5 March 2002 | joelhoff
A compelling, thematically-deep SF film
This is truly one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, one that requires a thinking viewer in order to understand and appreciate it. The director's cut is the recommended one to see as it omits a somewhat distracting narration and avoids an unnecessary Hollywood-style ending that is at odds with the rest of the film's tone.
A true science fiction story or film is about ideas, not spaceship battles, futuristic gadgets, or weird creatures. "Blade Runner" fully qualifies as this in its examination of the impact of technology on human society, existence, and the very nature of humanity itself. These themes are set in a fairly basic detective story that moves slowly but gradually builds power as the viewer is immersed in a dystopian futuristic Los Angeles.
Harrison Ford fans accustomed to the normally dynamic roles that he plays may be dissatisfied with the seemingly lifeless lead character that he portrays here as the replicant-hunting detective known as a "blade runner". They should be, for this dissatisfaction is part of the film experience, part of the dehumanized existence in the story's setting. However, as the story unfolds, we see Ford's character, Rick Deckard, slowly come alive again and recover some humanity while pursing four escaped replicants.
The replicants, genetically-engineered human cyborgs, that Deckard must hunt down and kill are in many ways more alive than Deckard himself initially. Their escape from an off-world colony has an explicit self-directed purpose, whereas Deckard's life appears to have none other than his job, one that he has tried to give up. By some standards, Deckard and the replicants have thin character development. However, this is a deeply thematic and philosophical film, and as such the characters are the tools of the story's themes. Each character reflects some aspect of humanity or human existence, but they lack others, for each is broken in ways that reflect the broken society in which they live and were conceived/created.
There are several dramatic moments involving life-and-death struggles, but most of these are more subdued than in a normal detective story plot. The film's power is chiefly derived through its stunning visual imagery of a dark futuristic cityscape and its philosophical themes.
Among the themes explored are the following: - The dehumanization of people through a society shaped by technological and capitalistic excess. - The roles of creator and creation, their mutual enslavement, and their role reversal, i.e., the creation's triumph over its creator. - The nature of humanity itself: emotions, memory, purpose, desire, cruelty, technological mastery of environment and universe, mortality, death, and more. - Personal identity and self-awareness. - The meaning of existence.
If you are not someone who naturally enjoys contemplating such themes, the film's brilliance may be lost on you. The climax involves a soliloquy that brings many of the themes together in a simple yet wonderfully poetic way. Anyone who "gets" the film should be moved by this; others will sadly miss the point and may prefer watching some mindless action flick instead.
"Blade Runner" is a masterpiece that deserves recognition and long remembrance in film history.