Blade Runner Brilliance
September 13, 2004 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Essay on the meanings and significance of Blade Runner. Interesting insights on particular scenes and quotes and how they are more relevant today than ever.
posted by stbalbach (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always felt that Blade Runner is about man's desire to track down his creator and destroy him Bringing fire to the heavens and all that. Of course, it was a college professor who put me on that track.
posted by aladfar at 6:25 PM on September 13, 2004

Looking around the Web at images from the film, I'm taken aback at how fresh they look -- almost as if the movie exists outside of time. Syd Mead and Ridley Scott achieved something truly amazing in the look of this movie.
posted by alumshubby at 6:46 PM on September 13, 2004

I also feel that Blade Runner is about humanity's (the Nexus-6 replicants) search for his creator, not to destroy but to confront, but when we do finally meet our creator, it's perhaps inevitable that we'll be disappointed.

And of course you have to love a film where street vendors have electron microscopes.
posted by blm at 7:30 PM on September 13, 2004


The ending of the director's cut (Rachel and the man whose job it is to hunt down her kind get in elevator together; doors close; fade to black) was too ambiguous for the studio, so they meade Scott add the escape-to-the-woods helicopter shots with hapily-ever-after voice over at the end. Mr. Scott, upset by this and not willing to shoot another foot, used some footage left over from his friend Stanley Kubrick's latest film -- The Shining. In this way Scott attempted to restore to the studio ending the same kind of ambiguity and forboding that characterize the entire film. Also, it was a final unspoken "fuck you" to the studio after all the changes forced upon him.

For my money, Blade Runner is the best sci fi film ever made.
posted by ChasFile at 8:35 PM on September 13, 2004

Compare the end of Blade Runner to the beginning of The Shining - the shots used at the end of Blade Runner were the test shots of the location, filmed during preproduction of The Shining. Kubrick saw it and decided the location was perfect, so later on in production they went back and shot the sequence again with the car on the road. If you don't believe me, just try it some time.
posted by ChasFile at 8:39 PM on September 13, 2004

An above-average essay on Blade Runner (keep scrolling: it's in English, not Czech)
Good page of quotes (with links to etc.)

P.S. The director's cut ruined the beauty of this film.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:45 PM on September 13, 2004

I should also point out that I know more than I should about Blade Runner because ever film professor I've ever had - and especially those of the ::ahem:: postmodern persuasion - has literally masturbated, in class, onto a copy.

Seriously, I don't know what it is, but Blade Runner is like crack to pomo film theorists - they just can't put the fucking pipe down.

P.P.S. The voice overs in the theatrical release ruined the beauty of this film.
posted by ChasFile at 8:47 PM on September 13, 2004

I pointed this out on AskMe recently, but for those whom are interested Alien Zone is probably the best collection of essays about Sci Fi out there. Includes 3 or 4 on Blade Runner. Woth checking out if the FPP article seemed shallow to you (which I hope is everyone.)

posted by ChasFile at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2004

Is the movie that good? Its moody and odd, but I *really* prefer the book. Its a much deeper story about humanity, makes a lot more sense, and has some typical PKD mind-fuckery. Bladerunner doesn't seem to get people excited about the book. Maybe because they are two different stories or because Bladerunner is more about visuals, pacing, etc than about story.
posted by skallas at 8:59 PM on September 13, 2004

For what it's worth, the Urban/Metropolitan Studies scholars also get very hot under the collar when Blade Runner is mentioned. They almost literally start jumping up and down, screaming "see! see! this is what'll happen! this is why I got those six doctorates in economics, sociology, English lit, history, psychology and anthropology, because of this movie!" They're ravenous for the dystopia.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by mmcg at 9:02 PM on September 13, 2004

"It's a pity she's not going to live...

But then again... Who does?"
posted by Samizdata at 9:27 PM on September 13, 2004

from eighth grade on through college i recycled about 4 or 5 times an essay about blindness via stabbing out the eyes in lear/oedipus/bladerunner.
posted by juv3nal at 9:31 PM on September 13, 2004

metafilter : ravenous for the dystopia.
posted by troutfishing at 10:34 PM on September 13, 2004

One of the things I like about it is that it feels like that sort of world that's basically invented a back-door into slavery. It's a shitty dystopia -- not even a grand, darkly-shining dystopia of pure Cthulhu-esque evil. Just depressing and gross in normal boring ways, with, it seems, everyone oppressing anyone they can get away with oppressing, and filth everywhere, and very little that's actually good left.

