May 22, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

The Inevitable Blade Runner Chat

Three Geeks, none of whom are particularly big fans of the movie, get together to discuss the original Blade Runner in time for the long-awaited sequel.

The original Blade Runner has a lot of die hard fans who have been waiting a long time for the sequel that comes out this very weekend.

Jimmy, Watson, and Tom are not among those die hard fans, but they opted to watch the Final Cut version of the movie and chat about it a bit anyway. See the results after the cut.

tomk: November 2019?!

Man, this is such an odd movie. Intelligent sci-fi that aren’t thinly disguised action films are so hard to come by.

jimmy: It’s 2017 and Blade Runner still sucks.

tomk: Not a fan?

jimmy: Ok, “sucks” is too harsh. I didn’t detest it like on previous viewings, but I still found it incredibly boring at times and mostly uninteresting.

I think the best part was about a half hour in when Ms Impossible admitted that she thought we were going to be watching Blade. (I wish we had.). But she stuck with it.

tomk: It’s not an action movie, not really, like we’d expect from a sci-fi movie starring Harrison Ford.

jimmy: It also made me sad that we are two years away from it happening, and I still don’t have a hovercar.

tomk: Or off-world colonies that need super soldiers for combat purposes. I’d love to know what’s going on out there.

jimmy: They’re fighting Xenomorphs obviously.

tomk: Well, obviously. You need super strong artificial soldiers for that.

jimmy: Exactly. On a serious note, a lot of speculation that the two series might be related. And might see more of it in the new film.

tomk: Somehow I doubt it. But let’s look at Roy Batty, who I find is a much more interesting character than Deckard. And not just because of that great “tears in the rain” speech. Roy and his compatriots just want to live longer. That’s it. If they could have that, they probably wouldn’t be dangerous.

jimmy: I guess that explains why he saves Deckard? Though had no trouble killing Tyrell in a scene that has haunted me since the first time I saw it when I was like 10.

tomk: Tyrell more than anyone else is responsible for his four year lifespan.

What does Watson think?

jimmy: Fair enough, but why save Deckard?

tomk: Well, Deckard also appears to be a replicant.

jimmy: See, I don’t get that. I know that has been the debate for 35 years (and Scott says himself that he thinks Deckard is a replicant) but what in the film indicates that, besides the very flimsy unicorn dream/origami?

tomk: Well, how would Edward James Olmos know about the unicorn?

jimmy: That’s the argument, yes. Still flimsy.

And seeing he lives until at least 2049, he is the best replicant ever apparently.

tomk: You know, if that is the case, then the sequel might be about lies that corporation said about the replicants, that they didn’t have to live four years…

jimmy: Look, I’m not saying if he is or isn’t. I won’t argue against you if he think he is. I just don’t think the movie does a good job of even making it really ambiguous and something to ponder throughout. Just a little maybe something at the end as you head out the door. But maybe the unicorn was complete coincidence? Or maybe Deckard and EJO were old college roommates who were both in the My Little Unicorn TV show fanclub. Who knows?

watson: My opinion of Blade Runner remained unchanged. It was cinematically beautiful. Had great mood. Harrison was actually a distinct character (he didn’t play Harrison Ford), but it still bored the hell out of me.

jimmy: Exactly.

watson: I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. But I STILL think Ridley Scott’s movies typically look and feel more like music videos than films.

I am pretty sure he got his start at a music video director.

jimmy: I didn’t hate it either. It just…was. The visuals were good. The effects were good. The music was ok. The acting was good. The story in a nutshell is interesting. But it should have been at least 30 minutes shorter. Or something. I don’t know. It’s just, well, Blade Runner.

watson: Or was that David Fincher who did videos?

Yes. It does in fact hold up when the standard is “it’s Blade Runner”…

jimmy: Fincher. I don’t think music video existed when Scott started.

watson: It’s just as much Blade Runner today as it was when it debuted. In fact, when you rewatch in again in 2049 along with Blade Runner 2049, it will still be “it’s Blade Runner, Jimmy.

jimmy: I rest my case.

watson: I was thinking of Ridley directing the 1984 commercial.

Which came out AFTER Blade Runner.

Because I need to bring box office into every conversation, BR kinda bombed at the box office. I never realized it was cult classic material. I always thought it was a hit. I wonder how many cult classics I actually like.

tomk: Considering there are, what?, three different versions of Blade Runner, the thing is just a mess. I actually think my opinion matches everyone else here, truth be told.

jimmy: It did bomb at the box office, yes. Here’s some discussion about the different versions.

tomk: Here’s a question: how many legitimately good or great movies has Ridley Scott directed? He has a good visual sense all things being equal, but how good are many of movies?

jimmy: Alien for sure. The Martian. I liked Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, but hardly classics. I like Gladiator. Beyond that…uh…he’s got a bunch of ok films like GI Jane, Black Rain, Black Hawk Down, etc.

