AFI #97: Blade Runner

I’ve probably seen Blade Runner three or four times since it came out in 1982, and it’s always been one of my favorites. It works on so many levels, from its message about the advances of science to it dark dystopian vision of Los Angeles. Frankly it’s just a really cool film.

Watching it again today I was struck by how the science fiction of the film stood up over time. It’s strange that when Ridley Scott made the film he envisioned it taking place way off in the future — 2019. Now that we’re pretty darn close to 2019 it’s interesting to note a few details that aren’t so far off. For one, Los Angeles looks more like Beijing than LA. Surely Scott couldn’t have predicted the domination of China in the world, but he did see that LA (and maybe all of America) was to become culturally diverse to the point that a new mixed language of the streets would develop. Creepy given that anglos are now a minority in LA. Also, Scott didn’t invent crazy new weapons or too many high tech devices (some cars hover and fly, but not all of them). Mostly Scott created a futuristic mood more than a high tech future.

But the film is great because the plot is so intriguing. Harrison Ford’s replicant cop would be home in the 1940s, but rather than chasing down gangsters he chases down runaway androids. And in a world where we now have amazing artificial limbs and we’re growing organs in a lab, it’s not so far-fetched to think that we could soon develop androids that are so human-like that it would be hard to tell the difference without high tech tools. Ford’s character uses his street savvy and investigative skills to track down replicants — he’s more Sam Spade than Han Solo.

The runaway replicants are simply doing what comes natural — looking for a way to extend their life beyond the 4 years they are set to expire. If you give an android emotions, it’s not surprising they’d develop the most important human emotion of all, the will to survive. Rutger Hauer’s replicant is like Prometheus, using his superior strength to survive. But in the end, he breaks down emotionally as his death draws near. He is the “villain” in the film but you end up feeling sorry for him because he has to die. Darryl Hannah’s character is similar in her childlike fascination with the toys in Sebastian’s apartment. It’s hard to blame them for their actions.

Blade Runner was one of Scott’s first films, following just a few years after Alien. In the years that followed he has made some of the best movies in the industry, from G.I. Jane and Gladiator to Black Hawk Down and American Gangster. Blade Runner is a really good film, but frankly I think Black Hawk Down and Gladiator are both superior but neither made the AFI list. By the way, in case you are interested I watched the theatrical cut of Blade Runner rather than the director’s cut because that’s what was available on Netflix. I know some people prefer the director’s cut, but I like the Harrison Ford voice over and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Next Up: #96 Do The Right Thing (a Spike Lee Joint!)

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One thought on “AFI #97: Blade Runner

  1. Wait, you didn’t just use “best movies in the industry” and G.I. Jane in the same sentence did you?

    And yes, I think the director’s cut is somewhat better, though not to the degree some do.

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