Every bit of Blade Runner is pure motion picture; always movement and always motivated by a familiar yet alien environment that lives and breathes. The streets in the film are crowded with neon designs, flashing lights, customized vehicles, and busy civilians wearing detailed costumes, scrambling through heavy rain and fog to get to imaginary yet seemingly important places. The Los Angeles of Blade Runner’s future vision may have seemed extremely foreign in 1982 when the film premiered, but has proved prophetic in these days of uneasy decay and overpopulation.
Blade Runner creates a world so thick with atmosphere and layered with rich detail that it’s impossible not to become entirely immersed. Even after countless repeat viewings I find myself sucked in completely. It is a film with irresistible magnetism, and every few months I’ll be unexpectedly entrenched in this movie. There’s no escape from my fascination until I’ve taken the time to watch everything that my 5-disc HDDVD set has to offer; the International Theatrical Cut, the 2007 Final Cut (both with and without the Director Commentary), Dangerous Days: the Making of Blade Runner, and at least a handful of the featurettes found on the supplements disc. It takes a few days to get through everything, but it’s always such a pleasure and there is always something new to discover.
Movies are no longer made this way, and it’s a goddamn shame. Companies like Industrial Light and Magic have revolutionized the filmmaking process and provided today’s visionary storytellers with extremely cost effective and powerful tools to make their dreams a reality. However, there has been a tremendous cost to the soul of the images they produce, and cinema today is sorely lacking the visual punch of yesteryear’s Sci-Fi blockbusters.
The man-hours, effort, and money that went into breathing life into the rich atmosphere of Blade Runner is far from lost on me. There’s almost no way to convey what an astounding specimen this film is for the impact that man-made sets, practical visual effects, elaborate miniatures, collaborative creativity, and craftsmanship can have on production value. The L.A. portrayed in Blade Runner feels real, almost alive. It makes the sterile computer generated streets and office buildings of Coruscant from Star Wars Episode II look like the environments used on the fucking Teletubbies.
Although the look of the picture is breathtaking, the subtext of Blade Runner is easily just as thick as the mood evoked by the environments crafted by Ridley Scott’s art department. It takes more than one viewing to be able to appreciate what’s at work here, but meaningful conversations can be ignited by the themes threaded throughout this movie.
“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?”
These were characters that knew the value of each day. They were desperate to stay alive, and carried around an only hope that someone at the Tyrell Corporation could save them from dying. Our villains are told they are not real; that they are only clones, due to expire. If I’m not real, then what is “real”? And what does it all mean if everything can just suddenly go away? No one believes they’re going to die. Unfortunately all of this, from the mundane to the unfathomable, will be washed away with time.
All the elements of a modern science fiction classic are present, but Blade Runner’s ability to call upon the audience to question what they’re seeing and feeling elevates the film to masterpiece status. However you choose to interpret the film, you have to appreciate the ability to decide its meaning for yourself. What’s more important than whether Deckard is a replicant or human, is that the question exists.
Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” may not have been strictly adapted for its literal content, but the spirit and emotional theme of his book is more accurately depicted than most writers could ever hope for. Having strong subject matter to consider and debate after walking out of a movie theater is far more appealing to my sense of intelligence than having some derivative manure shoveled into my brain for an hour and a half.
Links to the Blu-Ray sets and the Vangelis soundtrack are provided in the box below. (Unless you’re blocking Amazon Associates)