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Attack Ships On Fire Off the Shoulder Of Orion

July 13th, 2011 · 2 Comments

“For me, it’s still, emotionally, falls short of total satisfaction because I just think there is an emotional logic and a sort of a narrative logic that doesn’t run as true as I feel that it should do, and in a sense I felt that what we made was an incredibly beautiful looking – as one would expect with Rid – but it’s almost like an art movie.” Ivor Powell interviewed in 2007 for Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner.

Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Produced by Michael Deeley
117 minutes

One of the most massive electric train sets ever constructed, Blade Runner doesn’t address logic or emotional depth as much as it lays down magnetic track and sails a bullet train over them. Arduously drafted, painstakingly constructed and overwhelming in scale as well as detail, it’s a marvel of science fiction engineering all right, yet climaxes with such insight into the nature of humanity that a poet dipping his toes in a pond might even give it up for the movie. With a tumultuous production history chronicled by a 3-hour documentary (Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner) and book (Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon), the film’s genesis was a creative storm by author Philip K. Dick, who capped a prodigious decade with the publishing of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 1968.

Ten years later, struggling screenwriter Hampton Fancher was urged by a friend to consider the book as something he might make some money off of. Fancher optioned the film rights and found particular empathy for Dick’s vision of overpopulation and ecological malaise. His untitled adaptation was strong enough to ultimately attract producer Michael Deeley, whose choice to direct was Ridley Scott, a U.K. commercial stylist then mixing the sound for his second feature film: Alien. Scott had sensed the seismic industry shift toward sci-fi following the public reception of Star Wars and when he was unable to decipher an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, agreed to board what was then being called Dangerous Days. Fancher didn’t care for that title and jacked one from William S. Burroughs that he preferred: Blade Runner.

In a dark narrative that screenwriter David Peoples was hired to punch into a shooting script, Los Angeles of the year 2019 is drenched in industrial pollution and overrun by those too sickly or poor to relocate to an off world colony. The Tyrell Corp has created the Replicant, a being identical to a human, superior in strength and at least equal in intelligence. Retired cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is summoned to hunt down four Replicants who have arrived in L.A. for reasons unknown. Deckard visits Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), who shows off his secretary Rachael (Sean Young), a Replicant implanted with memories so vivid she believes herself to be human. Rachael does not react well to news that she’s an artificial being and seeks out Deckard in an effort to cope with this. Meanwhile, the fugitive Replicants — combat model Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), laborer Leon (Brion James), assassin Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and pleasure model Pris (Daryl Hannah) — seek reprieves on their lives and the meaning of their existence.

Dumping a wallop of psychic despair on audiences and losing critics in a labyrinth of wayward plot, Blade Runner was salvaged through midnight screenings and one of the first ever “director’s cuts” that in 1992 permitted Ridley Scott to smooth over miscues he made a decade earlier. Where the Replicants are or how Deckard finds them still seem as clumsy as they ever were, but the film dances with questions about what it means to be human and where we might be headed if we stop troubling ourselves with that question. Deliberate and dangerously close to paralyzing the viewer with sensory overload, Scott’s eye for detail and his design virtuoso are stamped in every shot, while the nighthawk cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth, electronic score by Vangelis and spellbinding visual effects work are a triumph in mood over matter.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 288,583 users: 89% for Blade Runner

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: N/A

What do you say?

Tags: Aliens · Ambiguous ending · Based on novel · Cult favorite · Dreams and visions · Famous line · Femme fatale · Forensic evidence · Interrogation · Inventors and Tinkerers · Man vs. machine

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Megan // Jul 13, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I don’t think I have ever really watched this movie. Electric train set. Nail. Head.

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Jul 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Megan: I think that’s what Pauline Kael said.

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