Thursday, January 21, 2010

#97: Blade Runner

(Note: I've been away for a while due to school, work, the holidays and a ridiculous amount of other factors, but am working on getting back on track starting right now, so bear with me.)

A few years ago, I sat down to watch Ridley Scott's popular sci-fi film, Blade Runner, and after 30 minutes or so, I turned it off. I was bored, as was my father who was watching it with me. Today, after watching the whole thing through, my perception of it has gone up (there's something called a story that I never got around to the first time), but truth be told, I was still relatively bored. Everybody has a few of those critically lauded films that they don't like. Blade Runner is one of mine.

Now, there are about 136 versions of Blade Runner available and I can only assume that the one on the AFI Top 100 list is the theatrical version. However, I only had access to the Director's Cut, though from what I hear the difference in quality is minimal and this cut was what the film was supposed to be in the first place, so take with that what you will.

The film is set not too far off from present day, 2019, where a handful of replicants, biologically engineered human-like beings that work on other planets, have trekked down to Earth. Doing this is against the law and people known as Blade Runners find them and kill them, though they don't call this a "death." They call it a "retirement." Harrison Ford plays Deckard and he is tasked with tracking down the replicants after one murders another Blade Runner.

Ridley Scott is a masterful director. There's no doubting that. His impressive resume shows films like Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, American Gangster and his other sci-fi epic, Alien. But when comparing the latter film with Blade Runner, I can't help but find myself leaning enthusiastically toward Alien, which is one of my favorite films of all time. In my opinion, Blade Runner lacked the excitement and tension that Alien had. It moved at a snail's pace featuring a ton of exposition about a story I cared little about. The last 30 minutes is the exception to the rule. It was exciting and it kept my heart rate up, even if it did take a few liberties with time and space.

I don't know what else to say really. When I look at this and Alien side by side, two of the most critically acclaimed science fiction films of all time, I find myself wondering why it's so popular. Its futuristic setting now looks relatively modern (digital ads on roadway signs is commonplace now) and it shows its age. Alien, on the other hand, is still as riveting as it always was and its futuristic setting is still just as wondrous and unique. If you ask me, the alien design far exceeds anything that what was accomplished in Blade Runner. Is it a bad movie? No, of course not, but it's not one I'll be returning to anytime soon.

-Joshua Hylton

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