Blade Runner: November, 2019

A selfie in time.

It’s the month and year Blade Runner is set.  The future is the present.  So, it seemed appropriate to re-watch this genre classic and I picked The Final Cut from the profusion of versions.  I did realise that I’ve watched this film possibly too often.  I know it.  I can even quote the dreadful voice over from the other version at the right moment and various lines from Tartan: Restrung (my skit of Blade Runner and The Matrix) kept popping into my head.

Bryant: These three wooden tops are still on the loose. I want you to gafiate them.

Deckard: Look Bryant, I was secretly quit when I walked in here, now I’m quadruply quit.

The first thing to mention is the clunky technology.  Really, in 2019, having to squint at the remote to find the play button.  DVDs are so old-fashioned.  The tech in Blade Runner is just as awkward, big computer screens full of chunky text.  There’s a video phone, but it’s a big thing attached to a wall and not a slim device permanently glued to the user’s hand.  And we don’t have flying cars yet.

But criticising a film based on its out-of-date kit, isn’t fair.  If all the passers-by in the street scenes had been staring down at a rectangle of light, then the 1982 audience wouldn’t have understood what was going on.  Although, oddly, the sequel has saved the original by making it a parallel universe.  It’s interesting that Blade Runner was set forward in time, whereas Blade Runner: 2049 is set a step sideways from now.

The voice-over wasn’t needed.  Indeed, if there’s ever a Blade Runner: David’s Cut, I’ll chop the scrolling infodump at the start and that irritating line from Gaff put over the ending.

The themes, what it means to be human, are still there.  Deckard is, and has to be, a replicant, of course.  Only Harrison Ford disagrees now.  How to make an actor play a replicant who thinks he’s human?  Tell him he’s playing a human, of course.

I did like the lack of CGI.  It seemed grounded in comparison to the recent filmic trend to show everything and anything, even if it’s not possible.  Ridley Scott did change film-making by showing a run down, aged future, so we were seeing a down-to-Earth future rather than a comic-book over-choreographed puff piece.  Deckard is injured and stays injured, things hurt, they are awkward and imperfect, i.e. it’s real.

Does it hold up?  Yes.  It deserves its status as a classic.  I hope, like Orwell’s 1984, that it will continue to influence now that it’s slipping through the present towards the past.

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