Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner

  • Though visually arresting and intellectually fascinating, Blade Runner’s narrative missteps limit its impact.
  • None of these characters are three dimensional, not even Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
  • Furthermore, the characters’ relationships are underexplained. Rick and Rachael (Sean Young) are intimate too quickly. J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) decides to help Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) and Pris (Daryl Hannah) without much explanation. He’s dying, sure, but he also knows how dangerous the replicants are, so his motivations need to be better analyzed.
  • Given that Blade Runner is plot and theme-based, the above flaws do not ruin it. They just keep the viewer at an emotional distance that prevents true immersion into its story-line.
  • Were the movie’s narrative less linear, like 2001: A Space Odyssey’s, limited character development would prove less problematic. But because Director Ridley Scott and Writers Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples craft a direct noir story, they invite evaluation of their characters, just as much as they do of their plot.
  • Fortunately, Scott and the writers do not misstep thematically. Blade Runner is philosophically challenging and symbolically complex.
  • It is also beautiful. Scott’s visual effects and lighting aptly create and sustain mood.
  • Even if the film lags for stretches, relying too much on its visual poetry and not enough on propelling its story.
  • All of that said, the movie’s resolution (from Scott’s Director’s Cut) is terrific. Its uncertainty fits the rest of Blade Runner’s events.
  • Final Grade: B-

32 thoughts on “Blade Runner (1982)

    • Not so much mine. I appreciate it, but I think it bears the Ridley Scott mark. Awesome set design, intellectual focus, and compelling action, paired with a lack of character and narrative focus. It is probably one of my favorite Scott movies, but, in the end, I’m just not his biggest fan.

  1. I love this movie, but even I can’t deny the problems of the underdeveloped characters in this. Deckard is not a 3 dimensional character, but he may not be a real person to begin with. Great review

    • I wouldn’t say I really like it, either. I appreciate what it’s doing, and I think it accomplishes most of its objectives. But if you asked me whether or not I enjoy it, I would say, “Not really.”

  2. I have heard a lot of good things, as well as a lot of mixed things about this film. Looks like it may be decent, and I probably should watch it at some point or another! I hate rushed relationships!

    • The symbolism, philosophy and atmosphere are all top notch. But, like many Ridley Scott movies, the narrative takes a back seat to technical and intellectual concerns.

      I look more for narrative strength than other strength, which is probably why this doesn’t speak to me as much as it does to many others.

  3. Which version did you watch, the final cut or the director’s cut? The former is slightly better. I love-love-love the look of this film but I just like its themes/narrative/character work.

    • I think it was The Director’s cut.

      And it sounds like we agree. The look, atmosphere, philosophy and symbolism of Blade Runner are unassailable, but the narrative is not nearly so good. Too many holes. Too many leaps. Because they tell the story in such linear fashion, I think that a real flaw.

    • I cannot dispute that statement. Philosophically and intellectually it’s brilliant. It is also artistically astonishing.

      But I tend to look for strong narrative first, and that is where Blade Runner, like A Clockwork Orange, is weakest. Honestly, if I were grading exclusively on story and character development, I’d score this lower than a B-. But I’m giving it deserved credit for the other elements.

  4. We are definitely on the same page with this one, my friend. There are definitely things to appreciate in this film, but it’s not one I particularly care if I see again. Nice job!

  5. Nice work James! Can’t believe I haven’t picked this up yet, but I might have to give it a go sometime. You give a compelling argument that while it’s not perfect in terms of character, it is enticing all the same because of story. I’m always game for philosophical statements.

  6. Oh man, 1982 was such a great year for me at the movies when I was a kid. The Thing, Firefox, Poltergeist, Star Trek 2 and so on. I remember watching Blade Runner in Manhattan and there was no one in the theater! And to be honest, I was puzzled by the film. I did not know what to think of it right away. I mean, I got the noir part and the film was stunning to look at (even Ford was good) but something was amiss for me.

    I think the narrative flaws you pointed out (an astute observation) are what made it less than perfect, imo. Over the years, though, I’ve grown to admire and respect the film but unfortunately it is a sci fi movie I don’t revisit as often as others (or even those by Ridley, even). But I agree that it is visual poetry and I do own the film and now I hold it in much higher regard. Even though I still have issues with the character development but I’m nitpicking. It;s still a influential and popular movie. Very well done.

    Solid review. A fun read, man!

    • Thank you very much. I think there is a lot to praise in Blade Runner, but if they were going to fudge the characters this much, I think they would have been wise to tell a less linear story.

      I have seen Poltergeist, and agree it was very good. But that is only the title you name with which I am familiar. (Hides head in shame.)

  7. This is definitely a worthwhile watch, but it’s not a movie that I find to have endless re-watchability. I love the book so much though, it is a fantastic read.

    • I haven’t read it yet. But now that you’ve recommended it, I will someday.

      And generally agreed on the movie. I’m not sorry I watched it once, but I feel little need to see it again.

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