Saturday, February 23, 2013
My Favorite Era: Blade Runner (1982)
Harrison Ford is Deckard, a Los Angeles cop in the year 2019 whose job is to hunt down renegade androids known as "replicants". He ends up falling for one played by Sean Young and the majority of the film has him chasing down three replicants in true film noir fashion.
That's the basic version of the plot. It's Harrison against Rutger Hauer, Brion James, Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy with Sean Young as a troubled replicant who Ford falls for. What's awesome about the film is how Ridley Scott takes a pretty basic story and, by creating a fascinating futuristic world for the characters to inhabit, makes it seem brilliantly original.
Performances are uniformly excellent across the board. Ford is solid as usual, giving a nice low key performance that is appropriately laconic given the genre. The replicants are good as well with Rutger Hauer really standing out as the leader, Roy Batty. Hauer has always been a pretty good actor but here he gives depth to a character whose essential purpose is to have no depth or personality. That's a pretty tall order but the man pulls it off quite well.
The supporting cast is awesome as well with good support from Young and Edward James Olmos. There are also great minor roles for character actors M. Emmett Walsh and James Hong. Always a good sign in my book. Really, the entire cast is good here. In fact, there are just too many great moments to list, considering I want this to be a blog post rather than a short novel.
With a stellar cast and production design, really the only way to adequately critique this film is to compare the different versions of which the Blu-Ray set supplies five: The Final Cut, the U.S. theatrical cut, the international cut, the 1992 director's cut and a work print version. Since the work print isn't really a fair representation of the movie and the international version only adds a few extra seconds of violence, I'll briefly review the remaining three.
The 1982 release is pretty good, though compromised by a horrible narration from Ford that the studio made Scott use. Ford wasn't too thrilled about it and it shows as he just drones on about stuff that's rather obvious if you take the time to actually focus on the film. Still, it's a testament to the man;s skill that he can clearly, vocally not give a damn and still be entertaining. Apart from that, the story is just as it always has been with good acting and amazing production values. There are a few small flaws here and there but those get sorted out in subsequent cuts.
The 1992 cut drops the narration and adds a tantalizing dream sequence that opens up the question of Deckard possibly being a replicant. It also disposes of the cheesy happy ending and replaces the rather dark ending Scott wanted to begin with. It serves the film much better and fits the tone.
The 2007 cut is easily the definitive cut of the film. Some f/x shots have been fixed, the rather obvious stunt double used when Joanna Cassidy is killed has been re-done and the overall look of the movie is just more seamless than ever before.
Blade Runner is still one of the most influential movie ever made. It's fascinating to re-watch, looks amazing and is a damn fine piece of noir filmmaking. I'd say grab the Blu-ray...quickly.