Jay provides an excellent litmus test anytime I’m unable to separate nostalgia from quality. It happened with Star Wars, it happened with Indiana Jones, and it has now happened with Blade Runner. As I write this, it occurs to me that Jay may just hate Harrison Ford, but let’s leave that aside for now.
Yes, because Blade Runner 2049 is on the horizon, I was able to convince Jay to watch Blade Runner with me earlier this week. Anytime I can get Jay to watch what I will call nerd-fi, a category that includes most movies I saw in the 80s and 90s, it feels like a major victory. But only until the movie starts, because so far, about 5 minutes into each movie I proudly show to Jay, she wonders why I bothered to beg her to watch this one, asking things like, “Do you remember it being this bad?” when the flying cars first come into view.
Maddeningly, I can’t even argue against her assessments. In 2017, Blade Runner is not a great movie. It’s not really even a good movie. It’s a movie with vision, it’s beautiful to look at (though the flying cars do look as horrible as Jay pointed out), it brought dystopian futures and particularly Philip K. Dick to mainstream cinema, and it has an ambiguous ending that becomes even more so with every new cut issued by Ridley Scott. But it’s also a movie with cornball acting, disposable characters that we are barely introduced to, and a ton of sequences that are beautiful but: (a) extremely repetitive (how many times do we need to see a car fly by a Coke billboard or the offworld blimp ad); (b) essentially silent (like Ford’s visit to a food cart/open air diner); and (c) do nothing to advance the plot (which, let’s be honest, is probably about 35 minutes worth of movie without being padded by all the beautiful shots of futuristic Los Angeles).
Still, there is something to be said about Blade Runner and something reassuring about its continued relevance. A big reason that the movie feels thin today is because it has been so influential. We’ve seen so many films build on what Blade Runner started, and in comparison, Blade Runner is like a wheel made out of stone. In that way, it’s important but if choosing between the original or the best that the genre has to offer today, the modern film is going to be the better one. But there is still room in my heart for the rickety original, the one that was ahead of its time (and ahead of ours, as Blade Runner is set in the “distant” future of 2019).
And in some distant future of our own, maybe I will find a movie that I feel nostalgic for that also stands up to Jay’s critical eye. Your suggestions are welcome!