Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Blade Runner

Hold on to your electric sheep, because it's time to look at Blade Runner. I had the benefit of seeing The Final Cut first, and wow. At this point in time, most "Director's Cuts" seem to mean they add back in the violence or sex that would have earned them an R or an X-rating, add another three hours to the running time (which I don't mind in the case of Lord of the Rings), or the Director wanted to pursue his artistic vision to the detriment of the film (*cough* George Lucas *cough cough*). Blade Runner is one of those rare occasions where the Director's Cut fixes the shoehorned in studio meddling and makes for a stronger film, rather than a more special effect laden film, a less cinematic film, or a "Don't ever watch with your parents" film. Is there ever a way to add in a happy ending to a Philip K. Dick story without it feeling forced? I've read multiple novels by him, and he was just not a cheery sort of writer. While the first cut of Blade Runner may have opened up the trend of lugubrious, gritty science fiction, as opposed to shining futuristic sets, it's also kind of painful to have Harrison Ford narrating over key scenes and then to watch him and Rachael driving away into a pastoral paradise for their happily ever after. Can you imagine if The Graduate had ended with the characters smilingly holding hands on a beach in Hawaii, instead of giggling uncertainly and refusing to look at each other in the back of a city bus? But then again, people seem more comfortable with ambiguity and downer endings in stories of the real world, while audiences always seem to want a shining light in their science fiction. No matter how awful the environment gets, there has to be a spark of hope for a science fiction film to do well. Which is really odd in the continuing trend towards dystopian fiction. But either way, Blade Runner should be watched in The Final Cut form, if only because Harrison Ford acts better with his face than he does reading off cue cards. And having him flatly inflect questions about why Rutger Hauer just led him on the most insane game of tag in cinema history and then gave up is really off-putting. It works much better when he's just kind of lying there stunned and confused and presumably wondering where the hell Roy Batty managed to find a dove while he was running around half naked and howling. Sometimes you have to wonder if Rutger Hauer was confused about that too. He spends a good deal of time looking confused, but it does work for his character, since he's basically Superman with the mind of a terminally ill toddler. There are a lot of peculiar choices actors make, but when you're watching, you just don't question it. One thing I noticed on my second watch - I don't think I've ever seen this many East Asian people in an American film where none of them are doing kung fu, prostitutes, or getting their New Year's dragon smashed by a car chase. None of them really have particularly prominent parts in the movie, but it struck me as interesting. Some of the costume choices also struck me as interesting, especially given the meme circulating last year about how Back to the Future II told us we were all going to dress. And then there's the really uncomfortable sex scene between Deckard and Rachael, where without the soundtrack of smooth jazz telling us it's sexy, we have a man blocking a door, throwing a woman into a window, and then making her tell him to kiss her again. But even with the oddness and the flaws, it's definitely a movie worth the watch. Not just because I'm an absolute science fiction nut or because I really like Philip K. Dick. It's a strong film with still pretty impressive special effects, and even better, a ton of attention to tiny details. Just skip any cut that has the voice-overs.

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