Blade Runner: The Slow Burn of a Cult Classic

In Film and Television by Critical Eye

‘More human than a human is our motto’ Dr. Eldon Tyrell

It would be fair to say that Blade Runner could be considered a slow burn in movie land. Regarded as a disappointment, moreover, a complete disaster on its release in 1982, with very few people fully understanding its overall premise. However, against the odds it has since gained cult status in the intervening years.

Ridley Scott, renowned for creating grand visual extravaganzas, depicted this ominous and stark vision of the future. Set in 2019, in a bustling and over-crowded Los Angeles, much emulated in The Fifth Element, another Sci-Fi fantasy, and inspired by Kowloon, an urban area of Hong Kong, once one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Dustin Hoffman was ear-marked for the part of Rick Deckard, the world-weary ex-cop or Blade Runner, but after turning down the role, Harrison Ford was then approached. Ford was now hot-property in Hollywood on the back of his success with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and fit the role seamlessly.

The plot sees four escaped Replicants, a Nexus 6 series of bioengineered humans, virtually identical to humans but with superior capabilities, and having violently made their escape from an Off-world colony have now returned to Earth. When Deckard’s opposite number Holden is gunned down while carrying out a Voight-Kampff test, a test designed to identify Replicants using a series of questions that illicit certain emotional responses, Deckard, previously a top Blade Runner, officers whose specific duty is to kill Replicants, is then forced by his ex-boss Bryant, played by M. Emmet Walsh, to hunt them down.

Rutger Hauer is Roy Batty, the leader of the group, a highly intelligent and violent killer, bringing his own blend of menace to the role, as would later be witnessed in Hitcher some years later. He and his associates are determined to amend their 4-year life span programming, which prevents them developing human-like emotions such as love, hate, jealousy and so on, the longer they live, and therefore, becoming a potential problem for humans. At times it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for their plight, perhaps encapsulated by the ‘Tears in Rain speech’ spoken by Hauer, but perhaps not the unethical methods they adopt in the process.

Rachael Sean Young Blade Runner

Sean Young plays Rachael, a Replicant, in director Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi epic

Sean Young played a pivotal role as Rachael, herself a Replicant who is completely unaware of her true origin, and later becomes Deckard’s love interest, a fact further playing on his conscience given his Blade Runner status.

Daryl Hannah was also memorable as Pris another Replicant in the film with outstanding physical abilities, presenting further challenges for Deckard.

Greek Composer Vangelis provided the mood music, by now so adept at haunting film scores, that helped to build the atmosphere of this imagined world, and so many other films of that era, most famously for Chariots of Fire.

Ridley Scott has gone on record in recent years stating Deckard was actually a Replicant all along. Given that the viewer is devoid of any genuine sense that he would be one, hitherto lacking the physical attributes and talents of the actual Replicants of the film, smacks more of an after thought, and perhaps underlines the erratic nature of the production which it has received much criticism for.

Despite this, Blade Runner remains one of those rare breeds that has improved with age, when the initial impact is not felt for some years and is appreciated in retrospect, to become a true science fiction classic.