Forum feature: Blade Runner

Arguing why Sir Ridley Scott’s dystopian adventure is the greatest sci-fi movie of all time.

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Welcome to SciFiNow’s long-running feature that gives you the chance to vote for the greatest sci-fi film of all time. Every issue for the next ten months the industry’s best writers will campaign for their favourite film from a shortlist of ten, with our readers ultimately deciding which film deserves the accolade of Greatest Sci-Fi Film Of All Time.

Today,  Alasdair Morton argues the case for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. ‘Have a better one!’ You’ll be hard pressed…

“Harrison Ford. Blade Runner.” So say the movie posters and the DVD cases, but they might just as well say “Ridley Scott. Blade Runner”, for it is, undoubtedly, his film. People may take umbrage with this assertion; filmmaking is a collaborative effort after all. There were, of course, many actors, designers, writers and a whole host of (sometimes pretty peeved) crewmembers (Yes gov’nor my ass!), and it is adapted from someone else’s novel in the first place, but it is really his film, from start to finish. From his pencil-crafted early-stage production designs to the finished film, its rain soaked appearance, the neon-drenched street sets, even, in his hands, Vangelis’s score seems to have been shaped in some way by him.

But why a science-fiction great? Because it is such an immersive experience to sit down and watch the film? That it’s one of the most influential and inspired pieces of filmmaking of all time? Because it is a breathtaking and visionary cinematic achievement? Because it remains unsurpassed to this day? The answer is all of these, and more. Oh, so much more…

75511_bladercelebutopia1_122_929loRidley Scott has always created cinematic worlds, whether these be Off-World, on board the Nostromo or inside a Roman Coliseum, and Blade Runner shows the filmmaker on his very finest form. ‘Retro-fitted’, detailed – tellingly, the first time he walked around the Warners back lot to see the sets he is said to have remarked “You’ve made a good start!” to the stunned artists who thought they were showing him the finished article – exacting, enveloping and, most importantly, wholly believable, worryingly so, the film has almost become a by-word for cinematic dystopias. If a movie is depicting events in the future, the presence of Blade Runner, its neon-hued metropolis, is omnipresent. Just a pinch of the evidence: The Matrix; Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones – Anakin and Ben Kenobi speed their way around a city that could have been lifted wholesale from the opening scenes of Scott’s classic; Strange Days – less far in the future, in fact it was set in the now-past of 1999, but in the chaotic streets, the anarchic, divided them-and-us social make-up, the fear of control from a power above, Los Angeles 2019 is there to see for all. In fact, it is there in all shapes and forms in damn near every science-fiction film since. So much so, on movie sets, or in the boardrooms of pre-production meetings or when aspiring young writers and directors are pitching their movie, you can imagine hearing producers demanding the film be ‘more Blade Runner’. Its depiction of a future world was so complete, so believable, that it is almost reached the point where it is not so much fiction at all, but a rare glimpse into the way things are going to be. You need look no further than the ever-expanding megacities of today, like Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong, even to the newer emerging cities like Mumbai, to see the class divide in action, the omnipresent capitalism and commerce that towers above, overshadows and suffocates the true nature of the city, disguising the realty of its inhabitants and its underbelly.

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