‘Blade Runner’ is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.’ (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)
Billowing flames plume over Los Angeles’ towering skyline. Glowing neon lights dimly outline futuristic skyscrapers whose strange forms rise from darkness below and a hovering car flies onto the scene accompanied by a soundtrack as unique as the setting around it.
The original “Blade Runner” was ahead of its time, offering a bold, even dark, take on the emerging science fiction genre. Its impact and style have yet to be truly emulated and watching it still feels like a breath of fresh air because of this uniqueness.
The movie stars Harrison Ford in the role of a futuristic policeman. In the world of “Blade Runner,” humanity has colonized other planets and uses advanced humanistic robots with special abilities to harvest resources from other worlds. Ford’s character, Deckard, is tasked with tracking down and eliminating a rogue group of these robots, called replicants, which have escaped and are considered to be dangerous.
Just speculating, but it is unlikely that Los Angeles is going to miraculously transform into a futuristic mega-city with flying cars and life-threatening replicant robot-humans in one year. Further, laser guns and off-world colonies have not become norms, to many people’s dismay.
The charm of this movie, however, is that it allows the viewer to totally reject more reasonable ideas of the future and to fully immerse themselves in Ridley Scott’s bold yet completely believable vision of where our society could have gone. It accomplishes this feat with a dark color palette highlighted by vibrant but scarce neon and LED colors which complement their shadowy surroundings. Although the original does not boast eye-candy like its sequel and Ryan Gosling (sorry Harrison Ford), ‘Blade Runner’ has no trouble keeping your eyes glued to the screen with this unique visual charm.
While this unassuming minimalism makes the world itself of “Blade Runner” iconic, the minimalism perhaps goes too far in how it affects the humanity of its characters. This movie itself is centered around the essence of humanity. The primary distinguisher between robots and humans is the ability to possess emotion. Despite the importance of this distinction, however, it sometimes is impossible to see this emotion. Ford himself is at times too calculated to seem human. If we see anything from his character it is pain, not human complexity.
Even the emotion we do see from Deckard in the form of his romance with one of the replicants seems rather stock and predictable. It is almost as if so much attention was given to the world-building that no one put work in to make the plot match its setting’s excellence. Yes, the story is entertaining to follow because of its premises, but Deckard’s investigation proceeds in a fairly predictable way and ends up leaving the viewer with a cliffhanger anyways.
Ultimately, “Blade Runner” brings up many fascinating questions. It asks how memory relates to being a human. It brings up questions of how emotions define one’s human experience. It asks about the nature of exploitation and even love. This movie begs a lot of questions, but it does not have characters or a story with enough depth to provide truly satisfying conclusions.
Still, on merit of its visual excellence alone, “Blade Runner” is a must-watch. Coupled with its mysterious soundtrack full of panning synths and pads, Scott’s interpretation of “Blade Runner’s” world is wonderful and well thought out. As a result of this world and its bold premises, “Blade Runner” has a sort of charisma which is hard to resist. The movie does have a distinct style, and it is distinguishable enough to have gained a cult following. It is easy to nitpick and find some flaws which do manifest themselves throughout the movie, but it is hard not to like “Blade Runner” for everything that it gets perfect. Despite confronting what it is to be mortal, ‘Blade Runner’ itself has escaped its own dilemma and become timeless.
Final Grade: A-