BLADE RUNNER (1982)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence and brief Nudity

BladeRunner poster

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written by: Hampton Fancher & David Peoples

(based on the novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by Philip K. Dick)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Brian James, Daryl Hannah & M. Emmet Walsh

Besides bringing arguably the most terrifying alien movie to the screen, director Ridley Scott also made a significant mark in the science fiction genre with BLADE RUNNER! This film polarized critics upon its release and underperformed at the box office, but has since gone on to become a cult hit with a large fanbase and modern critics praising it to the heavens. Believe the hype. BLADE RUNNER is not only one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, it’s also one of the best films of all time. Combining noir and science fiction into one wholly original and unforgettable combination, BLADE RUNNER is absolutely phenomenal.

BladeRunner 1

In the distant future of 2019, earth has become an industrial dystopia with off-world colonies. These colonies employ replicants, bioengineered beings who function as superhuman slaves. When four dangerous replicants make their way back to Los Angeles and begin a bloody quest to find their maker, retired cop Rick Deckard is pushed back into duty. You see, Deckard specialized in being a Blade Runner (someone who tracks down and kills replicants), so he’s the perfect man for the job. However, these four replicants are more human and dangerous than he expected. Decker also begins to discover that not everything is black and white.

BladeRunner 2

BLADE RUNNER is a special movie in that on paper it sounds like an extremely simple story: a guy with a gun chases down four robots. That’s merely skimming the surface of how deep this movie goes though. The world that Ridley Scott introduces us to is simply amazing to behold. It has since been mimicked in plenty of other films, TV shows, and video games, but this is definitely where the neon-lit mechanical future first came into play. The movie doesn’t waste any screen time in filling us in on exposition about this future, but rather introduces pieces of technology and new information in a natural flow that never distracts from the story at hand. Though I watched “The Final Cut” of this movie (Ridley Scott’s full vision of the story), I have to imagine that not too much was digitally altered (after all, Scott is not George Lucas) as this movie utilized a lot of wild effects and screen tricks that still hold up perfectly to this day.

BladeRunner 3

Besides the amazing on-screen world, this movie has lots of suspense and borders on becoming an outright horror film during a number of sequences. Though it was mis-marketed as an action thrill-ride and has the basic set-up of a sci-fi flick, BLADE RUNNER cannot be fully classified under either of those genres. When you consider its use of noir elements and the probing questions it asks, the film becomes the cinematic masterpiece that has held up over the test of time. The villains in BLADE RUNNER aren’t simply killer robots piling bodies up every which way they go, but instead, come complete with emotions and interesting (as well as understandable) motivations behind their violent actions. They become outright tragic figures of sorts by the end and that makes them more than just one-dimensional baddies. Thus, these four replicants (the two biggest stand-outs being a frightening Rutger Hauer and victim-turned-villainess Daryl Hannah) become some of the most interesting and compelling antagonists in science-fiction film history.

BladeRunner 4

By praising these replicants, I’m not trying to take anything away from troubled protagonist Rick Decker. This man is ostensibly a noir protagonist placed in a futuristic, neon landscape. Harrison Ford plays Decker unlike any of the other roles that I’ve seen him play. Instead of being a wise-cracking rogue (ala Han Solo) or a charismatic action-hero (ala Indiana Jones), Decker comes off like a depressed cop who doesn’t necessarily like what he’s doing…but remains good at it nonetheless. Alongside Ford’s Decker is the smoking dame Rachael (Sean Young) who initially seems like a throwaway side character, but becomes a far more important player as the movie goes along. The connection between Decker and Rachael also makes for a perfect, poetic conclusion that left me wanting more (I mean that in the best possible way).

BladeRunner 5

BLADE RUNNER is a masterpiece of science-fiction, noir, and film in general. The special effects hold up decades later in bringing to life one of the most beautiful and well-designed futuristic landscapes to ever hit the big screen. The world this movie throws the viewer into is so fleshed-out and interesting that I would love to spend more time in it. The complex characters and smart writing make an otherwise simple-sounding story into something profound and emotionally moving. BLADE RUNNER is as perfect as cinema can be. This is one of my all-time favorite films!

