Blade Runner

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 brunner4victory.  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).

brunnerStill, there is something to be said about Blade Runner and something reassuring about its continued relevance.  A big reason 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!

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35 thoughts on “Blade Runner

  1. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    I have never seen Blade Runner again, as I was so afraid that the gloss would be gone. A coward’s way to enjoy movies.

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    1. Sean Post author

      I don’t think that’s cowardly at all. That gloss is a nice thing to have, because the movie wasn’t terrible by any means but it wasn’t the same experience or the same movie that I remembered.

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    1. Sean Post author

      It’s still amazing to look at but yeah, it was surprising to me how little meat there is. Rutger Hauer’s monologue is still great though – “like tears in…rain”.

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    1. Sean Post author

      There is definitely something to be said for a minimalist approach. Moonlight stands out as a recent example of a movie that doesn’t need a lot of dialogue and trusts the viewer enough to stay silent at times. With Blade Runner, that silence felt kind of empty this time through.

      As you said, horses for courses! What a great saying.

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  2. reocochran

    I liked Blade Runner, as I did the other films you mentioned that may not be as “great” these days. But we do have awful ones made today, too. My Dad loved “Soylent Green” and my Mom loved all the Charles Bronson movies. (It was a taste you would never picture her having, but she did. Oh, and that guy who used a baseball bat. . . Walking Tall.) Anyway, I think you both have valid points and since they are making a newer version, I probably should get this from the library and watch it, or Not!?

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    1. Sean Post author

      There definitely are bad movies today, undoubtedly more than ever (because there are more movies overall). I think it would be a good idea to watch it before seeing the new one, especially since Harrison Ford will be in Blade Runner 2049.

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  3. dbmoviesblog

    Intriguing post. Blade Runner is/was visionary, and I agree with everything you’ve said. I probably can look at Blade Runner with a critical eye and still find a lot to admire, and not only the visuals. But, my analysis will be influenced at least in part by the overall impact of the movie and its ideas/their implications. Recently, I tied to separate nostalgia from quality when reviewing La La Land, and I failed miserably.

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    1. Sean Post author

      There is no doubt at all that Blade Runner is an important and influential movie, but clearly those characteristics don’t guarantee that I’ll connect with a movie (even if I DID connect with it at some point in the past!).

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  4. Widdershins

    Sir, you blaspheme!!! … 😀 … I love rewatching my favourite ‘old’ movies. Not with a critical eye, although it’s still there (early CGI explosions, anyone?) but mostly because they’re familiar and I remember enjoying them.I deliberately place them back in their milieu … brew up a pot of tea and watch the hell out of them! 😀

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    1. Sean Post author

      It’s really cool there are so many cuts. It’s also an interesting contrast between fan reaction to these recuts and George Lucas’ revisions to Star Wars. The atmosphere and the world that the film builds is absolutely one of the best parts about the movie. I was surprised this time to find there’s less going on in that world than I remembered.

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      1. Anna Secret Poet

        Oh yes most definitely re Lucas’ revisions. Ridley Scott’s changes in the final cut were certainly more inconspicuous than what he did to ‘Return of the Jedi’ 😄. It’s been a good few years since I’ve seen it and I may have to dig it out as a consequence of this. I hope you have a lovely weekend!

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  5. Brittani

    I wasn’t crazy for the original Blade Runner. I don’t even find it very memorable, but I’m psyched for Blade Runner 2049 just for Denis and Deakins.

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  6. Jay

    I think maybe the problem is that you seem to only talk me into these movies when i’m very sick and weak. I’m so tired\drugged that I can’t remembered what happened 5 minutes ago.
    I was so bored during Blade Runner that I read a book instead, so I still have no idea what happened. I could watch it again “for the first time”. I don’t think I will though. Really didn’t grab me, and it sure sounds like it rubbed me the wrong way!

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    1. Sean Post author

      I figure I have the best chance of convincing you when you’re sick. Clearly I should change my strategy! Or pick better movies, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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  7. J.

    I saw Blade Runner so long ago that I couldn’t remember much about it. Few years ago I figured it was time I sat down and rewatched it. I couldn’t say what version of the movie it was, but I thought it was tremendous. No doubt there are many writers / directors who have taken a lot from it, but I think it’s an exceptional movie. Loads of atmosphere and tension. Reckon the new movie will be cracking.

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  8. Christopher

    I first saw Blade Runner when I was eleven or twelve and assumed I didn’t like it because I was too young to understand it. And I felt like that was confirmed as I rewatched it several times as I got older and started to appreciate things I’d missed before. But there’s always this nagging feeling that for all its strengths it really has some serious weaknesses too.
    And I get the feeling that others, including Ridley Scott, feel the same way. How many different versions of Blade Runner have been released so far? Wikipedia just says “several” and it’s hard to cut through the text to get an exact count.
    You’ve really raised a much bigger question here, though. Is Blade Runner a great but flawed film, or is it a flawed film with some great aspects?

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    1. Sean Post author

      Great comment! It’s interesting I have changed my view on Blade Runner, because I wasn’t that young when I first saw this movie (maybe 19 or 20). At that time, I would have said it’s a great film (and probably not even mentioned any flaws) but now I would say it’s a flawed film with a brilliant vision and art direction, and one standout scene.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Absolutely, that is a fantastic scene, though it also demonstrates how helpless Harrison Ford’s Deckard is – he’s a rat in a maze during that final sequence, just a playtoy for Roy Batty.

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  9. Birgit

    I have not seen it since way back when it first came out. I found it good but it is not on my “OH God I love it” list. I always like Rutger Hauer even though he has done a lot of crap. I thought the story was good but I was not into the bleak nature of it. Now I would say to watch (if you haven’t already) Metropolis from 1927 but without the 1980’s soundtrack. Try to find something that was original in its day for music. I find the story compelling and the art direction, for its time, amazing.

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  10. The Telltale Mind

    I just saw it last year for the first time and on the big screen and loved it. I always avoided it for whatever reason, the hype maybe. Anywho, glad I did see it because now I am looking forward to the sequel quite a bit.

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  11. Harlon

    I can’t stand Harrison Ford either, but I did love Blade Runner, I’ve watched it in a few key moments in my life and it was interesting how I could relate it to my experience – I just wonder if it’s one of those movies that needs a sequel. I am happy with a continuous stream of Director re-cuts of the original. 🙂 Harlon

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