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Film Studies - Blade Runner Review

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Blade Runner Review

Blade Runner: The Final Cut review – Rutger Hauer shines in Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, now available in the director’s long-gestating final cut. A visually stunning and intense experience.

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner depicts one of the most visually arresting and poignant dystopias ever committed to screen. The film takes place in a futuristic 21STcentury Los Angeles in a state of urban decay, pollution blankets the city in perpetual darkness and it always rains. Globalization has wrought havoc on society, leaving it hyper-commercialized and over reliant on technology at the expense of community. The only glimpse of nature we get occurs in a character’s dreams.  The presence of government is hard to discern, instead one corrupt corporation appears to rule this city, perhaps even the world.

If this all sounds familiar it’s because, like all successful science fiction, Scott’s film deals with themes deeply grounded in the reality of present day. It is not inconceivable that planet earth will be like this in the not too distant future. Of course Blade Runner does feature token elements of fantasy such as flying cars and, most significantly androids, however its concerns are overwhelmingly human. Indeed, replete with biblical symbolism, the film’s greatest interests are philosophical, asking what exactly it means to be human.

Taking its inspiration from Philip K Dick’s source novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep the film conflates Science Fiction with Film Noir. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard the titular Blade Runner, a jaded former cop who is coaxed out of retirement to eradicate a group of invading replicants. Sean Young fits the mould of the typical mysterious femme fatale, although this is somewhat subverted as rather than being deadly she proves herself to be Deckard’s moral salvation. Rutger Hauer delivers an eye-catching portrayal as the master replicant Roy who is deeply troubled by his own mortality. Supplying Blade Runner with one of the most famous and moving monologues in science fiction history, Hauer’s performance makes the film.

Since its release in 1982 five different versions of Blade Runner have been released. With the latest version Ridley Scott has removed Ford’s ill-advised voiceover narration and erased the ‘happy ending’. Both were reportedly initially inserted against the wishes of director and star and became points of contention amongst critics when the film came out, leading to it being panned in some quarters.

Regarding the plot; Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019. As mentioned, the city has become a dark, rain-soaked megalopolis, over-populated by a plethora of racial groups.

On its release some people accused Blade Runner of being style over substance. In hindsight this seems like an imprudent judgement, however there is no denying that the film is highly-stylized. Douglas Trumbull, of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running fame was in charge of special effects and it is a testament to his skill and vision that Blade Runner looks as stunningly realised today as it surely did in the 80s.

The computerized advertising blimps and billboards, the gargantuan skyscrapers, and the artificial animals seem to suggest scientific advancement; however, these images also imply the antithesis of this promised utopia (off world) in the crowded darkened sky, the congested and garbage strewn streets, and the extinction of many animals – in other words it is a true dsytopia.

Moreover, just like the style of film noir in the 40s and 50s, Blade Runner uses visual codes of darkness to signify the narrative’s exploration of the dark side of life. Certainly in this sense the plot is secondary to the style. Low key lighting is used repeatedly in the film, notably in Tyrell’s office and Deckard’s apartment. Various characters are framed in a claustrophobic fashion in certain scenes, like Leon during his VK test, and shots of Rachael and Deckard in Deckard’s apartment. Likewise, the blinds in Deckard’s apartment cast heavy shadows on the couple in these scenes. Most prominently the urban landscape is constantly viewed at night-time.



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