Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Blade Runner at 30

At this juncture, it's probably a cliche to write about "Blade Runner" - heaven knows that the film's fertile ground has been tilled to within an inch of its life.  But I can't let the 30th anniversary of the film pass by without saying something about it.  This is a film that has resonated so strongly with me over the years that I can still remember the first time I saw the trailer for it, much less the film itself.  I remember thinking something along the lines of, "what is this ?"  A movie that looks like science fiction, but with a dreamy Vangelis score, and one clearly trying to set Harrison Ford up as a Humphrey Bogart noir type.

As everyone knows, the film was a huge flop upon its initial release, completely blown out of the theaters by the phenonomenon known as "E.T." (a film I enjoyed, but one I also think is severely overrated).  By the time I got around to seeing it, it was already playing in one of the local area's second-run theaters, the late and sometimes lamented Village Theater here in Sacramento.  And from the first frames, I knew that I was going to love the movie.  Even in a dank, somewhat smelly theater with something far less than ideal projection equipment, "Blade Runner" was a sight to behold.  The noir look, the patient pace of the movie, the wonderful performances from an incredible group of character actors, and Harrison Ford holding his own in the lead role - it all added up to a masterpiece, in my book.

But what really put it in that category were the visuals - which frankly, keep getting better with each generation of media by which we watch our films at home.  The version I own today is a first generation DVD that looks terrible today, in comparison with the newer blu-ray technology (something I need to rectify at some point).  But back to the accomplishment itself - the world that Ridley Scott and his team created in "Blade Runner" is one of the great film accomplishments of the modern era.  Nearly every scene is a visual feast for the eyes - there is always some small detail to fixate on, to admire, to just stare at with a sense of wonder.  The cigarette smoke in the opening scene...the frosty breath in the "cold room" where the eyes are built...the look of Tyrell's eyes behind his coke bottle glasses...the street scenes...Sebastian's house and neighborhood...the closeup of the origami...I could go on, but you get the idea.

And while Ford holds his own in a role that was light years away from Indiana Jones, the true strength of the film can be found in the actors who drive the story - all longstanding professionals, but none of whom could be called movie stars - Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, M. Emmet Walsh as Bryant ("I need ya, Decks...this is a bad one, the worst yet...I need the old Blade Runner, I need your magic..."), Edward James Olmos as Gaff, Brion James as Leon, Joe Turkel as Tyrell, William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian, Morgan Paull as Holden, and even Sean Young and Daryl Hannah - all effective, and affecting, performances. 

There are people I love, respect and admire who can't stand "Blade Runner."  We just agree to disagree.  For me, if you don't get goosebumps during Roy's final words - "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...", well...I just don't get it.

30 years, and still going strong - "Blade Runner."

3 comments:

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