Replicants are the super-slaves of the future; they are designed by the Tyrell Corporation to perform dangerous tasks in environments that are deadly to humans; they are almost identical to humans, but lack emotions. When a group of these 'skin-jobs' mutiny against their human slave-masters, blade runner, Deckard (Ford), is called in to 'retire' them.
On the surface, Blade Runner sounds generic and unoriginal, but that’s only because of the myriad copies that have followed as the cyberpunk style has become more mainstream.
While it owes a lot to the moody, brooding film noir genre: smoky low-key lighting; the morally-ambiguous private investigator; the siren-songs of the femme fatale; this is more than an exercise in genre – its atmosphere is electrifying. Scott cleverly distorted the conventions of film noir and created something that was both familiar and alien. Vangelis’s soundtrack is the perfect extension of this idea; at first it sounds like the sleazy jazz of a classic noir, but it’s blended with Jarre-esque synthesisers to create an eerie sound from the future that is familiar and uncomfortable simultaneously.
Scott’s vision of this dystopian Los Angeles is full of contradictions: it is a heaving, towering metropolis that is dripping with loneliness; it is neon-bright and pitch-dark; it is a modern relic – a decaying advancement. At every moment, Blade Runner is visually stunning.
I’ve often found that loving Blade Runner has required me to be prepared to defend my taste and rise to the challenges of those who think it a boring, pretentious movie.
It’s no secret that its producers also felt that it was in danger of alienating audiences; they felt its narrative was convoluted; that it needed a narrator to help slack-jawed spectators trip and stumble their way through the dark, solipsistic corridors and existential minefields. Scott was forced to compromise, and the resulting original theatrical release was clumsy, and patronising; the tacked-on voice over is poorly written and painfully ‘on the nose’. It left Scott regretful, and Ford furious – you can even hear the reluctance in his voice as he delivers the horrible narration. It was three-decades before the film was finally cut back into shape.
In truth, the narration, and saccharin happy-ending of original theatrical version make it a very different film; it is not surprising that flopped listlessly against ET: The Extra Terrestrial in its opening weekend, but Scott’s preferred Final Cut deserves its place among the classics of science-fiction.
Production stories like Blade Runner’s are gold-dust for cinephiles; they’re the lore that slakes our thirst and lets us see the beating hearts of films; the stuff that makes us talk about Art and capital A’s.
Blade Runner demonstrates that films can be Art. It challenges us to engage with our human experience; it asks us to question what it means to be human; whether empathy is what distinguishes us from machines; and whether life might reach beyond flesh and bone – this is what Art is meant to do. These existential quandaries are what keep me coming back to Blade Runner, and what make it an enduring classic.
Even though we’re fast-approaching the near-future in which Blade Runner is set (2019), the film doesn’t feel dated. It grapples with questions that will always be relevant regardless of what future we may find ahead of us. It is an essential part of the human condition to question what we are and where we’re going; films that explore themes of human identity are part of our investigation into our selves and will always be relevant and recurring. It’s not surprising, then, that Ridley is planning to revisit these themes in an upcoming sequel.
The reinterpretations of the posters for these classic films are by Mr Shabba. They can be purchased here and we are giving away an exclusive set soon.