In contrast to, say, The Truman Show, in which corporate types find a different back-door into more-or-less-slavery and use it only against one person, which is exceedingly stupid, shallow world-building. Where are the work-camps full of kids "adopted" by Nike or Ford, all worked to death before they inconveniently gain majority, or the hotels full of young girls who've all been "adopted" by Cato's Nookie Factory? Bah.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 PM on September 13, 2004

Looking around the Web at images from the film, I'm taken aback at how fresh they look -- almost as if the movie exists outside of time. Syd Mead and Ridley Scott achieved something truly amazing in the look of this movie.

For my money, Blade Runner is just about the best film ever made (thus far, anyway). It has that magical property where it's clear that everyone involved did some of the best work of their careers, and in some cases (*ahem* Sean Young), the best work of their careers, and even though I have seen it dozens of times, I never get tired of it, and always find something new in it. Even its flaws work in its favour. Sadly, the long-awaited Special Edition DVD looks like it might never get here (which is a shame, since the only available DVD transfer is just not good enough, and the film needs a Ridley Scott commentary).

The subtlety of the film is just amazing - during the scene where Deckard is giving Rachael the Voight-Kampf test, at the "time passing" part, way way down in the sound mix, is their discussion about the spider, which actually takes place later, after Rachael has realised that she is a replicant. It's a lovely bit of foreshadowing because it seems very clear to me that in this scene Deckard is starting to realise that he may not be who (or what) he thinks he is (I think that the Director's Cut is in no way ambiguous about some things: for one, Deckard is very clearly a replicant).

It functions on so many different levels, and is about so many different things. I find two of the most interesting aspects of it are the questions it poses about perception, identity and self-awareness (which is what Deckard's story is fundamentally about) and what it means to be a person, which is why the "more human than human" motto of the Tyrell Corporation is so very fitting, and Tyrell himself is so very chilling - here is a man who is clearly not without feeling for his creations, yet is capable of the monstrous act of not only creating these intelligent, feeling beings solely as slaves, but also working to find ways to get them over the horror they feel about what has been done to them, in order to make them functional (and therefore useful for their various purposes) within their foreshortened lifespans - he understands that the way they have been built is horrifying to them, and why, and can even relate to them, but he does not recognise this as a moral issue, or them as anything other than an interesting research subject, whose bugs need working out before their full potential can be reached. He strives to make them more human than human, self-aware, for the purpose of subjugation to the will of people whose sole claim to superiority is an increasingly questionable distinction.

Great post, thanks stbalbach.
posted by biscotti at 11:06 PM on September 13, 2004

As someone who loves both the book and the movie, I think Blade Runner is pr'olly the best movie adaptation of all time. Instead of debating about whether or not to be 'true to the book' it takes a number of the minor (but clearly very rich) themes from the book and makes them the primary focus, creating a completely different telling of basically the same story. Instead of trying to simply translate a book into a film, it takes a new direction and augments the text.

(And while I'm here, allow me a moment to say that I've rarely had the chance to laugh at a real, live, self-professed 'trans-humanist.' Every once in a while one will crop up, but mostly it's a long, dry march waiting for that next big guffaw...)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:09 AM on September 14, 2004

ChasFile, you don't literally mean literally, right?
posted by bonaldi at 4:30 AM on September 14, 2004

Highly recommended movie site:
posted by darren at 4:39 AM on September 14, 2004

Blade Runner has always stayed with me as being a cinematic masterpiece with stunning visuals. Very few people know that there was an actor's strike during the film's production, which allowed the set designers to work on the sets for an extra nine months or so while filming was halted. As great as Blade Runner is, I've always felt that 1984 was a better film (and overlooked!). The scene with Richard Burton at the end is chilling, he has an alien presence about him. The Matrix is a ripoff of Ghost in the Shell.

