A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

I had forgotten that Blade Runner, with its flying cars, ads for Atari and Pan Am, and rainy Los Angeles, was set in the year 2019, which unless things change radically in the next four years puts it on a par with 1984 (Michael Anderson, 1956) and 2001 (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) for missed prognostications. Yet despite this, and even more despite the great advances in special effects technology, this 33-year-old movie hardly feels dated. That's because it isn't over-infatuated with the technological whiz-bang of so many sci-fi films, especially since the advances in CGI. Its effects, supervised by the great Douglas Trumbull, have the solidity and tactility so often missing in CGI work, because they're very much  in service of the vision of production designer Laurence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder, and especially "visual futurist" Syd Mead. But more especially because they're in service of the humanity whose very questionable nature is the point of Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples's adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It also helps that the film has a terrific cast. Harrison Ford can't help bringing a bit of Han Solo and Indiana Jones to every movie, but it's entirely appropriate here -- one time when a star image doesn't fight the script. Rutger Hauer's death scene is memorable, and even Sean Young, a problematic actress at best, comes off well. (I think it's because when we first see her, she's dressed and coiffed like a drag-queen Joan Crawford, so that when she literally lets her hair down she takes on a softness we're not accustomed to from her.) And then there's the enigmatic origamist Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, and especially Joanna Cassidy, who manages to achieve poignancy even wearing a transparent plastic raincoat. I only wish that HBO would scrap its print of the "voice-over" version of the film, with Ford's sporadic narrative and the happy ending demanded by Warner Bros., and show director Scott's 2007 "Final Cut" version instead.

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