Classic Movie Review – Blade Runner

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A good science fiction movie leaves you thinking about characters and plot. A great science fiction movie leaves you thinking about yourself.

Blade Runner is a great science fiction movie because it inspires the viewer to ask a fundamental existential question: am I really who I think I am if my memories are implanted? I have memories of my childhood that influence who I am today, but I’m not that child. I don’t share a single cell in common with that little boy who lived 40+ years ago, yet I think of him as me. I understand and remember the lives of some fictional characters better than I remember my own childhood. What makes my memories of childhood any different than fiction — especially when research has shown that many of our memories never happened in reality?


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I share identical DNA with that young boy, and there exists a contiguous path from him to me through space-time. Is that enough to say we’re the same person? I wonder how many professors of philosophy today can trace the inspiration that drove them to their current position back to Blade Runner? 

If you’ve never seen Blade Runner then by today’s standards it may seem derivative, but only because it laid the foundation for so many science fiction movies that came after. (If you’re currently watching Westworld on HBO then you have Blade Runner to thank for it; if you’re not watching WW then why the hell not?) When you look at Blade Runner in historical context with other movies you can see why it’s the icon it is. In fact it’s so good that it wasn’t immediately understood or appreciated when it was initially released. It wasn’t until people began watching it on VHS/Beta that it began to appreciate its genius.

Blade Runner is loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, who sadly passed away just months before its release. PK Dick found little success during his life, but perhaps more of his books and short stories have been adapted to the screen than any other author. Not many authors are prolific enough that a top 10 list of their adaptations can be discussed, let alone a top 10 list that leaves a few out.

The plot of Blade Runner requires some mental excavating to fully appreciate, but visually it warps every conception of the future that existed in the 1980s. Most science fiction at the time was inspired by Star Trek or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most often the future was visualized as crisp and clean, full of gleaming plastic, steel, and glass. Blade Runner opens to an over industrialized vision of urban life. There are flying cars, but also run-away climate change — it’s rainy and dark in every outdoor scene — rampant crime, and vast under population due to so many people leaving the planet — J.F. Sebastian has an entire apartment building to himself.

Blade Runner will remain a cornerstone of science fiction. We still have a few decades to wait and see just how prescient the movie is in regards to artificial life, a.k.a. replicants.

We now have Peetimes up for Blade Runner on the RunPee app. Just do a search for the movie title on the top right menu in the app. Do you agree with the Peetimes we chose? 

Blade Runner: 2049 review

Tears in the Rain – RIP to Icon Rutger Hauer

Is there anything extra during the end credits of Blade Runner?

 

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6 thoughts on “Classic Movie Review – Blade Runner”

  1. What an intelligent and thoughtful review! Aces, Dan.

    Also, keep in mind Star Wars (not Trek) also gave us a lived-in, sometimes grimy, future. But we really didn’t see that again until BSG.

    I wanted to leave an interesting observation. When I reviewed the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, I wrote something very like your notes above:

    “This isn’t a story by Philip K. Dick per se, but they do give him a reference credit at the end of the film. It’s very much his oeuvre, in a sense. He likes to ask: Who are we? Are we our memories? Who has a soul? Thoughtfully, these questions remain ours to answer.”

  2. Yeah. I knew you’d know that one. I think this one is the best, though:

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    Back to your post: I wonder if Blade Runner laid the groundwork for dystopian sci-fi? Can you think of a movie that did it before this in any significant way?

    Kind of like The Thing made the first sci fi paranoia thriller and paved the way for something like the X-Files to follow. (IDK, was Body Snatchers first? I never actually saw that one.)

  3. Blade Runner definitely didn’t start the dystopia genre. (We should add that as a genre in the DB.) Before BR we had Planet of the Apes and especially Soylent Green.

  4. Good call, yeah, and Logan’s Run. I still remember that one. They killed you off at 30. We’d be over two decades dead. That’s wild.

    We have dystopia as a category here in the blog. But yeah it should go to the DB for the RunPee app.

    Blade Runner did start a flying car trend: see The Fifth Element, Attack of the Clones…both of which feature flying car chase sequences. I wonder when we’ll have flying cars? Right now the big thing is self driving cars. I’ll be happy for that.

    I also wonder what the deal is with AI. I don’t know where we stand anymore — everything seems shuttered due to covid and the “new” singularity of what life will be like on the other side of the pandemic.

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