Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sunset Cinema: Blade Runner

With the advent of digital projection, major theater chains have been showing more and more classic titles along side new releases. Whether it's a Blu-Ray or Digital Print scanned from the original, films can screen forever. Last week we checked out Blade Runner: The Final Cut as part of Cinemark's Classics Series. I own a VHS of Runner as well as a box set but have probably seen it maybe twice in my life. It's just one of those titles that people love but I never got into. The 3 hour documentary, Dangerous Days is fantastic though and maybe more compelling than the film, for me. Set in the crowded, neon lit, rain soaked future of 2019 in Los Angeles, Blade Runner sets up a world where robotic creatures, Replicants, are used for slave labor, to fight or for pleasure. When they go haywire, special police officers dubbed Blade Runners hunt them down and "retire" them. Combat model Roy Batty and several accomplices have come back to earth from outer space, looking to extend their built in four year life span. After many a death, former Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tasked with pulling the curtain on Batty and his crew. Things are complicated when Deck meets Rachael (Sean Young), a beautiful Replicant who doesn't know she is one.

Based on Phillip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples and directed by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner is one of the most influential movies of all time. It's easy to see why as Scott and company designed and built an entire world for the story to take place in that feels far off with flying cars and humanoid robots as well as old school with sex, violence, architecture and a noir vibe. Everything is textured and layered from Deck's crowded and stone walled apartment to run down hotels filled with rain, debris and robots to corporate building that look like electric pyramids. While the eye is constantly engaged, the mind starts to drag as the film is a bit slow, Deckard isn't great at his job and gets manhandled by every Replicant he meets and gives off a rapist vibe when he and Rachael get down. Being the final cut, you're more or less spoon fed that Deckard is a Replicant with his unicorn day dream, falling in love with Rachael after knowing her for a day, his eyes do that red robot thing in a scene and then the end where policeman Gaff (Edward James Olmos) lets the two run off together. I always thought he was supposed to be human and if Ford is going to be involved in the sequel, they need to write themselves out of a corner.

Rutger Hauer's performance as Batty is still terrific all these years later and his final "like tears in rain" speech is truly a memorable moment among all the glitz and lights of the film. Vangelis' synth score is effective after all this time and creates even more atmosphere. Of course Blade Runner was not a box office hit upon release in 1982 with Scott being taken off the film after going over budget, being brought back, no one being happy with the released version, on and on. A workprint was discovered in a vault in the 90's and screened at a Los Angeles 70mm film festival leading to a Director's Cut and finally a Final Cut supervised by Scott. While the film has great things going on, can lead to lively discussions and make you question what it is to be human, for some reason the flick just leaves me cold and not the kind you'd watch regularly. A follow up is currently in the works where hopefully the story matches the visuals. Until then, keep seeing things you people wouldn't believe.

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