Cotton Reviews Blade Runner (1982)

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This review is for the Final Cut version of the film

What does it mean to be human? Can we definitively define what humanity is? If a machine can produce memories, become self-aware, fight for its survival, and produce memories, can we say that they aren’t human? Those are some of the questions which are tackled in Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi masterpiece Blade Runner.

Blade Runner is a film which is often misunderstood. This is not an action-packed epic that it was originally marketed as. Some could even say that it is a film which is to be respected, but not necessarily enjoyed. I disagree with that sentiment. There is a lot to enjoy about this film, but it requires more of the viewer than most Hollywood films ask of them. With each subsequent viewing, the questions and themes presented have grown on me, and I can tell you that I love Blade Runner. It might be my all-time favorite film.

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The film’s story concerns the creation of androids called Replicants. Replicants look human and are indistinguishable from the naked eye. They are given a four year life span and used as slave labor on off-world colonies. When the Replicants started to become self-aware and rebellious, special police units called “Blade Runners” were tasked with seeking out and assassinating them. When four dangerous Replicants stage a bloody coup on one of these colonies and escape to Earth, Deckard (Harrison Ford), the best of the old blade runners, is called out of retirement to track them down.

What follows is a multi-layered Sci-Fi/ Noir detective hybrid which, along with the novel Nueromancer, is credited with creating a subgenre of Sci-Fi, Cyberpunk. What distinguishes this film is the concept of “high tech, but low life”. Everywhere in the film there are bright lights, computer generated billboards, and huge blimps with large screens serving as advertisements. Meanwhile, down on the street, there is physical, moral, and societal decay.

This is a complex film which asks more questions than it answers (at least, in the Final Cut, by far the best version). What begins as an easy determination of what is a human and what is a machine becomes muddied. The four replicants are at first shown as evil, but the longer the film goes, we learn what they are really after, and the questions of what is a human and what is humanity start to come about. Be warned, this is not an action-packed film, as it was advertised, this is a slow paced, intricate, and philosophically rich story.

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At the end of the day, this is a film about life. We all build memories and accomplishments, but these are all temporary and fleeting. Once we leave this Earth, our thoughts, memories, accomplishments, and everything that we are goes with us. When we reach the end some of us will accept it, others of us will take any measure to extend our lives, and still others will go to our creators and beg for more life. But, when it is all said and done, it is all lost in time…like tears in rain.

Grade: A+

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