Saturday, 21 October 2017

Blade Runner - The Director's Cut

After 35 years, time has not dulled the visual or ethical impact of this film. Ridley Scott's celebrated masterpiece still holds it's head high. I rewatched it again ahead of hopefully seeing the sequel in the next few days. Based on Philip K Dick's story 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' the film is set in November 2019. I'm glad to report that Scott's dystopian Los Angeles has not quite yet come to pass!

The bleak and darkened sets, half-lit and filled with clouds of steam and constant rain, all combine to create a very 'other' kind of world. It is permanent night and the all pervasive day-glow advertising brings a sharp contrast to the greyed out streets of the cityscape. It is little wonder that the healthy and able have left the planet to colonise other worlds. Those that remain, populate an underclass which requires heavy and frequent law enforcement.

The central thrust of the story is a now common theme amongst Sci Fi writers as the fiction becomes ever closer to reality. What if Artificial Intelligence (AI) creates beings that evolve into something that challenges the primacy of their creator? Perhaps a parallel with the Biblical narrative?

Star Trek's Data portrayed a benevolent android whose shadow side was manifested in his darker brother Lore. The characters ably demonstrating the dichotomy and danger facing those who are developing AI and robotics.  More recently films such as Ex Machina and  Ghost in the Shell have explored the deception of humans by AI driven androids. This is a rich vein in Sci FI that follows in the traditions of Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov et al.

The narrative arc of Blade Runner is straightforward and is set out at the beginning of the film. A group of the latest Nexus 6 model of 'replicant' have escaped their assigned roles and gone rogue in an attempt to increase their inbuilt four year life span. Some have returned to earth and pose such a threat that ace Detective Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is blackmailed out of retirement for one last mission. He reprises his role as a Blade Runner - someone who 'retires' replicants. Such is the crossover between human and machine that euphemisms must be used to avoid the word 'kill'.

Most of the story progresses as expected as Deckard works his way through the replicants. The leader of the replicants - Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) and an experimental replicant Rachel (Sean Young) pose different problems for Deckard as the film unfolds. Does Batty's change of heart as his own death approaches or Rachel's seeming innocence and naivety, signpost some hope for AI to remain more human and not evolve into something that will seek domination and control of humanity? Where does being human end and being machine begin? What happens when humans create machines in their own image? These are the central ideas that Blade Runner explores.

I will add my voice to those who see this as a top class film. I am looking forward to the sequel which is currently in the cinemas - Blade Runner 2049. The visualisation, story and acting of this film leave me no choice other than to award it 9/10.

1 comment:

revbobsblog said...

For those who have not yet seen Blade Runner 2049; I urge you to do so. Go to the biggest, best screen you can, preferably IMAX. I have seen it on a 2D conventional screen and then on 3D IMAX. That second viewing meant a 14 hour trip to Dublin and back, leaving home at 7 am, getting back at 9 pm. It was well worth it. The visual grandeur and artistic ambition of the movie match the scale of IMAX, and the 3D is superb, never in your face but subtly adding even greater depth to the experience. And BR’49, as I shall call it henceforth, is certainly an experience. If IMAX is not possible then it is still certainly worth seeing in any cinema.

The soundscape by Hans Zimmer and Ben Wallfisch (who worked together on Dunkirk) honours Vangelis, often quoting him but always for a reason, never as pastiche or out of laziness. It simply sounds deep emotional bells within those who love Blade Runner. The soundtrack of BR ’49 has been accused by some as being rather OTT, but in the IMAXX it really makes sense. The music reflected what I was feeling, rather than telling me what to feel, and at times I needed it to be overwhelming in order to match my emotions. At other times it has the necessary restraint.

The visual effects are among the best I have ever seen. BR ’49 uses 21st century blockbuster’s technology but never forgets the film’s 1980’s art-house film-noir origins and virtues.

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