Over the years, a number of different versions of Blade Runner have come out, and some critics will tell you that different versions are the “definitive” or “best” versions. I’m not here to arbitrate the different versions, not having seen them all, but I can say confidently that the versions I’ve seen are all brilliant. Blade Runner is one of the most inventive, visually genius, and influential films in the science fiction genre, and in re-watching it, it strikes me that whatever flaws I may find in its plot or story, this is a movie worth watching and re-watching on the merits of the visuals alone.
Blade Runner is the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford – contemplative and brooding, a surprising turn for the action star but he nails it), a “blade runner” who hunts “replicants” – bioengineered beings designed to appear human. Deckard is enlisted by police detective Gaff (Edward James Olmos – so young, and with such piercing eyes, that he almost seems inhuman himself) into “retiring” (killing) a series of replicants gone rogue, and goes on the hunt in a futuristic Los Angeles, filled with flying cars, full of Asian influences, a noir-ish dirty city of the future.
I won’t spoil what follows, though I’m sure most people reading here have already seen this movie. The cast here is just stellar – William Sanderson so creepy, Sean Young the picture of naivety, Rutger Hauer intense and violent and brooding. Hauer delivers one of the most memorable monologues in film history here, an intimate statement on the briefness of human memory that manages to feel universal.
Blade Runner may not be the deepest film to explore these issues of humanity, but boy is it the most stylish, and that style carries the movie through everything. Cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth here creates a surreally believable futuristic canvas, replete with noir style that allows director Ridley Scott to create a film that simultaneously feels epic in scope but intimate in nature. The pounding rain, slick reflective roads, the city lights and flying cars and billboards and vast industrial complexes, all add up to one of the most gorgeous, well-designed movies ever made. If some of the technologies haven’t aged so well, making pieces of this film slightly dated, other elements of this film still feel as innovative a vision of the potential technological future as anything from modern science fiction. The atmospheric music by Vangelis here is eerie and powerful, the perfect color for this film, almost majestic.
This is, simply put, peak Ridley Scott, some of his best work, powerful and spellbinding. It’s only appropriate to draw comparisons between Scott and Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve; both are directors known for their technical precision, and their cold, almost passionless style (Villeneuve is certainly the more humanist of the two, but his films still feel sterile much of the time). It seems if any director working today is a perfect choice to direct a follow-up to Blade Runner, its Villeneuve; while these are big shoes to fill, and there’s a high probability that the follow-up disappoints, if 2049 is even a fraction as effective as Blade Runner, then it will be worth the attempt.