By Bradley Lane
“Blade Runner” was released in its original form in 1982 with a wide United States theatrical release. It had mixed reviews from critics. Some cited its long run time and overuse of special effects as a case of style over substance. Others praised its complexity and heady themes as a work of pure genius. Even now, the jury is out on its quality, but whether through the film’s merit itself or its incredibly expansive influence, it has cemented its place in cinema history.
In “Blade Runner’s” universe, there are beings known as replicants, synthetic human- like clones used as slave labor, primarily for the construction of colonies on the moon. Our story follows Rick Deckard, a gun for hire tasked to hunt down rogue replicants, as he investigates the whereabouts of a group of replicants who escaped to the moon to a dystopian 2019 Los Angeles.
The initial release of “Blade Runner” was ultimately compromised by an untrusting studio that demanded voice-over narration and an extraneous ending to help audiences understand the narrative a little easier. In the full scope of the film, these changes detract from the mystery and dark tone of the original vision. This led to the development of a new cut of the film being created by director Ridley Scott to restore his original vision. After two other versions were completed and released, Scott produced a definitive version in 2007, “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.” He removed the narration, added a few carefully placed violent scenes, recolored the film with modern color grading techniques and shortened the ending to remain ambiguous and mysterious.
The film’s strongest aspect is its incredible production value. Ridley Scott builds a world that feels lived in and grounded while introducing audiences to science fiction settings that would become staples in years to come. Scott creates an aesthetic that has emulated endlessly since its release in 82. Films like “Gattaca,” “Akira,” “Ghost in the Shell,” “Ex Machina” and “The Terminator” would not exist without the groundwork established by Scott with “Blade Runner.”
“Blade Runner’s” story explores what it means to be human and forces the viewer to grapple with uncomfortable scenarios. It is a slow and often alienating film that requires uninterrupted attention to understand and appreciate. This is not to say the pacing always works to the film’s benefit. “Blade Runner” suffers by getting caught up in showing you how incredibly intricate the world is and often forgets to take the story along with it.
“Blade Runner” is one of the defining films of the 1980s. It has lived on as not only a fan favorite but as an intellectual piece of filmmaking as well.
You can catch “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” now streaming on HBO Max.