Blade Runner ★★½

Deckard: “I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those final moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his- anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.”

I wish, I sincerely wish now that Ridley Scott had delved more into this storyline rather having indulged in making a visual masterpiece with the emphasis on the story taking a backseat. This for me was just a bland robot hunt termed euphemistically “Retirement”.

The plot, roughly based on Phillip K.Dick’s acclaimed novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an absolute gold mine. Man plays God here as he is vested with the brain and the know how to create a species very similar to him. But he does not treat this species in the same way as he does his own. I have not read the book and hence do not know completely know what made the nexus 6 robots go berserk and revolt against the humans. But that quote enlightened me with the reason which could still be wrong. Some of the radical Replicants understood how unfairly they are treated and how easily they could be killed without any need for reason of justification. How would we feel, if we were in touching distance of our creator, the God, and he denied us the right to know the day of our departure. He knows it; he is the one who decides it; how enraged would we be if he refuses to divulge the details? It may sometimes be unfair that the right people die young and the bad ones get a long and peaceful stay. This is the same feeling that propels the band of outlaws lead by the Hauer’s Roy Batty back to earth to get some answers. In order to get those answers they seek to meet the man who created them, putting forth very pertinent questions such as why did he create them in the first place? Why did he set a preordained date of death for them? Is there any chance for him to stop them from deceasing on the set date? What is even more intriguing is that they do not know their incept dates which is a definite prerequisite to find out the time remaining to alter their fate. It is a cruel, exasperating position to be in.

I noticed a lot of logical flaws in the film. When it comes to reality I do not mind logical plot holes because in the heat of the moment no one can think astutely and come to the best possible solution. But in fiction everything is thought about in advance right from the concept to the way the world works and hence the logic must be tight and unquestionable. Again, I do not know whether some details of the book were omitted from the film, which in turn induced in me these questions or whether the author himself never thought about it.

If the so called geniuses were ultra-intelligent so as to make life possible in another planet shouldn’t they be aware that any human creation has the possibility of going wrong? Shouldn’t they have devised a simple tracking solution in order to know the exact location of the Replicants? The only way that seems to exist in the futuristic dystopian world to differentiate a Human and a Replicant is to have an hour long conversation termed Voight-Kampff (sort of an advanced lie detector test) where in case of a non-empathetic response, the Suspect is termed a Replicant. God! What a complicated way to know who is human and who is not. And before a suspected Replicant undergoes such a test, it is vague that they aren’t even frisked!

It is alright for J.F.Sebastian to sympathize with the Replicants as he endures pretty much the same plight as them. But why doesn’t Tyrell, the head of the corporation kill them at sight? He knows the threat they are posing and the rampage they have been on. Even more implausible is how easily Roy Batty gets into Tyrell’s penthouse. The thing looks like a god damn mountain, but not a single police in sight and not one check was made on a strange new visitor. And if the situation of the Replicants is so prodigious why not the entire police team get into action? Why only Deckard? It certainly did not seem to me that he was the only guy who could do the job. Nothing in the film that happens in the film made me believe in the protagonist’s specialty or that he was the most fitted for the hunt. Everything seemed so ordinary.

Finally what was the point of Rachel? For me she was clearly a device who had no concrete need to be in the film. She is just a device to prompt the directionless Deckard into action by spilling some very important piece of evidence which finally set things in motion. Even the evidence seemed way too contrived and cinematic. Such plot points must be ingrained in the story line without inducing the viewer to questions their placement, but here it is very evident that Rachel was there just to make the hero look at the other side of the coin and realize they too have emotions. It was drab and completely uninspiring. If at all the director wanted to make the protagonist realize the sorry state of the Replicants it must have been through an out an out experience with them( a clash with Roy Batty for example where he learns about him) and definitely not this way. And during the final scenes Rachel in fact says that she loves Deckard. This sheds a whole new light on the deeds of the humans and how arrogant, inhumane and self-absorbed they actually are. If the only motive of the revolting Replicants was to know when they are deemed to die and if there was a possibility of keeping the dream called life alive then why not simply provide them with answers? Knowing that the Replicants are indeed capable of emotions and memories and the very people who are responsible for this are trying to exterminate them is not something I would root for.