Blade Runner's strengths is also it's flaws: a sociopath would fail the Voight/Kampf empathy test, so maybe a DNA sample would be easier to detect a replicant.

The Tyrell corporation has terrible security.

I was always disspointed in the director's cut because there's a scene with unicorn when Deckard's playing the piano. I think thhat unicorn comes from Legend, a later Ridley Scott film.
posted by disgruntled at 6:14 AM on September 14, 2004

I'm the only person with whom I've discussed this film that actually preferred the Marlowesque voice-over narration in the original version. For me, the narration adds some depth to the Deckard character and contributes to the somber (at times almost claustrophobic) atmosphere of the movie.
posted by alumshubby at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2004

I was always disspointed in the director's cut because there's a scene with unicorn when Deckard's playing the piano. I think thhat unicorn comes from Legend, a later Ridley Scott film.

As I understand it (from Future Noir), a unicorn scene was orginally shot for Blade Runner (Ridley Scott always intended the unicorn to be symbolic for Deckard), was not used in the final theatrical version (I believe it was cut because audiences didn't understand it and/or because it was too "arty"), and when the Director's Cut was done, the only unicorn footage they could find was shot for Legend. So it does come from Legend, but only because the original footage done for Blade Runner was unavailable.

I think it works really well, personally, because the only way the tinfoil unicorn that Gaff leaves in Deckard's hallway at the end makes any real sense is if Gaff somehow knows about Deckard's dream/vision/memory of the unicorn, no? (i.e. Gaff is either also a replicant, is aware of the specific memory implants, or is aware of some other thing which happens to replicants which gives them the unicorn memory). Plus there's all the symbolism implied by the concept of the unicorn: uniqueness, immortality, etc. One of the problems with the original theatrical release (and I quite like it, although it's a very different movie) is that there's no deeper context for the origami unicorn - we know it means Gaff was there and let Rachael live anyway, but we don't have any further context for it, I really like the extra depth having the Legend scene adds in the Director's Cut.
posted by biscotti at 7:37 AM on September 14, 2004

Does the theatrical release exist on DVD? I've only seen the directors cut and have often wanted to compare it to the released version.
posted by aladfar at 8:44 AM on September 14, 2004

aladfar, as far as I know, the only release available on DVD is the Director's Cut (the fabled Special Edition is allegedly supposed to have three different cuts, including the original theatrical release and the international cut). You might still be able to find a VHS or LaserDisc copy of the original theatrical release, though, it was released on both those formats.
posted by biscotti at 9:01 AM on September 14, 2004

Blade Runner is a shit film.
(Just kidding)
posted by Pericles at 9:17 AM on September 14, 2004

I'm the only person with whom I've discussed this film that actually preferred the Marlowesque voice-over narration in the original version.

I don't prefer it, but as a fan of film noir/private eye movies I like the throwback aspect of the narration.

Deckard's definitely a replicant in the director's cut--in addition to the unicorn scene, there are shots of the owl, all of the known replicants, and Deckard with glowing orange eyes--but I think his undetermined status in the original is more interesting philosophically. If he's human, and the replicants really are "more human than human," his killing them is darker and more complex. I like how WikiPedia put it:
Making Deckard a replicant makes the film less interesting in a number of ways. If Deckard is human, the question of What it is to be human clearly becomes a central issue of the film. When Roy saves Deckard, a replicant is showing a behaviour so human that it makes the definition shake. When Deckard falls in love with Rachel, a human is feeling something for a non-human. If replicants are hunting and falling in love with replicants there is no ambivalence and therefore no conflict.
Also, Deckard gets his ass kicked by all of the replicants, even "basic pleasure model" Pris. So if he's a replicant he's a crappy older model and the Nexis 6 line is much better.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:20 AM on September 14, 2004

Another link between Blade Runner and film noir is how
Sean Young is dressed compared to how Mary Astor is dressed in The Maltese Falcon.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2004

I saw William Gibson speak a few months ago in Philly. Somebody asked him something about BR (don't remember the question, but it was related to the fact that it was released while WG was writing Neuromancer).

WG said he walked out of the movie shortly after it started, almost in tears, convinced that his project had been rendered irrelevant.
posted by coolgeek at 7:32 PM on September 15, 2004

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