Blade Runner

Blade Runner ★★★★½

Third viewing; risen in my estimation each time I’ve seen it, though I still think it’s only near-great. I can’t shake the feeling that what most perceive as rewarding elusiveness and ambiguity is really just accidental profundity as a byproduct of Scott’s inability to fully reconcile the shooting script with his singular, monumental vision of this dystopian society; the stuff with the unicorn, for one example, was clearly just opportunistically repurposed after Scott observed the significance that fans of his movie had been zealously projecting onto its various incoherencies, and I think it’s telling that what’s perhaps the film’s single biggest point of discussion—viz., Is Deckard a human or a Replicant?—was born not out of a conscious artistic decision, but a continuity error. Judge it for what it is* and not for what may have been originally intended, I guess, but to put it more simply, I think there’s a reason Scott re-edited this like eight different times.

As an exercise in cinematic hypnotism, however, it’s downright sublime, with the concoction of Scott’s utterly immersive world building, Trumbull’s astonishing visual effects, and Vangelis’ hypnotic score at once transfixing your attention while making you feel as though you’re on the cusp of falling asleep, like a dream you can only partially remember even as it unfolds right in front of you. That’s always been the fundamental level on which Blade Runner appeals to me: as a dose of cinematic Valium. The film also impresses as a contemporary science fiction update of the noir genre, formally evoking Expressionism while drawing liberally from early sci-fi watershed achievements such as Metropolis.

And though I wish the movie’s emotional core had a more powerful pull on me—it’s hard to root strongly for a central couple wherein both people are among the film’s most boring characters (especially considering one of them is the nominal protagonist), and Roy’s aching desire for life is undercut by his role shift into a monster movie villain in the final act—moments like Rachel and Deckard’s love scene and Rutger Hauer’s final monologue are so moving that I can almost put the dramatic shortcomings elsewhere out of my mind. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn't believe . . . All those moments will be lost in time...like tears in rain.” What a perfect encapsulation of humanity’s anxiety over preservation spoken by someone who literally embodies our obsession with progress.

* Significant disclaimer: I’ve only ever seen The Final Cut in its entirety, so my assertions here are rooted in my knowledge of Blade Runner’s theatrical and director’s cuts as they were explained to me. Scott’s previous versions may well either support or disprove my thesis that he’s more or less performing some reconstructive surgery vis-à-vis the film’s philosophical and thematic underpinnings; at the moment, I’d have no way of knowing, but I’ll readdress the topics should I ever get around to checking out any of the other cuts.

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