Monday, November 12, 2007

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982/2007)

First of all, a quick apology to anyone who cares for my lack of posts lately. Being unemployed has ironically resulted in less free time for blogging, as I've been catching up on other tasks and looking for new work. (No, I'm not on strike. My former employers ran out of money and let me go.) Anyone need an editor or assistant editor?

Anyway, the new version of Blade Runner. This is one of those movies that I've never seen eye-to-eye with the rest of sci-fi movie geekdom. When I first rented Blade Runner sometime in the early '90s I was bored stiff. Yes, the movie is and was a triumph of visual imagination, thanks to the work of Ridley Scott, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, and production designer Lawrence G. Paull, but Roger Ebert had it right back in his original 1982 review when he called it "thin in its human story" (In his new review, Ebert capitulates and suggests several improbable, over-reaching theories about the movie). And he was right: Harrison Ford's Deckard is barely engaged in the movie's plot and doesn't have much substance beyond being an archetypal film noir detective. Of the supporting characters, only Roy Batty (the amazing Rutger Hauer) and J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) have any real life to them. It's as if the oppressiveness of the futuristic urban dystopia that the movie takes place in has sucked all the life out of the actors - and not in a good 'the movie is about a future where life is meaningless' way but in a bad 'I'm bored watching Joanna Cassidy get killed because I don't know anything about who she is and why I should care about her' kind of way.

The new version also adds in (SPOILERS) new evidence to support the idea that Ford's Deckard is himself a Replicant, which I honestly find more confusing than revelatory. Why would the police hire a Replicant to track down and kill other Replicants? Why is Deckard so much weaker than Roy or Leon if he's one of them? On a thematic level it's more interesting for a human Deckard to be contrasted with a Replicant Roy, falling in love with the Replicant Rachael (Sean Young) and breaking the human-cyborg taboo line. So the faint orange glow Ridley Scott has added to Harrison Ford's eyes in a shot or two seems like a bad addition, a confirmation that takes away from the mystery of the text.

All this griping aside, I enjoyed watching the movie on the big screen for the first time, and I've developed more respect for the movie over time. Not enough to call it a classic or a masterpiece, but enough that I don't hate it anymore.

I also think it's interesting that Ridley Scott basically invented Wong Kar-Wai's style years before As Tears Go By.


dan said...

Anyone need an editor or assistant editor?

yes, very much so.

sorry to hear that - i'll take this as an open invitation to harass you via email more often. so double sorry.

cjKennedy said...

I've lost jobs I hated and felt awful about it for years, so I can only imagine losing one you actually kind of liked.

That sucks.

As for Bladerunner...consider me appreciative but ambivalent. I saw it at a time when I was young and susceptible and it had quite an impact on me that I can never totally shake, but in the cold light of adulthood, it doesn't move me.

As I've said elsewhere. I have serious doubts about how much I really like Ridley Scott. I'd never get in a bar fight over it and Alien will always be a classic for me, but still.

frankbooth said...

Somehow, I missed this post.

Yeah, that sucks. Unless you're collecting unemployment, which gives you time to write scripts. Best of both worlds, even if you have to run up your credit cards to survive. Speaking for myself, I can never get anything done while I'm working a day job. "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

I'm a Blade Runner fan, and have seen the film many times over the years, but it's hard to argue with your points. It's a nine-fingered child that makes unintellgible squawking noises when it opens its mouth, but is still beautiful in repose. (Maybe you should try watching it with the sound off and music of your choice playing, as if it were a silent.)

It could also just be one of those "had to be there" things. In any case, I look forward to seeing it at the Castro early next year.