Movie of the Week: Blade Runner

I’ve always considered myself a fan of Blade Runner (because what self-respecting scifi film fan doesn’t?), ever since the classic poster art captured my attention on a Blockbuster VHS box when I was 7. It took me years to finally sit down and watch it for myself though, and I found that it never really felt like it clicked with me the way I’d like. It felt like I was always missing something. Though if nothing else, it still had the gorgeous visuals and atmosphere and performances to make it worthwhile for me. But last night, I was able to fully, truly immerse myself in Blade Runner for the first time and finally truly connected with it in a way I never had before, in the way I always wanted to. And the fact that I was sharing it with Shiran for the first time just made it better.

When I was younger, my complaints were predictably shallow: I was annoyed by the amount of time spent with Pris and Sebastian, by Deckard’s wimping out in the finale, and by the general lack of “action” (hey we were all obnoxious teenagers at some point, right?). But in showing Blade Runner to Shiran, I tried to watch it the way I would if I’d never seen it – the way she would be watching it – and the result was gratifying to no end. I finally recognized the intricate, slow-boil existential puzzle that Blade Runner is, and how all the elements, almost especially the elements that once put me off, play into the thematic backbone of the movie.

Deckard’s flight and fear in the climax is the epitome of his character arc. By being reduced from a man on a mission to a man wanting to survive, he recognizes the fear and desire at the heart of Batty and the replicants; he appreciates life again in the aftermath, and understands Batty’s murderous drive for the same. Sebastian reflects the replicants’ sad fate (something that I always understood but didn’t respect) but his fate might be even worse: the replicants have probably experienced far more than he has with their short time. And the “lack of action” only makes the bursts of violence all the more powerful, emphasizing the visceral ending of life and how painful it is. While Ridley Scott gets all of the praise (and in this case, justly so) for his visual prowess, the unsung hero here is the script by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, which packs a lot of depth into what I know realize is a very concise package.

Now, here’s Shiran’s reaction:

Considering Brendan has suggested I watch Blade Runner for practically the entirety of our relationship (backup pick every week in our tradition) I was surprised to hear that he had always felt slightly underwhelmed by it until now. I can understand why — if I had watched it when I was a little younger I probably would have been a bit bored, and definitely confused, by the slower parts. Even at 22 I kept side-eyeing the weirdness of the toys at Sebastian’s apartment. But the very thing that made Brendan uncomfortable with the movie when he first watched it is what made it work for me. I expected Blade Runner to be a superior movie, but I didn’t know it would be quite so philosophical at the expense of a lot of action and even some exposition. That’s a risky choice for a genre movie, and I appreciated it a lot.

While the core of our weekly tradition is to help each other see movies that we’ve missed (and would probably continue to miss otherwise), the added benefit is that it allows us to revisit our favorites and hopefully see them in a new light. Shiran experienced a renewal of sorts with Cinema Paradiso earlier this week, and I’m more grateful for this than ever with Blade Runner, which can truly take its place as one of my all-time favorite films without any reservation. It’ll be Shiran’s turn again next week, and I’m very excited to see where she takes me next. See you then!

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