Over the course of the history of the internet, now and then, someone has raised their head above the parapet and voiced the dangerous opinion that Blade Runner is an overrated film. This is followed by a tirade of abuse, accusing the naysayer of not understanding the true depths of Ridley Scott’s famous film and having an aversion to proper sci-fi (not true). It seems it’s not possible that someone got to the point of not caring if Deckard was a Replicant. And yes I’ve seen the Special Edition. -all 2048 Special Editions. In fact, I’m sure Ridley Scott’s twice monthly prostate examination involves cutting a new Special Edition of Blade Runner. Supposedly all the editions are better than the original. The salient point, I am told, is whether there is a voice over.
Even people that like Blade Runner agree the theatrical release is crap. This idea that the original version of the film is balls and whatever definitive edition available at the time is a masterpiece has been so hammered into popular culture I wonder if anyone realises that it makes no sense at all.
We all know the person who tells you that the book version of a movie was better is the worst kind of shit, but this is one of those occasions where you must look to the source material to realise why Blade Runner is such a well-loved bad film.
Do androids dream of Electric Sheep? has a massive focus on animals, hence the novel’s name. In a world where animals are dying out and being able to buy Replicant animals is both a social symbol and a great source of happiness. For Deckard, that is his main driver in hunting androids, for the money to buy something that makes him feel human and helps him forget his failing marriage. This gives us so much more empathy for his character while being a far better exploration of the fundamental ideas.
There’s also the omitted context of Mercerism, the dominant religion. Again, although not integral to the plot, it gives us a huge understanding of the confused and despairing world and how people feel in it. It creates dystopian sci-fi with ideas rather than visuals and music, making it far bigger than the film.
But Blade Runner is not so much an adaptation as a film inspired by the novel. This means that the movie throws its themes in the air and then films them falling in slow motion rather than weaving them into the story. There are pictures of glaciers on geography teacher’s walls that move quicker than the plot.
Yes it’s well filmed and the visual style and epic futuristic cityscapes were unrivalled at the time, and despite technology having advanced, tropes such as huge projected billboards are mimicked today in everything from Disney to Anime.
But for all their technical prowess the series of encounters of Deckard hunting down and ‘retiring’ Replicants drag like Christmas at the in-laws. The Replicants have hardly any background, the action is repetitive, and the action is repetitive. The scenes that should be most exciting fall flat while the ones that shine are the more delicate moments of Deckard alone in his apartment. Did I mention the action is repetitive?
I will conclude this article in the manner of Deckard as played by Harrison Ford. Mumble grumble murmur, whisper maunder, mutter, mutter Roy Batty on the roof.