The future is closer than we think: Blade Runner

Two important disclosures before we get into the “cult classic” Blade Runner:

1. I technically saw this movie maybe 10 years ago, during a family visit to Austin before I had even imagined living here. However, I remembered nothing about it, besides that it was sci-fi and starred Harrison Ford. And that my brother-in-law LOVES it and fought pretty hard to watch it during a family movie night. These reviews are meant to be of movies I haven’t seen, but I figured my complete ignorance of the plot or themes made it fair game.
2. I was dozing off in a pretty serious way while we watched the first half of this (it was late! I was cozy!), so my understanding of some of the finer plot points needed to be researched later.

Blade Runner
1982
Dir: Ridley Scott
Rating: 3 / 5 electric sheep

So, this is one of those movies with a reputation behind it: it’s a classic, it’s iconic, it’s an ideal expression of a genre. I remember that my parents had the VHS in our house growing up, though I don’t remember them ever watching it — it was probably too violent for me as a little kid, and too violent for my mom later. She’d usually “rather not” when it comes to disturbing violence, you know? But it’s something I was aware of growing up, and I had the impression that it was an Important Film.

Much like horror, but for different reasons, I did not watch a lot of sci-fi growing up. It just never really interested me — I wasn’t scared like I was of horror, I just wasn’t raised with sci-fi stories being important or relevant to me, and never reached for them on my own. I liked, and still prefer, stories in the world that I live in but at a different place or time, with exceptions for some fantasy, and by some fantasy I mean Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Obviously a bit of broadening was in order. Luckily, D loves, loves sci-fi, so I have jumped into the often futuristic and dystopian pool.

What struck me most about this entire movie was the look of it. Not a groundbreaking observation — I feel like one of the main points of interest in this film is the visual presentation — but I kept coming back to how planned each shot felt, how you got the sense that Ridley Scott knew exactly what he wanted to convey with each camera angle. I enjoy that about movies, and feel it especially in Tarantino films, that you’re being led down a very specific path by the director, and in this case as well as Tarantino’s cases, you’re in good hands.

Other initial impressions, or rather impressions after we had finished and I had sat back and said “huh,” were that for how much of a classic this film is, I was not very engaged by it. I understood the setup and the world and the rules within it, and appreciated the theme that I gleaned, which was about trying to define and push the limitations of “humanity” and what it is that makes us human, and if that can be recreated, but I felt like I needed to watch it again to understand fully what Scott was going for. And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to watch it again.

Part of this may have to do with the aforementioned falling asleep (shame, shame), but I think a lot of it was that I felt like there was deeper meaning to the action of the movie, but deeper meaning that I wasn’t able to access. Perhaps the visuals, stunning though they were, were infinitely more so when the movie first came out — we are very, very used to metallic dystopian futurescapes at this point, so Scott’s vision of Los Angeles was less jarring than I’m sure it was to 1982 audiences.

Despite the slight problems that being so far from the movie’s release date gave me, I did enjoy that we’re now supposedly two years away from this reality — the movie is set in 2019! D thinks that maybe Trump was the turning point? Give us two years at the current trajectory, and cities will be lightless, treeless hellscapes, live animals a thing of recent memory. Either way, it’s a good conduit for considering our present and near future, and how easy it is to make this future a reality.

Also! Let’s take a second to consider the relationship (relationship?) between Deckard and Rachael, shall we? He meets a beautiful woman, runs a test on her at her boss/owner/creator’s request, and the test tells him that she’s a replicant, and Tyrell, the b/o/c, tells Deckard that she doesn’t know she’s not human. She’s had memories implanted in her brain, so she thinks she’s had a full life, and has a full life ahead of her. Then when she turns up at his apartment later (for reasons I honestly do not remember, if they were made clear), he’s all drunk and upset, contemplating the meaning of humanity, and tells this woman/replicant that she’s actually not a human, that all her memories are not her own. She gets pretty upset (wouldn’t you?) and tries to leave, and then Deckard blocks her exit, forces her to kiss him, and then I think things progress from there. And as I recall — again, the dozing off — the next time we see her, she’s super in love with this human man who basically trapped her. Just, ugh. Emotionally and physically hurting a woman is a recipe for gaining her love and support in this very male world, apparently.

Sidebar: to be very honest with myself and with you, if I wanted to avoid movies that treat their female characters without the same respect they treat their male characters, or movies that don’t pass the Bechdel test, I would have to avoid MANY movies that I actually like — D and I just had a conversation about feminism and Disney movies that basically ransacked my childhood and beliefs — but I’m going to get better, here and in real life, at calling out the BS where I see it, whether it’s sexism or racism or any of the other -isms that life in America harder for anyone not white and male. All this to say, I don’t mean to righteously come down on Ridley Scott for creating this problematic relationship and set of interactions as if I’m a bastion of feminism in film — I like plenty of movies that treat women horribly, and it’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to handle that gracefully / at all. This particular situation just got under my skin for some reason.

This review is a little all over the place — I should probably re-watch Blade Runner once more, with a cup of coffee on hand, and see what happens. I’ll let you know!

Iconic? Definitely — obviously not the first sci-fi movie, but an exemplar of the genre.
Re-watchable? Certainly, if only to see if it makes more sense without sleeping through little sections here and there.
Favorite moment? Any of the zooming aerial shots of 2019 Los Angeles.
Hated? Deckard instructing a frightened and confused Rachael to kiss him.