Title: Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Release Date: October 7, 2007
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Ridley Scott
Release Format: Blu-Ray
Based on the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is truly a film that has been challenged, analyzed, then accepted as one of the greatest pieces of science fiction to hit the big screen. There is no test of time that can reject the movie’s influence on the modern age of science fiction, especially those dealing with androids/robots, free will, and the nature of one’s reality. The question I consistently pondered when watching Blade Runner was how we–as humans–would feel if we discovered who our creator was? Even further, how would we feel if we discovered their malicious intentions with us? Moviegoers have seen this theme pop up before, most recently in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. It goes to show that, even with time, people are still asking similar questions.
The movie focuses on a “retired” Blade Runner–a name designated for a group of officers tasked with hunting down stray replicants–named Rick Deckard. He is drawn into an investigation surrounding a group of escaped replicants charged with stealing a shuttle and killing its crew. The result: a battle of wits and survival between one of the greatest Blade Runners, Deckard, and a replicant of superior intellect and strength, a Nexus 6 model named Roy Batty. I think the way in which Deckard is drawn into this investigation is worth noting. His boss, Harry Bryant, tells Deckard he can’t reject the job. The primary reason being that his top Blade Runner, Holden, was in the hospital after being attacked by one of the escaped replicants, Leon. But more interestingly, he threatens Deckard with this statement: “… if you’re not cops, you’re little people.” This seems to rattle some chains inside of the movie’s protagonist.
What is it that is so frustrating to Deckard about being belittled like that? The themes of superiority and divisions of race are present in the film, sometimes to a point where watching will terrify you. Not because something pops up and scares you, but because of the shocking resemblance the world of Blade Runner has with ours. There is literal slavery going on in the movie, but the leaders (like Harry Bryant) justify it by saying that the replicants are nothing short of a coffee grinder (figuratively speaking), and should be treated as such. Again, how would we feel if we discovered that that was our creator’s plan for us?
For Deckard, there is an internal conflict that you witness unfolding as the movie progresses. He knows he is bound by his job to rid of the replicant renegades, but sympathizes with them for a reason that alludes him… especially since he falls in love with one (Rachael). I’ll use this as an example of how all the subtext in the movie shapes a perspective in your mind as you see each scene unfold. There are SO many particulars; it’s kind of hard for me to pick and choose only one. I love that about the movie, all of these tiny details inserted for the sake of character, consistency, and artistic value. As another, smaller example, when Officer Gaff first picks up Deckard in the beginning of the film, you see them in Gaff’s vehicle as they travel to Bryant’s office. Here, you’re viewing Gaff saying something and Deckard responding with an unamused expression from an out-of-vehicle perspective, all while the electric score replaces the dialogue. These sort of unspoken situations occur throughout the film, preserving the importance of paying attention to the subtext while you watch. Deckard’s general demeanor, though, demands attention, as it may suggest something deeper going on in the Blade Runner universe.
Ever since the film’s release in 1982, there has been speculation that Rick Deckard is a replicant. After viewing the movie for the second time, I can say that that theory is warranted. The subtext all but convinces me. After he tells Rachael that she is a replicant, he goes into this depressive-investigative state looking at the pictures found in the replicant Leon’s apartment. There’s one in particular that sends him into a state of confusion: a Polaroid of a woman and a child sitting on a porch, with an inscription on the back. In the original version of the film, viewers hear a narration from Deckard about Rachael and the photos:
Tyrell really did a job on Rachael. Right down to a snapshot of a mother she never had, a daughter she never was. Replicants weren’t supposed to have feelings. Neither were Blade Runners. What the hell was happening to me? Leon’s pictures had to be as phony as Rachael’s. I didn’t know why a replicant would collect photos. Maybe they were like Rachael. They needed memories.
This piece and other pieces of narration were removed by Scott when making The Final Cut, most likely due to the fact that they reveal a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes that the director later felt were better expressed by means of showing and not telling. The Final Cut version is superior because of this. But, in Deckard’s thoughts, we see why those photos are so important to replicants. Why does Deckard find himself immersed in them, then, beside him trying to find a lead? There is an obvious conflict going on inside of him this scene. Harrison Ford does such a wonderful job in showing the distress his character feels for “retiring” replicants like they are cattle when he knows they are thinking, feeling beings like himself. The fact that he openly compares Blade Runners to replicants in the original version suggests that maybe all Blade Runners are an elite line of replicants. Remember what Deckard’s boss said to him, “… if you’re not cops, you’re little people.” Maybe what he really meant was that if Blade Runners aren’t working with the cops, then they’re just normal replicants or “little people.” Even in the animated short, Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, it is revealed that Tyrell Corp. released a Nexus 8 replicant model, which was designed to have a natural lifespan. Who’s to say that that technology wasn’t around before 2022?
