Let’s Talk: Blade Runner (1982)

I heard Netflix was going to pull Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner on May 1st, which was the incentive I needed to finally watch this landmark film that I had ignored on my “Watchlist” for years. All I really knew going in was that this was a defining film in the Cyberpunk genre, starring Harrison Ford and dealing in topics of Descartes reality; what is real, how can we tell what is real? Perhaps I’m forgetting my philosophers, it’s been years since I’ve taken a philosophy course.

Anyways. First things first: did I like the movie? Yes, but it’s not perfect. For the record, I watched the theatrical cut – and from the sound of it I would have much preferred the director’s cut, which doesn’t include the really cheesy ending. That Rachael is this extra special Replicant that won’t die in four years feels overly optimistic; especially when Tyrell establishes with Roy how difficult it is to make the Nexus 6 Replicants live as long as they do. The ending of Deckard and Rachael driving off into the woods, with that line about Rachael being special and all of that, made me want to gag. There was already such a great “ending” with Edward James Olmos’ line “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?” Deckard reflects on that line  one more time, takes Rachael into the elevator to escape, and fade to black. Perfect ending; the Blade Runner goes on the run with his last target. My only problem with this is that this pivotal philosophy comes from EJO’s character Gaff, who isn’t established at all. Here’s all you, as the viewer, know about Gaff.

  1. Deckard’s former boss.
  2. Has a thing for origami, which makes him mysterious, I guess?

That’s really it – and maybe I’ll pick something up on a second view, but just because he’s mysterious doesn’t exactly earn him this moment. He needed dialogue. He needed something to make this turn in the story earned. Under-use of EJO = Strike #1.

Rachael Is Sorely Under-Used = Strike #2

I’m almost of the mind set that this should have been Rachael’s story. Deckard serves as our noir detective, and as a genre piece this is important, if not crucial. But it is easy for me to re-imagine this movie where Rachael is the focus, and Deckard the supporting character.

I’m not sure what the trajectory of Deckard’s character is. He’s tired of violence, does his “one last job” falls in love and runs away. I suppose he comes to understanding the humanity of the Replicants; but as someone tired of killing them, he must already be sympathetic on some level. Deckard isn’t so different from an American Slave Hunter, right? These Replicants that are Tyrell Corp. property occasionally escape the off-world colonies where they are forced to work, and as a Blade Runner it’s his job to retire them. Roy and Leon even explicitly say to him how “To live in fear… that’s what it is to be a slave.” Is Blade Runner basically the story of a reluctant Slave Hunter realizing his targets were more human than he could have imagined? I guess I should say that I’m absolutely sure of Deckard’s trajectory, I’m just not sure whether it sustains the movie on its own. It leaves me with a lot of philosophical quandaries; very few regarding Deckard, and almost all concerning Rachael.

Rachael is a Replicant who doesn’t know she’s a Replicant when we first meet her. It’s only the Voight-Kampff test administered by Deckard that builds any sort of doubt about her reality, and their confrontation in his apartment  that shatters her reality. We see plenty of Rachael, all her scenes are pretty pivotal, all give the mind so much to chew on… even the uncomfortable scene where Deckard forces himself on her (which I’ll come back to later…)

I Just Wish We Could See More Of That

Following Rachael’s doubt about her humanity, the destruction of her reality, and then the discovery of her purpose – to live and enjoy life – changes the movie completely. In the already packed 2 hours of Blade Runner, I understand we can’t both have this Cyberpunk detective story and a gripping tale about an AI realizing it’s an AI. That might not even make for a great movie, but I think it’s a movie I prefer rather than an uninteresting detective story set in an interesting world. Does that make sense? The world of Blade Runner and the crisis that Rachael and the renegade Replicants face is very interesting, but watching Deckard track them down… isn’t. It’s a means to an end of getting to that philosophical stuff. Since it’s just a means to an end… we could hypothetically trim that down and see “more of that.” By the way, since the unicorn dream sequence doesn’t exist in the theatrical version, the idea that Deckard is a Replicant never really came to pass, even though I was waiting and waiting for that shoe to drop.

Also, No Means No

I’m sure somebody’s going to think that I can’t have fun or I’m not thinking out Deckard’s state of mind here… but Deckard forcing himself on Rachael was weird. He kisses her, she tries to leave his apartment, he forces her to stay, and “teaches” her to enjoy physical contact? That’s the implication at least but noooo. It makes Deckard feel like a creep, why does he just assume Rachael, being a Replicant, can’t decide on her own that she does not want any part of this kissing? Rachael is established as having emotional responses, valid emotional responses, so I’m just not sure why Ridley Scott, who has a pretty good track record with his female characters, had to have her “transformed” in this way. I suppose, maybe, if Deckard is a Replicant and you think of this scene as the one where he discovers emotions… ah I don’t know. No matter what, this scene just felt weird =Strike #3. 

Still, all of those strikes basically amount to me enjoying the movie a little bit less. I’d give Blade Runner a 4/5 as a movie, and like… a 2/5 on the feminist scale of 5 being “most feminist,” and 1 being “not feminist at all.”

 

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