Review of “Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut” (1982)

 

blade runner

Promotional image for the film “Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut

Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (1982) is the only version of this film I’ve seen, so I have no real idea what the original theatrical movie was like. On Amazon, I found this explanation:

When Ridley Scott’s cut of Blade Runner was finally released in 1993, one had to wonder why the studio hadn’t done it right the first time–11 years earlier. This version is so much better, mostly because of what’s been eliminated (the ludicrous and redundant voice-over narration and the phony happy ending) rather than what’s been added (a bit more character development and a brief unicorn dream). Star Harrison Ford originally recorded the narration under duress at the insistence of Warner Bros. executives who thought the story needed further “explanation”; he later confessed that he thought if he did it badly they wouldn’t use it. (Moral: Never overestimate the taste of movie executives.) The movie’s spectacular futuristic vision of Los Angeles–a perpetually dark and rainy metropolis that’s the nightmare antithesis of “Sunny Southern California”–is still its most seductive feature, an otherworldly atmosphere in which you can immerse yourself. The movie’s shadowy visual style, along with its classic private-detective/murder-mystery plot line (with Ford on the trail of a murderous android, or “replicant”), makes Blade Runner one of the few science fiction pictures to legitimately claim a place in the film noir tradition. And, as in the best noir, the sleuth discovers a whole lot more (about himself and the people he encounters) than he anticipates…. With Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, and M. Emmet Walsh. –Jim Emerson

I first watched this DVD (the director’s cut, as explained above, was released eleven years after the original) years ago, and found certain sequences so violent, that I haven’t had the nerve to view it since. However with the recent death of actor Rutger Hauer (who was so good in so many different roles) who played replicant Roy Batty, I felt compelled to borrow the disc back from my son.

As far as the violence goes (Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford, having his fingers broken), I tolerated it better this time. This was a classic dystopia with a dark, rainy Los Angeles seemingly owned by Japanese interests, a brooding cop, weird, twisted bad guys, a mysterious love interest, and an ambiguous ending.

Deckard is a specialized police officer called a “Blade Runner” who is forcibly brought out of retirement to track down and kill (retire) five replicants, artificial humanoids whose presence on Earth is illegal and whose only crime is that they want to live past their programmed four year lifespan (that and murder and mayhem).

The audience followed Deckard on his replicant hunt, experiencing numerous disturbing images along the way. Rachael (Sean Young) is discovered to be a replicant by Deckard, one made by Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), who owns the replicant manufacturing company, as a test. She seemingly doesn’t realize she’s a replicant and there’s no real explanation as to why Tyrell constructed her or why she becomes romantically involved with Deckard.

Edward James Olmos plays Gaff, another cop who is shepherding Deckard through his assignment and who has a passion for origami. He also knows that Rachael is a replicant and seems to expect Deckard to retire her as well.

Deckard dispatches four of the five replicants, including the very bizarre sex replicant Pris (Daryl Hannah) but cannot stand up against Roy Batty’s assault. In the end, Batty, who has murdered Tyrell after discovering he is powerless to extend his lifespan, saves Deckard’s life, delivers his now famous “tears in the rain” speech, and dies, his four years having been concluded.

At the end, Deckard finds Rachael, who the audience fears is dead but is only sleeping, and spirits her away after discovering one of Gaff’s pieces of origami on the floor nearby. Apparently, Gaff could have retired Rachael but didn’t. The other implication is that he knows how to locate her and may follow the pair as they attempt to escape, possibly retiring both of them (for a while, I thought Deckard might be a replicant with an artificial memory).

While the mood and imagery is compelling at times, besides ending five replicants and otherwise increasing the body count during the film’s running time, what was actually accomplished? How had Deckard changed, unless it was his willingness to help a replicant instead of retiring her? What was the point of Rachael, who had all of the emotional depth of a piece of wood? In contrast, Batty, though twisted and bizarre, definitely had a strong emotional presence and was truly frightening.

I know “Blade Runner” is a cult classic, and it’s good for the occasional viewing, but for me, it was a story that went nowhere.

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7 thoughts on “Review of “Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut” (1982)

  1. I read the book it was based on first then watched the film.

    I have a true and dramatic love/hate relationship with Blade Runner. The scenes with Batty are the highlight of the entire Blade Runner franchise, intense, brilliantly dirrcted, moving, and smart.

    But the rest of the movie is so dreadfully dull I nearly dropped it.

    Worth watching, but heavily flawed.

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    • I haven’t read Philip K. Dick’s novel in decades. As I recall, it wasn’t one of his best. The film is a little too dark and murky, plus as I said in the review, the ending was a letdown.

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  2. We had both versions, and actually preferred the ending on the original. The tears in the rain speech is awesome and so very sad from a being that only wanted to live (well that is how we interpreted it)
    We have watched the newest one and found it totally confusing, so will have to watch it again when our brains can function better!

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  3. I must say I disagree on that, James. Blade Runner has a lot of amazing aspects. It touches some very interesting ethical questions around our responsibilities for our own creations, and the soundtrack is awesome. I like the dark atmosphere as well, and the end line is quite epic, in my point of view. I’ve been trying to read the book, though. It bores me too much for me to get through it, it seems 😀

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    • For all of his fame, Philip K. Dick can be hard to read. I saw the Director’s Cut of the film and, chances are, you saw the theatrical release, so there were differences. That said, although it was visually appealing, and yes, the ethical concerns about our sapient creations have been pondered since the Isaac Asimov “robots” stories of the 1940s and later, I can’t say it was my favorite film.

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