Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece was released in 1982 to a very poor reception. It flopped at the box office and polarised critics who felt the movie was painfully slow, and the story had taken a back seat to special effects. Over time however these criticisms have largely faded and the film has become one of the biggest cult classics with great praise for it’s complexity and it’s ability to remain relevant even thirty years on. The film continues to attract more fans and increase it’s reputation as the greatest science fiction movie of all time.
Based on the based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the story revolves around Deckard (Harrison Ford), a furturistic cop called a Blade Runner who tracks down and “retires” bioengineered humans called replicants. He has been forced out of retirement to track down several advanced models known as Nexus 6, who have come to Earth in what appears to be an attempt to find a way to extend their limited four year lifespans.
Deckard is called in after the previous Blade Runner was executed while performing a test that measures a persons emphatic responses to emotionally provactive questions, the idea being that replicant will struggle with the responses. Unsure if the test works on the new models Deckard is sent to the Tyrell Corporation, the makers of these bioengineered humans, to test it on a known model. Instead Deckard discovers that Tyrell’s (Joe Turkel) assistance Rachael (Sean Young) is a replicant who believes she is human. Thus the story begins.
As Deckard hunts down the replicants he becomes increasingly conflicted by the nature of his assignment. He begins to feel for Racheal who believes she is human and is quite upset when she discovers she is not, but he also struggles with his own humanity drowining in the bottom of a bottle struggling to free himself of a depressive state of mind. To live in fear, fear of death, fear of the unknown is the ultimate theme at play in this story as both the Replicants and Deckard struggle to find a sense of meaning in their lives.
In one of the more poignant scenes in the film Deckard guns down a running replicant as she spirals through the glass windows of street shops in a vain attempt to escape. In any other context it’s cold blodded murder and the viewer should be outraged, but the cleverness of the direction leaves you conflicted. Are these Replicants human? Do they deserve my empathy? This is Deckard’s job, to kill off these abominations, so why do I feel so uneasy? It’s these themes and the way they are explored that make this film more than just a cool Science Fiction story, it’s something that will stay with you after it’s over if you’ve bought into the premise.
Blade Runner is also Director Ridley Scott’s best movie, with the original Alien as a close second. He claims that artistically it’s his most complete film, something which I didn’t really appreciate without multiple viewings. It’s that complex in it’s structure that you really can’t take it all in, in one single viewing, which may explain it’s poor reception when originally released.
Regardless, if you haven’t seen Blade Runner then you’re missing the finest that Science Fiction has to offer. There is also confirmation that a sequal is underway, so at the very least you’ll be getting the background on what will be a very anticipated film.