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Blade Runner (1982)

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That is great. I am still partial to 2001, and I am suprised scientists don't agree. That film pretty much is the religious experience of what it is that drives modern science. I wish there was more commentary somewhere from the people they polled on why they chose Blade Runner.

And to think that Dick hated the idea of the film in the first place.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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That was too easy... 13 out of 13. Although, technically the answer for #13 should be a police spinner... ooops, was that a spoiler?


Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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13 of 13. I hesitated with the apartment number, but reworked the elevator scene in my head and it fell into place. smile.gif


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Didn't think it oughta rank first time around, but it made the cut. Rewatched it tonight, I can see the quasi-religious themes, but... Top Hundred Most Spiritually Significant Films? Can't see it, myself. Anybody?

(Here is the rough block of a first draft blurb I put down when the movie ended)

Straightforward story about a futuristic bounty hunter who must track down and destroy four escaped replicants


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Quick question. The credits thank Burroughs and Nourse for the use of the name. Where's "blade runner" come from as a moniker for a bounty hunter? Is it clarified within the film at all? How/where did Burroughs and Nourse use it?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Here is the Burroughs screenplay adapting the book The Bladerunner by Allen Nourse from which comes the title for the film in question. The final screenplay editor encountered Nourse's book close to the completion of the script and apparently Ridley Scott thought that "Blade Runner" would just be a cool code name for what Deckard does. Otherwise, there is no connection.

"More atmosphere and style than story or (I think) substance"

I have always thought Blade Runner to be sci-fi storytelling in full-tilt, so I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this one. This is one of Dick's better long works, coming from almost right in the middle of one of his more fertile soft sci-fi stages. Scott seems to nail Dick's vision really well. A lot of critics share your opinion however. It really is startling to come across such a meditative American film as this, it is hard to know what to make of it.

"There's some Frankenstein-esque business about replicants meeting their maker, which I suppose shows that humans who tinker with the godlike business of creating life make of themselves nothing but false gods."

I can see your point here, but it may be more Fukuyama than Frankenstein. (Or maybe even Hayles.) In the past it was difficult to think of bioethical issues in theological terms, but those tides are changing and I bet we could react spiritually to films like Blade Runner now the same way we could to things like Blue or The Apostle when those films came out.

"Something else about one of the replicants showing compassion, and thus becoming I suppose a mad Christ figure

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I'm absolutely with Leary on this one; Blade Runner is not only the best post-2001 American science fiction film, the one most closely linked to the ideas in SF literature in its extrapolation of today in vivid and thoughtful terms, but also one of my all-time favorite films. Further, if you do a Google search for "Blade Runner" and "religion," you come across an astounding variety of pages that explicitly link the two, including this essay (floating around the Internet since the early-'90s and one of first film & spirituality articles on the 'Net), this one (from the journal Film-Literature Quarterly), and this schematic from the ever-user Wikipedia encyclopedia. In fact, I haven't read a serious study of the film that doesn't allude to its redemptive themes in general or its Christian symbolism in specific.

Also, a clarification: "high concept" means it's a simple concept (think story pitches), ie, a premise that is easily encapsulated (orphan farm boy meets mystic and avenges father by destroying millions of people on a space station); "low concept" is an approach that is much more complex and difficult to summarize in a single sentence. Blade Runner is decidedly low concept, and its emphasis on theme over plot is, as Leary says, very unusual for an American film and has allowed it to shed spiritual/ethical light on all sorts of contemporary issues, including technology (genetics--great book links, (M)), the marginalized/oppressed of society (AIDS victims and women), and economics/advertising, just to name a few.

And I love the way the film completely inverts the traditional heroic slaughter. As you might know, one of the screenwriters was David Webb Peoples, who went on to write Unforgiven, and the two films contains many interesting parallels in their stories of retired and cynical gunslingers who have called upon to perform one last act of "justice." Blade Runner was made at the height of Ford's popularity and I have no doubt that the film's twisting of the typical policing paradigm that effectively makes him the bad guy to his morally superior victims by the film's end is one of the major factors in its initial box office rejection. (That and the fact that everyone wanted to watch sentimental tripe like E.T. that summer.)

Blade Runner sets the benchmark for serious cinematic science fiction, and it was thematically/artistically way ahead of its time. It's an astonishing genre film that is finally beginning to receive the accolades it deserves.

In the past it was difficult to think of bioethical issues in theological terms, but those tides are changing and I bet we could react spiritually to films like Blade Runner now the same way we could to things like Blue or The Apostle when those films came out.
Brilliant, (M). Edited by Doug C

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One more thing, while the film does indeed have its connections to Frankenstein (considered the first SF novel ever written), like that brilliant novel, the film is probably less concerned with the act of "playing God" than it is with the act of creative irresponsibility and abandonment. Frankenstein's monster and the replicants are abandoned children who simply want to belong. And a geeky connection between films: both Blade Runner and The Bride of Frankenstein cut to perched owls during respective killing scenes (as Scott does with the cat in Alien). I'm convinced it's an homage.

