. It originally started out with an 8 out of 10 but it has fell to a 6.5 out of 10. It’s an interesting film but I got frustrated with the story when I let outside information create interference. I will come back to Blade Runner before the year is over, mostly through commentaries and documentaries in the set. In fact I even order a book about its production, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. I’ve grown as a film lover watching Blade Runner, it has been the first film in a long time I’ve had to sit down and really put time and effort into thinking critically about a film. While it has been nice, I do hope all my films won’t be this challenging.

Rating 6.5 out of 10

Well here is to March, The Wild Bunch.