There are some things to like about the film. Harrison Ford was brilliant, as usual, although in a role where he seemingly had to pull off his scenes with very little direction from a relatively young Ridley Scott. There are multiple storylines that explore deeply important questions, most critically the meaning of life itself. The Tyrell Corporation’s motto for its Replicants is “more human than human.” With their implanted memories these robots, which have been banned from Earth (in a narrative that draws from my favorite all-time book series by Isaac Asimov, which stretches more than 20 volumes from I, Robot to Foundation and Earth), are struggling to understand their true nature and place in the world – this is particularly poignant because they were used as slave labor off-world and their existence mirrors African American bondage. This raises fascinating philosophical, sociological, and psychological questions. But none of them are delved into with nearly enough depth.
Instead Scott chose to film in a distinctly weird neo-noir style, which I suppose was intended to be so mysterious that the audience wouldn’t really care about the answers to the big questions being posed. The soundtrack by Vangelis certainly bolstered this approach. But, in the end, I cannot get past how bored I am every time I watch the film (not sure what it says about me that I keep trying to like it).
My favorite parts of Blade Runner are the futuristic urban scenes, which depict a dystopian environmental hellscape that still oozes with life. The brutalist architecture does little to lift my soul, but the intensely energetic existence of the people cannot help but give one hope for humanity’s potential atonement. Ridley is a wonderful world builder.
The main solace I take in my rejection of Blade Runner is that I absolutely love the recent sequel. Blade Runner 2049 is directed by the brilliant Denis Villeneuve, has wonderful performances by Ford, Ryan Gosling, and Ana de Armas, and its plot and pacing are much more compelling. Without the original, we would never have gotten what I believe is this far better film.
(Up Next: War Games)