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Blade Runner

Human Rating: 5 / 5 Alien Rating: Complete Mind Control

Revel in your time.

Blade RunnerScience fiction author William Gibson admitted to being depressed after he saw this movie: he had been pre-empted and for once written sci-fi lagged behind its celluloid sibling. Neuromancer, the first ever cyberpunk novel, only saw the light of print three years later - long after the first cyberpunk movie, Blade Runner, stunned sci-fi fans into submission.

Of course the movie wasn't a straight-off success. It did poorly at the box office. Audiences hated the downbeat story line and some critics hated the tag-on happy ending even more. But with its intense visuals and intriguing musical score by Vangelis, it was destined for cult status.

Blade RunnerBlade Runner actually saw a mainstream re-release ten years later as a so-called "Director's Cut" - something few movies can boast. The abhorred ending (decided on by Hollywood execs after preview audiences complained) was excised, the Chandler-esque voice-over by Harrison Ford (also insisted upon by studio execs) was left out and a dream sequence featuring a unicorn, previously left out, was added. The Director's Cut - what Ridley Scott originally intended - was an eye-opener. It drastically enhanced an already stunning film and clearly showed the conflict between money interests and artistic integrity inherent to any art medium, like movies, which counts as a collaborative effort and demands great investment.

The plot? Based vaguely on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the film is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019. It features a harangued-looking Harrison Ford as a so-called Blade Runner - a special policeman who "retires" (i.e. kills) human androids called Replicants. Dragged back from retirement, he is forced by his ex-police boss to hunt down four Replicants who have made their way back to earth from one of the off-world colonies. Why are they back? To see whether their creator (head of the incredibly powerful Tyrrell corporation) could alter their genetic make-up. See, the Replicants have an expiration date - they only live for four years - and theirs are running out quickly.

Blade RunnerDirector Scott basically redoes his Alien-thang: transposing another genre (in this case the detective film noir story-line) unto a sci-fi setting. And he does it well: the futuristic Los Angeles (which looks more like a hybrid between New York on an extremely bad day and high-tech Osaka in Japan) is one of cinema's most powerful inventions. The city is alive and breathing, we suffer vertigo as police vehicles (called "spinners") float through a vista of fantastic architecture in which a mass of humanity teems every day. Claustrophobic, dark and grim, Scott's Los Angeles is a dystopia which many filmmakers have subsequently tried to copy without success in various films throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Blade RunnerTrue, the plot is riddled with more holes than one may bother picking, but the combination of fantastic special effects, intense violence and situations, an uniquely downcast tone and ending makes for a not-to-be-missed film, one which at times is difficult to have been actually produced by Hollywood.

Review by James O'Ehley from The Sci-Fi Movie Page.

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