Edited by Doug C

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Blade Runner is decidedly low concept, and its emphasis on theme over plot is, as Leary says, very unusual for an American film and has allowed it to shed spiritual/ethical light on all sorts of contemporary issues, including technology (genetics--great book links, (M)), the marginalized/oppressed of society (AIDS victims and women), and economics/advertising, just to name a few.

For a couple of years, I ended my English 101 classes by asking my students to write a basic comparison/contrast essay that used two texts of their choosing from different media -- say, a film and a song, or a novel and an essay. To get them started I would show them Blade Runner and ask them to read essays on all kinds of subjects -- technology, the Cold War, colonialism, racism, gender issues, etc. Each day the students would walk into class asking, "Why did you ask us to read this?" Then, after discussing the essay and the film for an hour, they would get it, and they'd also have a better appreciation of the film.

I'm a huge fan of Blade Runner, so take this all with a grain of salt, but I think it's really a remarkable and almost perfectly-harmonic mix of style and content. I still can't believe it was made in an American studio in the early-1980s.

Edited by Darren H

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Ahem.

Link to 'Phillip K. Dick stories, films' thread.

Ron wrote:

: P.S. Note to thread cops: there are a couple BLADE RUNNER related threads, but

: nothing directly tackling the film itself, at least not with respect to its A&F 100 status.

I don't think we need separate threads just to discuss A&F 100 status -- and if we do, those threads should probably be in the A&F forum.

Plus, of course, links are always helpful. smile.gif

FWIW, I've never seen what the big deal is with this film. Like you, Ron, it seems more like an exercise in style than in substance -- I found it "boring", but not "challenging", to coin a phrase. Admittedly, it's been nine-and-a-half years since the last time I saw it, but it's never made much of an impression on me.

And I like Harrison Ford's complaint that he "played a detective who did no detecting."


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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For a couple of years, I ended my English 101 classes by asking my students to write a basic comparison/contrast essay that used two texts of their choosing from different media -- say, a film and a song, or a novel and an essay.
Edited by Doug C

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Doug C wrote:

: But people expecting a Harrison Ford Sci-Fi Action Movie will always be disappointed . . .

Heck, I'd be satisfied with a decent Harrison Ford Detective-Who-Does-Detecting Movie. smile.gif

: But perhaps the film's greatest critic is its producer, Jerry Perenchio (one of Forbes'

: 100 richest men in America), who remembers it as a temporary blemish on the

: formation of his multibillion dollar Univision media empire. In fact, he hates the film

: and its director so much that he refuses to allow Warner Brothers to issue a definitive

: cut with supplements as a special edition DVD today.

Wow, interesting. And he isn't interested in selling the property to anyone else, I suppose?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And he isn't interested in selling the property to anyone else, I suppose?

He wants to punish/frustrate Ridley Scott, suppress the film, and literally doesn't care how much money he might make off it. When your personal net worth is over $3 billion, a licencing deail for a cult film isn't even on the radar.

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Blade Runner undermines the conventions of the genre so well that it was the victim of its own success.  The name, the poster, the star...it all promised action and excitement.  People expecting a Harrison Ford Sci-Fi Action Movie will always be disappointed, as most critics were in 1982.  But over the years, repeated viewings on video (and Criterion's special edition laserdisc) allowed viewers to set aside their preconceptions and recognize the gem that's there.  By the time the so-called "Director's Cut" was released in 1992, it was ripe for reappraisal as a modern classic....

I've always been interested in the way this film shifted in esteem, and wonder how quickly that re-appraisal set in. In my memory it's seemed that it started gaining momentum just as soon as it fell out of the first run theatres (where it wasn't measuring up to audience expectations set in place by the advertising you mention) and showed up in the revival houses, where folks actually prefer movies that don't fulfill every genre expectation. Then VHS, then laserdisk, then Directors' cut, and somewhere along that evolutionary ladder the film had evolved into a classic.

The novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" got referenced. I read that back in high school or undergrad. Don't know if I knew of the connection when I saw the movie or not. But when I did find out, it struck me the film was a pretty radical departure. Picked up a number of the given circumstances of the novel (the technological/social structure of its created world) but spun completely its own story within that world. Not too much later I read (and fell in love with) William Gibson's "Sprawl" stories, and feel that (apart from the cyberspace element that's so central), BLADE RUNNER has immense affinities to that world. I note that the Gibson short stories that inaugurated that "high tech low life" world (collected in Burning Chrome) are dated 1981-1985, and wonder if either Gibson or BLADE RUNNER influenced the other, or if it was just something "in the air" at that historical moment. (Certainly those are the elements of BLADE RUNNER that work the best for me, as well as the evocations of that Raymond Chandler world: strikes me that Marlowe does rather less detecting - or at least, successful detecting - than many other detectives, as well. Chandler is far more about mood, language, place, the states of human souls.)

