A Movie out of Time

I leapt outside my comfort zone today and saw Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult film, at my husband’s venue, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. Normally this would be an easy call: I don’t see Blade Runner. I’ve never seen Blade Runner. I’m not a Blade Runner sort of person. I’m not a science fiction fan, I don’t do violence, I don’t see boys’ movies, I rarely see cult films. The dark futuristic milieu does not appeal.

But then. As the week went on, I began having second thoughts. This is an iconic film a lot of people love. My husband told me that some fans give it a spiritual interpretation I might find appealing. And then I thought about John’s guiding principle—to follow directors you find interesting. Since I loved Thelma and Louise, which Ridley Scott directed, maybe I should see another film in his oeuvre.

Oh, yes. And then there’s Harrison Ford. 1982 Harrison Ford , no less.

So I entered the strange and labyrinthine world of Blade Runner. Not only the dark futuristic city created by  Scott and special effects whiz Douglas Trumbull, but the strange and labyrinthine world of a cult film in three versions: the original Hollywood version, a second cut over which Scott had some influence (the Director’s Cut), and a third iteration over which Scott had total control, the Final Cut.  I saw the Final Cut. I like hearing about the creative process, so the complexity of the movie’s genesis provided a frisson of interest for me.

I liked the movie’s ending—one of the bones of contention among aficionados. What does the unicorn mean? Is Ford’s character a replicant or not?  It was fun hearing from the fan boys after the show debating the differences among the versions and the drastic departures from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  I admired the immensely  imaginative special effects, and I also enjoyed the Vangelis music. Among the fine performances, Darryl Hannah’s heart-of-ice replicant was stunning.

And then there was Harrison Ford. The chiseled Rutger Hauer was a bonus.

Otherwise, I must admit a lot of the movie seemed predictable and sophomoric. For me, sci fi dealing with heavy subjects like mortality often becomes dopey in an old Star Trek kind of way. I feel bad about how snobby this sounds. Also, the movie’s violence was too much for me, and I mentally objected to having kids in the audience. I realize, though, that I have a counter-cultural mentality here; I’m a violence prude and can’t inflict my values on others. I inflicted them on my kids for as long as I could, and that’s as far as my authority goes.

A few interesting anachronisms struck me during the movie, set in 2019, a mere four years in the future. Photographs serve as a significant plot device; they represent the fake memories installed in the android replicants. Who knew, in 1982, how quickly photos would migrate to, of all things, our telephones? It’s not impossible that people would be cherishing family pictures printed on photographic paper in 2019, but it seems a little dated. Which brings up the 21st century ubiquity of cell phones, where most of our photos are now stored. How could Scott and his screenwriters have predicted it? Blade Runner features technology, computers, and screens aplenty, but no hand-held devices. Finally, in a suspenseful scene when Ford is dangling from a ledge (a la Cary Grant in North by Northwest), a plain old regular watch encircles his wrist. It doesn’t even look digital.






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