Blade Runner

Blade Runner ★★★★★

Blade Runner, like any number of “philosophically motivated” films, asks what it means to be human. What does it mean to live a life? What makes an existence meaningful and another inconsequential? Yes, I should note Blade Runner is masterfully composed in ways beyond it’s thematic musings. Scott crafted what is arguably the most influential dystopic creation since Lang’s Metropolis, a hellishly twisted, darkly artificial Los Angeles composed of vibrant neon, seemingly endless rain and a lifeless populace wading through the refuse of an abandoned civilization. It holds up even today, a bold, stunningly artistic vision evident in each and every detail. Supporting this is Vangelis’ admittedly dated, but still ravishing synth score, retro in all the right ways. The characters, the world-building, the script and the masterful melding of classical film noir and hard science fiction; all components of an enduring, timeless hallmark of movie history.

But what catapults Blade Runner near the top of my most beloved films is the relationship between its two leads, Deckard and Batty. I wrote a while back about their similar journeys, and spouted a bunch of gratuitously ostentatious words to explain myself. But sitting here now, I’m not sure how to avoid that while discussing this movie. It’s concerns are so fundamental; so basic that it’s tough not to sound like a bit of a prick when really getting into it. So to keep it brief and avoid redundancy relative to my prior write-up; I’ll make a few points.

-I deeply love Batty’s journey in this. It’s the saddest kind of irony that in his desperate clawing for a chance at real life, ultimately he had a form of it the whole time, albeit one driven by hatred, fear and desire. As 2049 emphasizes, believing in something is the most “human” thing you can do. Those four mutinous replicants, in their violent pursuit of a chance at something authentic, were more “human”, whatever that means, than any number of “actual” humans ever were. As you can find on any number of t-shirts in the airport, life means being happy. But Blade Runner serves as a disturbing reminder that life is also built on sadness, loss and fear. The most human moments in the film are Batty’s, not Deckard’s.

-How rare is it that a film’s antagonist feels and exhibits actual fear? Despite Batty’s physical abilities, Scott makes abundantly clear that he is enormously fragile. Experiencing emotions for the first time, he’s like a child, overcome by the simplest of emotions, captivated by the smallest of details. As his demise becomes evident, you can’t help but mourn the character. Even separated from the legendary final few lines, his needless pursuit of Deckard is tragic, suffering til the end to leave some sort of footprint in his world, something at all.

-The kind-of mystery as to Deckard’s origins, while essentially solved at this point, never ceases to fascinate me. “My” version of the film is definitely the Final Cut, and the breadcrumb trail is fascinating. A slight glimmer in the replicants’ eyes, a collection of suspect memories and photographs, the gradual unraveling of Rachael’s own childhood and it’s eerie similarity to Deckard’s own memories; all capped off by a brilliantly vague vision of a unicorn and a mysterious paper unicorn left at Deckard’s doorstep. Conclusive evidence, I think, but still compellingly vague, devoid of your traditional “big” reveal. I don’t know why people get caught up in debating the answer when it’s the question that’s so much more fun to consider. It’s implications to the moralizing of the film, whether or not it changes our perceptions of certain key characters.

-And finally, the philosophical musings in this are consistently fascinating. Though often dismissed as simplistic and sophomoric, I think Scott is one of the best in the business at exploring big questions. Just because the ideas presented aren’t endlessly complex or subversive doesn’t mean they lose any intellectual integrity. What matters is the way in which they are explored. The authenticity of the exploration, and the attention paid to developing the ideas. To mistake a lack of staggering complexity for being juvenile seems a tad dismissive in my opinion. But that’s just me, people are entitled to their opinions. But as someone who has a particular affinity for great artists exploring big ideas in their chosen medium, messy or otherwise, Blade Runner gets better and better with age; I feel like I’m unlocking new layers to the movie each time I watch, at the very least taking some time to consider the questions it’s asking again and again.

This is my sixth favorite movie of all time, so each time I write or discuss it, my thoughts quickly devolve into “it’s just so deep, man”. But that’s really why I love Blade Runner. I turn it on to be intellectually stimulated, to watch a movie that satisfies as a hard sci-noir story about a private eye tracking down a replicant, but also happens to have a profoundly powerful thematic core to it as well. It’s one of the few bona-fide masterpieces out there, a movie I would point to every time as a reason why I love science fiction and even why watching movies is my favorite past-time. Imperfect but so grandly ambitious that it’s flaws only serve to illuminate its strengths, deepening its allure and solidifying its status as a visionary, singular work in the process.

(I encourage you to read my prior write-up, though. I’m relatively proud of it and it’s much better than this mess.)

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