*

Speaking of the Director's Cut, anybody got any comments? It's been years since I saw The Other Guy Who Isn't The Director's Cut, and the two differences I noticed were that the voice-over had been removed (a shame: I'm a sucker for that first-person hard-boiled stuff, which seems as if it would be in keeping with the Chandler-esque settings and tone) and the ending had been changed:

the theatrical original has the bounty hunter and the dark-haired replicant flying away to "the north," didn't it? True Love hoping it could escape the environment that doomed it, rather than the Director's Cut version that emphasizes True Love holding on even faced with the inevitability of death.

*

And thanks for those links, Doug. I'll give them a look later in the day, once my slate of errands has been completed.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I have never seen the original theatrical version.

In the late '80s, I saw the film on VHS, but that version had five minutes of extra footage -- much of it extra gore, IIRC -- that was not in the theatrical version. I believe all five minutes were removed from the "director's cut" and have not been seen since.

I believe I read somewhere that the ending to the theatrical/extended-VHS version was made with leftover footage from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but don't quote me on that.

The "director's cut" has at least one shot that was filmed AFTER the movie came out in theatres, no? I am thinking of the unicorn shot, which IIRC was taken from Ridley Scott's later film Legend. If that shot was indeed taken from a LATER movie, then I am reluctant to regard the "director's cut" as definitive.

kenmorefield wrote:

: There was a part of me that had (and still has) a kneejerk reaction against "director's

: cut" movies. I tended to see them as a cynical way of making money by adding stuff

: that was superfluous or irrelevant. For example I think the original theatrical release of

: The Exorcist superior to the inappropriately named Version I Have Never Seen Before,

: and keep the older DVD for that reason.

Huh. I liked most of the reinstated footage -- especially the conversation between the two priests -- if only because it made the film even truer to the book. And FWIW, I believe the extended version was considered a "writer's cut", not a "director's cut".


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It's cool that you've read some Dick and Gibson, Ron. PKD was fond of the film's preproduction design but he died shortly before it was finished. It's a departure for sure, but I don't know how radical; it definitely sticks to the novel's basic premise and themes. The book was set in an underpopulated city, the film is set in an overpulated Los Angeles. Blade Runner has much more of a sense of commerical overload (in that sense, it has more affinities with Pohl and Kornbluth's SF masterpiece, The Space Merchants) and its "future noir" aspects crystallized an aesthetic begun in Godard's Alphaville that continues to be mined by SF filmmakers.

As the story goes, Gibson did see Blade Runner while he was working on his first novel, Neuromancer, and ran out of the theatre midway through the film because it so closely matched what he was imagining at the time.

One of the things that made The Matrix seem so stale to me when I saw it was having read Gibson's works ten years earlier (and I came to Gibson late). The ideas in it were hardly "new."

The Director's Cut is a funny story. Ridley Scott and company screened a work print (not quite finalized sound and effects) just before release and the audiences hated it, so Warner quickly made a bunch of changes to the film, the two major ones being the voice-over (which, as Ken remembers correctly, Ford intentionally performed flatly) and the "happy ending" culled from helicopter outtakes from The Shining.

In 1992, the Nuart theatre here in Santa Monica (where I see a lot of first-run art films) programmed Blade Runner and the print that was sent to them happened to be the original workprint that Ridley Scott had test screened, and all the Blade Runner fans who attended the revival were amazed with it--and as word spread, began lining up down the street for each subsequent showing.

In typical studiothink, Warners suddenly felt they had to "act fast" and capitalize on the "new found" love of the film (which had been brewing for ten years), and asked Scott to do a Director's Cut. He was working on another film at the time, though, and said it would have to wait, Warner insisted it had to happen immediately, so Scott said if they dropped the ending, reinstated the unicorn footage he filmed in 1981, and dropped the voiceover, he'd allow them to call it a "Director's Cut," which they did. But it was definitely a rush job and not a complete restoration of his original cut.

The "director's cut" has at least one shot that was filmed AFTER the movie came out in theatres, no? I am thinking of the unicorn shot, which IIRC was taken from Ridley Scott's later film Legend. If that shot was indeed taken from a LATER movie, then I am reluctant to regard the "director's cut" as definitive
Not at all, the unicorn footage was shot for Blade Runner and was cut after the test screenings. The unicorns in Legend were something else entirely. Edited by Doug C

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"Something else about one of the replicants showing compassion, and thus becoming I suppose a mad Christ figure
Edited by Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Hi Ron:

Quick correction:

In the case of 2001, I definitely don't think so.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron wrote:

: In the back of my mind is the ideat that Tarkovsky disliked 2001 - any substance to that?

I think this was addressed in the Solaris thread (or one of its predecessors).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I perceive this as a movie that's driven by philosophical concept (the nature of humanity, bioethical conundra, etc), and there are people for whom that provides spiritual interest / significance.  Not so much for me.
Not sure I understand your distinction, but I guess to each his or her own when it comes to finding a film "spiritual" or not.

Haven't seen STALKER yet, but it's on the bench, waiting for its turn at bat.  In the back of my mind is the ideat that Tarkovsky disliked 2001 - any substance to that?
Yeah, he hated it. With Solaris, he hoped to provide a film about meeting extra-terrestrial intelligence while at the same time de-emphasizing the space travel and technology and emphasizing the beauty, humanity, and accomplishments of Earth.

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