I never did see Blade Runner when it first came out in 1982. I wasn’t big on sci-fi and this didn’t really hit the critical sweet spot at the time. It became a cult and then a classic with more and more people saying they loved it from the start, establishing its and their cool credentials. I guess if all those who say they liked it from the start had indeed seen it then, it would never have become a cult.
Anyway enough of the cod psychology, it probably took me 20 years to see it on TV and then to think, ‘ok’, it is sort of a neat idea but a bit slow and how many burnt-out cops does the cinema need to depict?
Maybe I was also tired of Harrison Ford playing Harrison Ford. As he’s got older he’s become more like Sean Connery – chick-bait for the over 40s and only capable of playing himself in every part, whatever it might be but no more.
However, since that first sighting I’ve seen both Director’s Cut and the Final Cut versions and fallen for its myriad charms. It is, rightly, a classic piece of film noir, a drip-drip film that gets under your skin and keeps revealing intriguing and enigmatic questions that simply can’t be answered.
Was Harrison Ford a replicant (robot)? Hmm…
The danger with a film that has a long and now treasured history is that any sequel can, at best, disappoint and at worst utterly undermine your love of the first film. What if those neat little queries were answered? Badly? What sort of legacy is that?
I left it a bit, allowing the critics to have a look-see and comment before booking my ticket. Not everyone went for it but the majority were either sufficiently complimentary or downright gushing in their critiques to make me comfortable it was worth the risk. What was noticeable, though, was they were very careful not to say much as it would be too easy to spoil the plot.
I then re-watched the Final Cut to remind myself why it is fab. I’d forgotten Darryl Hannah as the pleasure replicant, one sexy freaky being that.
And the apartment with the animated models like something out of Terry Gilliam’s worst nightmares.
Yes, there was a lot to absorb.
The night we went, it was bizarrely mild, like August even though it was dark by 6pm. We had good seats, an extravagance of ice cream (and, indeed, salted caramel popcorn – I think you know I’m not a fan of the crunch-crunch-grind of the assiduous popcorn eater when watching a movie but this was highly flavoursome and the mastication all done by the time the endless credits had atrophied on the celluloid).
And what about the movie? And the plot?
We know there is a new ‘blade runner’, played by a freakishly unemotional Ryan Gosling who is himself a replicant. It remains his job to trace rogue replicants and retire them – i.e. take them out.
In the initial scenes, as breathtaking as the original in building our world view, he finds a target, one he has been hunting a while. Before he can work his magic, the replicant tells him he’ll never be all he can be because he has never witnessed a miracle, something that has given meaning to this one’s desire to continue, to hide and just go on.
And it is that which starts Gosling on his hunt, on his change from obedience to questioning, law abiding cop to rebel. Harrison Ford reappears, still Dechert the Blade Runner, still angry and disillusioned, still fighting demons and any jaw that gets close enough.
The plot, as in the original unwraps with deliberation – which some might think slow, but really mirrors Gosling’s journey, his changing attitudes, digging out an unexpected need not to accept what he is told.
There’s no doubting who is the baddy and who the goody but even there, the distinctions aren’t clear cut; there are reasons, good ones given the recent history of catastrophic destruction and the need for safety and food, why some actions are taken, however unethical and questionable.
And the core revelation is nicely done; I didn’t see it and that pleases me.
One other thing about this film is it doesn’t pretend that, in the future, everything will be different and technology will change everything. Sure there are some neat gizmos and novel ideas but cops still carry guns – powerful, different but tasked with the same tricks as today.
No, it’s not perfect; in one scene Gosling is down and the baddies are standing over him, all carrying weapons. They don’t want him alive so they leave him. Doh? Why? Surely they’d merely put a bullet in him. Of course, had they then the film wouldn’t work. So come on director, script writers and all, you can do better. Put him in jeopardy but don’t patronise us when it comes to getting him out of it.
And there are quite some justified questions over the role of women here; in a lot of scenes they are merely objects of pleasure – Gosling has a hologram girlfriend with whom he has sex by the expedient of… well see the film. I’ve heard it said that this is gratuitous and that seems a fair criticism even if there is a point to it all in terms of Gosling’s journey from quasi-slave to autonomous thinker. In the current climate of yet more scandals around female exploitation it perhaps jars more than it might and, to an extent, the point it seeks to make – about the character’s and their emotional development – is lost.
If you enjoyed the original, you’ll like this; if you didn’t well, this won’t convince you otherwise. And don’t bother if you’ve not seen the original. It is a true sequel, albeit 35 years later. Watch them both, back to back and enjoy.