Learn about "Blade Runner" before "Blade Runner 2049"
Writer: Casey Chong
Harrison Ford plays Deckard in "Blade Runner".
At the time of writing, the highly-anticipated "Blade Runner 2049" has already received heaps of universal praises after it was screened for U.S. critics and journalists a week ahead of its North American opening on 6 October 2017.
Now that the sequel of 1982's "Blade Runner" is at our local cinemas, let's take a look back at Ridley Scott's original film that started it all.
Although it has become common knowledge (at least for movie enthusiasts) that "Blade Runner" is widely praised as one of the greatest sci-fi classics ever made, the original 1982 theatrical version was a different case altogether.
First released in the competitive summer of June 1982, "Blade Runner" opened to mixed reviews with a lukewarm USD6.1 million at the U.S. box office during the first three days at the number two spot.
Back then, Steven Spielberg's well-received "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" was unstoppable as it still remained its number one position for three consecutive weekends in a row.
"Blade Runner" ended up making around USD26 million during its original theatrical run in 1982, a total sum that wasn't enough to recoup its estimated USD28-30 million budget.
Among the reasons that caused the movie to flop at the box office was supposedly a result of the studio's (Warner Bros.) interference. They added a cheesy voiceover by Harrison Ford's lead protagonist as Deckard as well as the infamous "happy ending" which was particularly ill-advised and that altered Ridley Scott's original vision.
The movie did receive 2 Oscar nominations including Best Art-Set Direction and Best Visual Effects, but went home empty-handed after it was robbed by "Gandhi" and ""E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial", respectively.
A scene from "Blade Runner".
However, "Blade Runner" managed to achieve a cult status when it was released in the video cassette format. Then, in 1992, a Director's Cut version was released with none of Deckard's voiceover and no happy ending. Even though the Director's Cut was a significant improvement over the 1982 theatrical version, Scott remained unsatisfied. It wasn't until the year 2007 that Scott was finally given a complete creative control by the studio to put together his definitive version otherwise known as "Blade Runner: The Final Cut". Of all the three different cuts that have been released, "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" is no doubt the best version ever seen and a must-see for every sci-fi fan and movie enthusiasts in general.
The iconic opening scene in "Blade Runner".
35 years later since the 1982 theatrical version and 10 years after the release of the Final Cut, "Blade Runner" remains a landmark cinema that inspired many filmmakers and countless pop culture as well as Japanese anime even until today. Scott's darkly futuristic vision of 2019 Los Angeles metropolis populated by huge neon signs and flying cars is a triumph of impeccable art design and special effects. The iconic opening scene alone is immersive enough to draw you into the movie, with a spectacular established shot of oil refineries releasing bursts of fireballs upwards, alongside an endless stream of lights illuminating the dark sky perfectly accompanied by Vangelis' haunting synthesiser score.
The quintessential look of a 1940s femme fatale played by Sean Young.
Scott's prominent use of shadows as well as low-key lighting and darkness in "Blade Runner" evokes the visual style of 1940s film noir, complete with rain-slicked streets and sight of fog lurking everywhere. His heavy influence of yesteryear's film noir is even extended to the sight of people smoking cigarettes, the introduction of Deckard in the mould of a classic trenchcoat-wearing private detective with a mix of cynical and brooding attitude, as well as Sean Young's quintessential look of a 1940s femme fatale as Rachael.
Rutger Hauer during the unforgettable final scene in "Blade Runner".
The story, which is adapted from Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, asks meaningful questions such as the nature of being human. This is especially true with the inclusion of the primary antagonist played by Rutger Hauer as the ill-fated replicant, Roy Batty. His villainous role is both frightening and sympathetic, besides, Hauer's achingly poetic speech towards the end is no doubt unforgettable:
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those... moments will be lost... in time... like... tears... in rain.
Time to die.
As much as "Blade Runner" is often cited as a cinematic masterpiece, the movie isn't entirely perfect. Ford may have the right look and personality to play the private detective role, but his overall role as Deckard tends to feel stereotypical. Sean Young's icy performance as Rachael is wooden at times, while the whole story about her relationship with Deckard bogged down the movie to a crawl.
Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford on the set of "Blade Runner".
Minor shortcomings aside, "Blade Runner" still stands as Ridley Scott's finest works to date (the other one, of course, is 1979's "Alien"). If "Blade Runner 2049" is as good as the early positive reviews have indicated so far, it will be a rarity to find a sci-fi sequel that matches, or possibly surpass, the cinematic brilliance of the 1982 original.
Cinema Online, 07 October 2017
"Blade Runner 2049" is now showing in cinemas.