What to Watch
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was first released in 1982, but the version to watch is the ‘Final Cut’ released in 2007. There are seven versions of this movie with the ‘Final Cut’ being the only one over which the director had complete artistic control. Avoid all other versions, settle back and watch this movie because it is quite magnificent.
The movie opens over a darkened city landscape, lit intermittently by bellowing flames. This sets the scene for an equally dark examination of human existence. Some may find the movie’s pace to be slow but I prefer to think of it as contemplative. It is after all, exploring what it means to be human.
Harrison Ford plays Deckard – a blade runner, whose main purpose is to track down, identify and then ‘retire’ replicants. Replicants are bioengineered androids, who are virtually identical to humans. The team Deckard is pursuing are Nexus-6 models – version numbers are important here! They have been manufactured with a 4 year lifespan and don’t seem too happy about it.
Ford, having just completed the second Star Wars and the first Indiana Jones movies when this was made, is on a pretty good run here. The scene though, is well and truly stolen by Rutger Hauer. Hauer plays replicant leader Roy Batty with a charismatic and menacing physicality. Roy’s final rain-drenched monologue, beautifully climaxes what is already a superb movie. I should also mention the wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack by Vangelis.
In the course of the movie, Deckard develops an attraction to Rachael – a Nexus-7 model replicant which forms the link to our next movie.
My only hesitation in recommending Blade Runner 2049 as a companion piece, is that it forms a bit of a marathon. At a running time of 2 hours 44 minutes when added to its prequel means setting aside close to 5 hours – but it is 5 hours well spent! Really!!
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who firmly established his credentials with the excellent Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016). This helps as he takes on quite a sizeable task in creating a sequel to such an iconic movie. He is also fortunate to have Hampton Fancher writing the screenplay, reprising the role he had for Blade Runner. They take up the story 30 years later.
Just to help set the scene – let’s make sense of all those version numbers! This movie involves Nexus-8 replicants (a series up from Rachael), that have been mass produced by the Tyrell Corporation. A rogue set of these replicants, detonated a nuclear bomb creating an EMP pulse that destroyed most electronic records about replicants – referred to as ‘The Blackout’. Since then, a more ‘controllable’ version of replicants – Nexus-9, has been developed by Niander Wallace.
We are introduced into this world by ‘K’, played by Ryan Gosling, a Nexus-9 replicant who also happens to be a blade runner. He has Deckhard’s old job of tracking down and ‘retiring’ rogue Nexus-8 replicants. He is sometimes assisted by ‘Luv’ another Nexus-9, who brings a bit of Roy Batty’s physicality to this movie. And so the story and the examination of humanity’s dark soul continues …
Villeneuve manages to bring the same contemplative mood and pace to this sequel. Interesting that he differs in opinion from Ridley Scott as to the nature of Deckard – the one still unanswered question: Is he a replicant? It’s up to you to decide!
If you that are fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune and have quietly despaired at the on-going legacy of the David Lynch movie, you may be excited to learn that Villeneuve is currently developing his take on the science-fiction classic. A much loved book in the hands of such a great movie maker provides much to anticipate.