"Blade Runner" Throwback Review
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a dark science fiction film that doesn’t follow the usual narrative you would expect. It takes its time to play out and brings up many philosophical questions. Blade Runner is a visual and technical masterpiece but is not a very lively film that keeps you engaged and drags from beginning to end.
The plot follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as a blade runner in 2019. Blade runners are the police that specialize in hunting and eliminating android look-alikes of humans known as Replicants. Four replicants have escaped from an off-world colony and have come back to Earth and Deckard is tasked with eliminating them. Since replicants are perfect copies of humans, hunting them down is a very difficult process. This makes the audience question which characters are human and which are replicant. The film follows a police mystery narrative where the protagonist has to track down the bad guys using evidence and intellect. We follow Deckard along as he travels around 2019 Los Angeles trying to find each individual replicant.
The biggest problem with the film is its pacing. It is very slow at setting up the story and keeping the mystery alive. It feels much longer than its 117-minute runtime. The film speeds to a medium pace once Deckard finds his first Replicant, but it’s too little too late. Having a slow film allows Scott to build a world around Deckard’s story. Every detail and supporting fact has its own backstory and is open to more exploration. I expect Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to dive further and revisit the same questions.
The most important element of the film is its ability to raise valuable and complex questions about humanity. We know exactly which characters are replicants, but we never know the background stories of the human characters. We just assume they’re human, but never really know who they are and their motivations.
Having these questions distances the film from other sci-fi films of the 80’s. It feels that this film was intended for people tired of the usual sci-fi films that follow Star Wars model where the characters are either good or evil and the audience is kept entertained with action and adventure. Scott has taken that trope and flipped it the other way around, creating a dark, dystopian film where every character has different questionable personal motives and isn’t labeled as good or evil.
The biggest aspect of the film is the technical work behind the scenes that make the world feel more real and lively. The visual effects are masterful for the time period and still look quite good thirtyfive years later. The large urban setting completely surrounds the small characters and enhances the dystopian setting.
Another minor problem with the film is the acting. Harrison Ford does an alright job as the hard and almost lifeless cop Rick Deckard. Rutger Hauer is the only highlight as the lead replicant, Roy. His character is never made into a clear villain and we end up feeling sorry for him as he searches for purpose in his short life. There is nothing special or memorable about the other characters.
With the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, arriving next week, moviegoers should make it a mission to watch this to get a feel for what to expect. This is not the usual sci-fi action film that you most likely grew up on and I expect the sequel to follow that same trend. You’ll most likely get more enjoyment researching this film and thinking about it rather than actually watching it.