1982’s Science Fiction blockbuster Blade Runner clocks in at #97 on the AFI list. Starring Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young and a very creepy Rutger Hauer, the film was one that I recalled loving as a kid, but also a movie that I hadn’t seen in close to 30 years. Set in 2019, which must have seemed like a long way in the future 37 years ago, it is fun to see how the Blade Runner version of the future world looks and does not look like the actual 2019 world.
First, a quick plot synopsis, as always. The Tyrell corporation has developed genetical engineered beings called Replicants who look and act like humans but are actually manufactured beings with a 4 year life span. Because Replicants are stronger and faster than humans, there are some issues on Earth and Replicants are banned to slave colonies on the outer worlds. Replicants that are found on Earth are systematically executed or “retired” in Blade Runner lingo.
Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a Replicant hunter or Blade Runner as they are referred to. 6 Replicants have escaped from a mining colony and made their way to Earth. They have attempted to infiltrate the Tyrell corporation and 2 are killed on the first attempt. Deckard’s job is to hunt the other 4.
Deckard goes to see Tyrell, the genius CEO of the Tyrell Corporation. In this meeting, he is introduced to Rachel, a woman who he discovers is, in fact, a Replicant, even though she is unaware of that fact, because, unlike other Replicants, she has been given implanted memories.
Deckard uses a piece of synthetic snake skin (long story) to hunt down one of the Replicants who is posing as a showgirl and kills her. Another one of the Replicants attacks him and is about to kill him but Rachel shows up on the scene and shoots the Replicant. Deckard and Rachel have sex afterward.
The two surviving replicants, Roy and Pris, get a lonely scientist named JF Sebastian to help them get in contact with Tyrell. Roy tries to get Tyrell to extend his life beyond the four years, but learns it is scientifically impossible. Roy kills Tyrell after learning this news.
Deckard sleuths his way to Sebastian’s apartment and finds and kills Pris. Roy hunts Deckard in a weird game, but ultimately saves him from falling to his death. After saving Deckard, Roy expires, his four years up.
Deckard goes back to his apartment and heads off with Rachel for parts unknown.
What I liked:
- The futuristic Los Angeles portrayed in the film is absolutely beautiful
- For 1982, the foresight to issues around genetic engineering is pretty impressive
- Harrison Ford is excellent in the lead role
What I disliked:
- The character arcs, with the slight exception of Roy, are fairly non-existent. We get no back story on Deckard – does he have a family? Why does he hunt Replicants? Does he have moral conflict about it?
- There is a ton of subtext to the world that is just unexplained – it’s raining all the time in LA, why? LA has lots of abandoned housing as people move to the outer worlds, why? Replicants are allowed in the outer colonies but not on Earth, why?
- It is probably an unfair standard to judge a 1982 film’s portrayal of 2019, but the movie looks incredibly dated. Rampant smoking in places it isn’t allowed. Omnipresent flying cars but monochrome monitors. Video calls, but on pay phones. All the women wearing big shoulder pads. So, basically 1982 with some flying cars.
Overall, I’m sad to say, this movie doesn’t hold up at all for me. Science Fiction is a very hard genre to make timeless films given changes in technology and perception of the future (it would have been hard to get the Internet and the iPhone right), but beyond that, I just didn’t find the characters or story compelling in rewatching the film. This film was not on the original AFI list from 1997, and I think there are many better science fiction films that didn’t make the cut (Alien, The Matrix, Back to the Future, Gattaca, to name a few) that would have made better choices.
Production Quality 9/10
Rewatch Value 5/10
Overall Score 26/40