Far from just being beautiful looking, Blade Runner is a finely executed film, from the wondrous writing that birthed such well-drawn characters and dialogue, to the story in which they live and the hypnotic, dreamlike and otherworldly narrative with which they are presented. It’s a tale of paranoia and distrust of the corporate power above, challenging the place for faith in the future and the role of natural life in a constructed and artificial world, all of which have powerful and perturbing implications upon us, and today’s world and the direction it’s heading. Thematically, the film asks us something too. Ill-conceived voiceovers aside, it is a movie that poses questions, and then leaves some of them unanswered. It challenges viewers rather than patronising them, musing upon the essence of life, and what it means to be alive. It looks at empathy, the longing to live, memories, and what exactly constitutes human existence. In many ways the film is open to a certain amount of interpretation, yet it never fails to satisfy emotionally. Through all of its various guises, early work prints, the theatrical cut, the Director’s Cut, the Final Cut and so on, scenes may have been snipped and changed, lines excised here or hockey mask-wearing go-go dancers reinserted there, but the essence of the movie, its intent, remains the same.
Based on the ace Philip K Dick novel, it’s utterly faithful to his story, in its themes and tone and presentation, and is something that the late Dick would have loved had he seen the finished film. Alas he died before its completion but the sets and effects shots he saw prompted the reclusive author to gush about the script and the world that had been created: “It was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly.” They would not have been able to do so, however, were it not for the timeless effects, particularly the role of ‘visual futurist’ Syd Mead in creating them. Using largely practical effects techniques – in-camera effects, models, rear projection, primitive computer-aided effects, and all kinds of mischievous machinations – the cityscape images created, towering advertisements, gleaming spinners and all, are simply breathtaking, but with the advent of CGI just around the corner, they have retained a timelessness and carry a weight that has been lost in the over abundance of garish greenscreen abominations we are now too accustomed to.
Scott claims the film is his most personal and complete work, and he’s right on both accounts. A stunning, beguiling, intelligent, provocative, challenging cinematic experience unlike any other, that’s why Blade Runner is a science-fiction classic.
Even with all the on-set antics and fighting and cast and crew battles, all involved knew they were making something truly special. When the sun was coming up on the final day of shooting, and there was just time to try and get that one last scene, that one last shot, they were all exhausted, physically and mentally, and were probably well and truly glad it was all over.
But inside, they knew they wouldn’t have changed it for the world, because they got to go home, and got to say for the rest of their lives, “that film Blade Runner, yeah I worked on that!”
To find out more about this exciting phase in SciFiNow’s forum feature, hit the link and check out the other movies that made our shortlist. Clue: Battlefield Earth is not one of them.
Don’t forget to log on to our forums to discuss the films on our shortlist, and to read any of the other articles in this series as they are written, click on the title below.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Planet Of The Apes
ET The Extra-Terrestrial
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow issue 33 by Alasdair Morton To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to www.imagineshop.com, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.