Grade: A+

A SCANNER DARKLY (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Drug and Sexual Content, Language and a brief Violent Image

SD poster

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Written by: Richard Linklater

(based on the novel A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane

I remember seeing the commercials for A SCANNER DARKLY when it was coming out. It looked to be a trippy sci-fi story with an unusual animation style being applied to it. The film was shot live action and then animated over by a group of various artists. The source material is the acclaimed novel of the same name from famed science-fiction author Philip K. Dick. Sadly, A SCANNER DARKLY is a textbook case of style over substance. The visuals are very cool, but the story being told might have benefitted from a real world approach with a more engaging screenplay. There’s a kernel of an awesome, brooding tale lying within the movie, but it’s undercooked.

MCDASCD EC016

Set seven years in the future, a super addictive toxic pill known as Substance D has turned 20% of America’s population into addicts. One group of law enforcement is working to win this escalating war on drugs and an undercover officer named Bob Arctor is in the middle of a secret operation. He’s living as a tweaker with a group of Substance D users in order to fry some big fish that they might be linked to a few of his friends. In order to keep his identity a secret, he roams around his office environment in a specialized suit (known as a Scrambler) that keeps his identity a secret to his fellow agents. After some unexpected evidence comes in from one of Bob’s friends (also donning a Scrambler), he finds himself investigating himself. Things get stranger as the side effects of Substance D (which Bob has become hooked on to keep up appearances) is having nasty side effects on his brain. As the film’s tagline states: Everything is not going to be OK.

MCDASCD EC010

The ideas behind A SCANNER DARKLY are good ones. I have admittedly never read a novel by Philip K. Dick, but the man seems to have great premises that are most described by fans as hardly ever getting a proper treatment onto film. This piece of unusual animated visual art is a prime example of a concept not reaching its full potential. I did appreciate that the animation on display has a bizarre disorienting effect that puts the viewer into the same unhinged mental state as the junkie characters. The artwork is a neat gimmick, but ultimately the movie should rely on more than just the unique visual process that it went through (taking a production time of over a full year to complete). The script begins with a promising set-up and then wanders without point or purpose for about two-thirds of the run time before concluding on a creative note that echoed a certain 70’s dystopian film (to give a specific title would be a spoiler).

MCDASCD EC041

This admittedly cool conclusion did work in the film’s favor, but it also left me completely unsatisfied that nearly everything else in the storyline was tedious and damn near pointless. The movie plays out like a living graphic novel and there were a few instances (involving some weird hallucinations) that couldn’t have been replicated nearly as well in a live-action format. Besides four brief surreal moments, I can’t think of a single reason why A SCANNER DARKLY was executed in this oddball animated style. It’s a talking heads story done in an experimental fashion and the talking heads don’t have nearly enough remarkable or interesting things to say.

MCDASCD EC002

As far as the cast goes, Rory Cochrane and Robert Downey Jr. were the two stand-outs. Cochrane’s character ultimately winds up (like so many other plot points in this film) being useless, but I got a solid laugh out of the fate of his storyline. Robert Downey Jr. seems to be having fun as a philosophy-waxing junkie that keeps you on your toes. You never quite know what to expect from his character, especially as the film comes to the conclusion. Everybody else is either underused or just plain bland. Woody Harrelson is another worthless character that provides some cheap comic relief and contributes nothing else. Winona Ryder is hugely underused as Bob’s girlfriend and then there’s the man playing our protagonist: Bob. This would be Keanu Reeves. Reeves has become widely reviled for not having much of an acting range and he’s just as wooden here. It’s not aggravating to watch, but I feel that almost any other notable actor could have gotten real emotional responses out of me in what little journey this character takes.

MCDASCD EC043

A SCANNER DARKLY has been a polarizing film since its small release. People either love it or absolutely hate it. I’m stuck in the middle of the road. I enjoyed watching it on a purely visual level, but I’d never subject myself to it again. It’s a beautiful, hollow experience. Pure spectacle around a subject matter that really doesn’t lend itself to spectacle. I enjoyed some aspects about it, but it ultimately suffers from many pointless scenes that play out like filler and an underdeveloped story (which might be attributed to the fault of Philip K. Dick himself). The tagline states that “Everything is not going to be OK.” Sadly that also applies to this movie which is underwhelming to say the least and mediocre to say the most.

Grade: C

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