I could go on for awhile about how this theory could potentially be true, but this is a review, and I can’t spend too much time on it. What to take from it? The subtext of Blade Runner is masterfully done and leads viewers on two different journeys: one they can see as it unfolds before them, and one that occurs in between the lines. But that’s not the only aspect of the film that has preserved its near-perfection over time. The development of each character was done with stylistic grace, especially that of the mysterious Officer Gaff and his little pieces of origami. There’s something about that unicorn he gives Deckard at the end of The Final Cut that makes sense in the grander scheme of things, I think… The visuals remain stunning (granted, The Final Cut was remastered to be released on Blu-Ray in 2007, but back in 1982 the visuals were considered to be at an elite status); the costume design, lighting, makeup, and music all give off this certain 80’s vibe which works well with the neo-noir type of film that Blade Runner is; the dystopian LA setting is captured majestically, with pillars of fire shooting into the air and pyramid-like structures dominating the skyline; the acting is all done deliberately, like the tiny details scattered throughout the film, the actors’ portrayal of their characters has its own subtext; and the political message drags viewers through the mud as they consider how it compares to the world in which they live.
When you’re not immersed in the mysteriously, eerie music that plays on throughout the movie, you should be stuck questioning the reality in which you live, much like Roy Batty–the antagonist of the film–does during his last days and nights in search of a way to live a longer life. After all of the internal conflict Deckard experiences, as the film progresses, he is then, ironically, saved from falling off a rooftop by Roy following their little game of cat-and-mouse. The replicants he has spent his career hunting down are more than just thoughtless beasts, he realizes. They are like him, like me and you. I think that’s an aspect of the film that has preserved it so well over time, especially with all of the hatred that’s spreading throughout the world right now. Like being a replicant in Blade Runner, being of a different race, color, or sexual orientation doesn’t mean you’re not human. Everyone is equal; we all live, we all die.
There are a couple of elements of the movie that when put into the context of the film and the date it was released, are minuscule problems, but, still, bug me. I first didn’t like when Deckard forces himself onto Rachael. She wants to be with him, that much is clear, but she rejects him at first. He persists, though, and they end up sleeping together. I just thought that his persistence was a little rough, especially when he throws her against the wall, demanding her to admit that she has feelings for him. Although made in the 80’s, and understandable because of how people treat replicants in the film, I still didn’t agree with the portrayal of physical abuse to a woman in a sexual scenario like depicted in that scene.
The unicorn dreamt of by Deckard was an important piece of information, especially when paired with the unicorn origami Gaff leaves him at the end of the movie. Although essential in conveying the hidden knowledge that Deckard and Gaff are potentially replicants, I thought the usage of a unicorn was a bit cheesy. The unicorn sequence first appeared in The Director’s Cut, the second version of the film to be released, in 1992. It’s the 90’s and the movie has this trippy feeling to it with the music and colors and lights, I get it. But come on… a unicorn? Literally, anything else would have sufficed, as long as it got the message across.
Now go check out the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, in theaters now. Maybe this film will provide some answers in regards to the question posed by so many people: Is Deckard a replicant? Even further: Are all Blade Runners an elite line of replicants designed to be the scapegoat for capturing and “retiring” other rogue replicants? God knows the rich and powerful don’t want that amount of blood on their hands. Oh, wait…
If you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049 yet, then check out the animated short I mentioned earlier, Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, which serves as a prologue to the film. The video is embedded below.
Verdict: The original Blade Runner remains to be a science fiction masterpiece, passing the test of time with electric colors. The themes of race, free-will, and superiority, run throughout the film, striking a terrifying resemblance to real-world issues being discussed in our current time. Tiny details are spread throughout the movie with a strategic hand, which, in turn, creates a world designed almost as perfectly as the A Level replicants themselves. The characters that live here are as developed as the world itself, and provide an essential narrative–although never spoken and always shown–that helps viewers understand the complex themes. And, throughout it all, there are the stunning visuals to light the way; there is a perfectly suited soundtrack for the neo-noir style of film; a dystopian environment like you’ve never seen before, and a cast of excellent actors completely immersed in their roles. If you’re looking for science fiction that is more about the thought-provoking messages and less about the action, Blade Runner is the film for you.
- The little details are your guide through Blade Runner.
- Unique characters that develop as the film progresses
- Stunning visual effects
- Perfectly suited soundtrack
- Deliberate writing and acting
- Themes of free will, race, and superiority relate to our world in a terrifying fashion
- Hair, costume design, makeup preserve the 80's and neo-noir feel
- Use of unwanted, physical abuse on a woman in a sexual situation
- A unicorn? Really?
- [insert something else negative to seem less bias... nope, I've got nothing]