Thelma and Louise is not exactly a classic because of his directing I wouldn’t think.

tomk: Mostly big spectacles from the looks of things. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there are worse directors.

Not everybody can be a Scorsese or a Spielberg.

jimmy: Or a Spielbergo

tomk: Ok, so, the none of the three of us are huge fans of the movie. We like aspects of it, but not the thing as a whole. Why is this movie so beloved?

jimmy: I’m trying to get to the bottom of that myself…

tomk: I mean, I get that it is mixing sci-fi with a noir detective story, but what else makes this movie a cult classic?

jimmy: I’m curious what Ryan thinks as a lover of sci-fi, noir and Dick.

tomk: Oh great. I may be accused of being dead inside again if he finds his way into this discussion.

watson: My “great Ridley” films are Gladiator and The Martian. That is all.

tomk: Was his late brother Tony a better director?

jimmy: He’s had a lot of good films too, but nothing I would consider classic.

watson: Tony Scott was a poor man’s Ron Howard.

So after rewatching BR, are you dreading the sequel? I actually think it could be better.

tomk: I hear Ron Howard is a poor man’s Rob Reiner.

I may be looking forward to it. There are philosophical implications to the movie that make for interesting discussion even if the movie itself isn’t great.

jimmy: I think it could be better too…but watching this in advance doesn’t do much to add to the interest level.

watson: That’s probably right, Jimmy! I’m still going this weekend but I’m really hoping it’s more like Arrival than BR.

You realize this is the third installment of the “Harrison Ford Takes The Paycheck To Revisit The 80s” trilogy?

jimmy: You mentioned this on a recent podcast, but I was trying to remember the last big hit Ford had besides Force Awakens (and I guess Indy).

watson: Air Force One in 1997 was his last big solo draw that wasn’t Indy or SW.

He was in What Lies Beneath a few years after that, but that was led by Michelle Pfeiffer.

jimmy: We’re still looking at about 20 years.

watson: Yup. That’s why he’s doing paycheck movies. He’s STILL paying off Melissa Mathison for that divorce.

Ooh. I just read Mathison died in 2015. Now I’m sad…

tomk: On a related note, have either of you guys read anything by Phillip K Dick?

jimmy: I know I’ve seen lots of movies based on his work, but not sure I’ve actual read any of the source material.

tomk: I read The Man in the High Castle once. Hardly any real plot. His work is often described as being really mindscrew sort of stuff and major changes are often included to make them filmable.

jimmy: I didn’t even know he wrote that. I have seen both versions of Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report (which may have been a TV show, but that’s probably fake news), and of course Blade Runner.

watson: I had heard that review. His work is mostly concept and not so much a narrative. I often like to read the book first but for him, I will wait for the movie.

jimmy: To answer Tom’s earlier question about why this movie is so beloved I enlisted my good friend, the Cinemeconomist himself, the man who discovered The Miller Effect and Blade Runner fan: Tom Miller! He had this to say:

Before Blade Runner, the future — even in dystopias like THX-1138, Planet of the Apes, and Logan’s Run — was bright and shiny. Film-makers were more likely to imagine the future as a sterile hell rather than as a polluted wasteland. Darkness did lurk around the edges, but only in B-movies like Escape from New York, where the shadows concealed the low budget, or science fiction horror films like Alien, where the darkness hid the monster.

Then, In 1982, Blade Runner brought darkness to artistic life. It’s beautifully composed opening frames showed the future as a bleak cityscape with the only brightness coming from gouts of industrial fire. It’s street scenes showed relentless decay, reflecting the morality of a world where Harrison Ford — the action hero of Star Wars and Raiders — shot a half-naked, unarmed, fleeing woman in the back for the crime of being an illegal immigrant. This was high tech combined with low life — Cyberpunk had come to cinema. The special effects budget wasn’t spent on rubber masks and laser fights, but production design. The scene where Deckard dangles off a roof high above a city street was cutting-edge special effects for the day, using optical effects to achieve what we now assume only computers can do — creating depth and detail, defining a world. And it did all this while exploring a thematically rich tapestry of human identity, culminating in the final confrontation between Ford’s Deckard and Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, where the real battle isn’t over who will live, but over which of them is truly more human.

Audiences and critics didn’t know what to make of it, but film-makers did. The children of Blade Runner arrived rapidly: Terminator, Brazil, Batman, Total Recall. In the 90s, the offspring kept coming: Dark City, Ghost in the Shell, 12 Monkeys,The Matrix. In the new millennium, Blade Runner‘s grandchildren continue to flourish: Minority Report, Children of Men, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Inception, John Wick, Ex Machina.

While Star Wars was the science fiction movie that had the greatest impact on the *business* of film-making, Blade Runner is the science fiction movie that had the greatest impact on the *art* of film-making. We are two years away from 2019, the year in which Blade Runner is set, and the physical world (blessedly) isn’t that of Blade Runner, but our cinematic world closely resembles it. Blade Runner didn’t describe the future, it artistically defined it.

watson: It’s certainly the granddaddy of sci-fi noir. I think I just like my noir films to be 1950s gangster films. Not super futuristic 2019 sci-fi films.