Now coming to the other side of the coin, the real positive of this film must be definitely Sydney Mead. His work in this film is absolutely astonishing and made me gasp in awe at the brilliant visualization, conceptualization and the eventual realization of the futuristic dystopian world. This film totally belongs to him and I can see how Blade Runner has influenced endless number of films. The gadgets, the neon bathed crowded streets, outlandish structures and the spinners patrolling the skies might be commonplace now, but way back in 1982 this must have been a startling achievement. He is a God whose work in Blade Runner will always be revered a monumental, historical achievement.

But in order to have capitalized on such a tremendous world created, there must have been a more than engaging story line put across on the screen. We all know in such a film that the protagonist eventually kills the rebels but what matters is how interesting the whole journey is. But Blade Runner falls terribly short of interesting and flat in this. Ford looks completely uninterested in the role and his charisma in this is zero. It was incredibly disappointing for me as he seemed to be reluctant to bring any sort of emotion or the trademark liveliness and character to Rick Deckard. Sometime he even made me wonder if he were a Replicant who did not realize, just like Rachel? His performance was almost unbearable. He seemed so lost. Some may argue that was how the character was written. If that is the case then I am sorry, I do not see why a lead character must be so insipid and dull.

Producer Alan Ladd, Jr. had once stated the palpable tension between Scott and Ford as below,

"Harrison wouldn't speak to Ridley and Ridley wouldn't speak to Harrison. By the end of the shoot Ford was 'ready to kill Ridley', said one colleague. He really would have taken him on if he hadn't been talked out of it."

I wonder how he got his revenge then. No points for guessing. Yes it was by giving out such a dreadful performance.

Blade Runner also takes an immense amount of time to get going. Deckard keeps drinking, strolling around without realizing the gravity(if there was one) of the situation, meeting people who seem to comfortably know all that he is ever looking for, and the Replicants are so dumb in order to not be in hiding and act in secrecy when they are amongst the most wanted. They too provide to be easy hunt downs leaving no scope for inducing the much needed interest from the viewer’s mind.

Much of the film seems like a neo-noir set in a futuristic world, with an unemotional detective going in search for clues which lead him from one place to another. Again I do not know whether the source material was such or did Ridley Scott turn it into something else. I read that there were several intrusions from the productions side, which might have restricted the creative freedom of Scott. But everything said the first hour and half were filled with distinct, breath taking visuals but the events in the film were a total contrast to that.

The only highlight was Rutger Hauer who I thought was enormously underused in the whole film. But the ending made amends for it. Despite me not liking the whole film, the ending was really good. In a few scenes, Hauer brings out a charismatic, unabridged and scintillating performance that was more memorable than the entire film and also infinitely more enthralling than Ford’s. Also worthy of mention are the final moments where Batty confesses what it is like to be a Replicant and what were they wanting all along. That scene is etched in my mind because it can be alluded to the reality of this world, the terrible inequality amongst the human beings in terms of material possession and lives eroded away just like that by acts of God and Nature. The whole concept of humans creating Replicants and considering them slaves, treating them without a heart in a cold irrational way seemed a giant allegory to God and Humans or how humans treated their own species during the dark ages of slavery. This is exactly the reason why I started out with that fantastic quote.

Finally, I concur that Blade Runner has been a pioneer in terms of Sci-Fi films. The concepts, the machinery and the World realized certainly have been a beacon of influence on so many other films. But it fails in the execution or may be it digressed from the story itself. It is like a costly dish which looks great, tempts the diner and makes him drool, but eventually turns out to be bland, unsavoury and worthless of all the money spent. That is the feeling I had after watching Blade Runner.

PS, It is best that I talk very less about the worst part of the film. Blade Runner has one of the most annoying scores ever. It tested my patience beyond believability and made the watch severely excruciating.

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