Plus, I also giggled when I realized the film was set in 2019. No hover boards. No flying cars. Sci-fi films from the 80s were too ambitious. They should have known we’d throw all our efforts into perfecting porn. Hey, at least we’ve got sites like to show for all those years of development.

jimmy: Lol

The date was an obvious talking point. Most of the science fiction we grew up with that dealt with the “near” future has now occurred in our past. I noticed that the film credited Syd Mead as “visual futurist”. As noted, a lot of people figured we’d have flying cars by now. I can’t say that I think we’ll have flying cars by 2049 either.

tomk: Flying cars sounds like a new traffic nightmare waiting to happen if you ask me. And you didn’t.

jimmy: But everyone today are such great drivers.

tomk: OK, change of subject: the best sci-fi always relates to the present, not the future. Tom Miller refers to replicants as illegal immigrants. There’s an undercurrent of what makes a human a human. I can see this movie partially inspiring the recent Battlestar Galactica, where most of the cylons looked human and also featured an anti-robot Edward James Olmos. Much of what this movie is doing is discussing the people at the bottom of the ladder. Replicants were built to do the jobs humans couldn’t or wouldn’t do. It is noteworthy that the jobs we know they possess includes soldiers in especially dangerous location and a prostitute.

jimmy: But was she programmed to be a prostitute or just hiding out there? Especially since she wasn’t supposed to be on Earth in the first place.

tomk: I think Deckard’s briefing mentioned one of the females was a “pleasure model”.

jimmy: Point taken. Though Deckard lets a replicant snake slide. Are we sure he’s good at his job? 🙂

So if Deckard is a replicant, one assumes he is a newer model a la Sean Young with the implanted memories? And who knows the truth? EJO for sure with this theory. The police chief? Tyrell may know. Batty maybe figures it out before dying.

tomk: Deckard may figure it out in the end. He takes it better than Sean Young. But let’s face facts: most people take bad news better than Sean Young.

jimmy: Lol

Yes, Deckard too when he picks up the unicorn and gets in the elevator. Interesting that Scott believes that Deckard is a replicant and Ford believes he is not.

tomk: Dick believed he wasn’t. As the original author, he might have had some say, but if you’ve ever read the novel version of Forest Gump, you know how little an author’s vision can mean to a Hollywood movie.

jimmy: I have not. And hopefully the book is better because I hate Forrest Gump.

tomk: The book features a male organutan named Sue that Forest learns the language of when both are stranded on a jungle island when the spacecraft they were taking as part of a NASA program crash landed before it got into space.


tomk: Yup.

jimmy: So they didn’t go into space?

tomk: Nope.

They were supposed to.

Among the jobs book-Forest had that never made the cut of the movie: folk band member, pro-wrestler, monster movie actor, and astronaut.

Oh, and he and Jenny had a lot of sex but she broke it off when, during their band period, she came home to find Forest maybe having a threesome with two female fans.

watson: That is an interesting question about the sequel. Will they give a definitive answer on Deckard’s origin? Ford wanted solo to die? Dead in Episode 8. Ford wanted Deckard to be human? Will that follow up?

That’s the risk of a sequel. The need to answer questions that were always supposed to be ambiguous.

Like if they make a sequel to Inception in 20 years and it starts the film by answering if the top stopped spinning.

tomk: Ford agreed to Crystal Skull, so he may not carry as much weight on such things as we think.

But unlike Indy, Ford has always expressed disdain for Han Solo.

jimmy: I thought of the Inception example too when thinking about the movie not doing a good job to make us even wonder if Deckard was a replicant. But from the sounds of it, the versions after the original theatrical cut do a better job, for what it’s worth.

tomk: You know what else would have to explain something for a sequel? Swartzenegger’s Total Recall, also based on a Dick book.

jimmy: lol, Honest Trailers nails it again!

BTW, here’s the original theatrical ending that feels like it was taken from a different movie:

This and the Honest Trailer makes me intrigued by the version with the voice over…but no way in hell I’m watching that again any time soon.

tomk: Bad joke time: do we call a sci-fi mindscrew a Dick move?

jimmy: Yes. Yes we do.

watson: Ryan would call it a HEAD fake…

So should we wrap up? Reviews upon rewatch? I’m nonplussed but don’t hate it. 6.5 non-Jenny Unicorns our of 10.

jimmy: Same. 6.5 replicant yawns out of 10.

tomk: I’d push it up to 7.5 artificial friends out of 10 for asking some good sci-fi Big Questions and giving actor William Sanderson a non-redneck role he somewhat revised on Batman the Animated Series.

Who’s going to edit this together?

Watson left #bladerunner making him unable to edit anything.

tomk: Well, not Watson.

jimmy: Fucking Watson.

Watson’s presence is gone, like tears in the rain…