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Laramie Movie Scope:
Blade Runner (Director's Cut)

A visually stunning, but emotionally empty sci-fi classic

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 24, 1992, updated March 5, 2009 -- A special director's cut of ``Blade Runner'' had two special showings in Laramie last weekend, a bonus film in the Fall Film Series at the Wyo Theatre.

This is a very flashy film, and the director's cut (the director is Ridley Scott, who also directed ``Thelma and Louise'') looks even better than the original release that came out 10 years ago.

The original version ran 118 minutes, while the videocassette version runs 123 minutes. The director's cut seems to run longer than the original version and there did seem to be additional scenes compared to the original. In all, it seems a bit smoother and more coherent than the original version.

So why wasn't it released this way originally? It is a major studio release and major Hollywood studios are more interested in making money than maintaining the artistic integrity of a film. A movie that is more than two hours long can't be shown as many times in a day as one which is only an hour and a half long.

A filmmaker who wants to make a three-hour movie, such as Spike Lee's ``Malcolm X'' has to do a great job of selling to get such a film financed.

The re-issue of ``Lawrence of Arabia,'' for instance, was essentially a director's cut. In some cases, a director's cut may be shorter, not longer than the original, if he considers some scenes superfluous.

I've always felt that ``Blade Runner'' is a film long on production design, art direction, set design and atmosphere and short on character development. The main characters are murderous with no particular sense of morality. Some of the other characters are merely annoying, while most of the others are forgettable.

The film was one of the first modern sci-fi films (the first was the old silent classic "Metropolis") to depict a future in which everything is dirty, depressing, polluted and hopeless. Now most science fiction films, with the notable exception of the Star Trek series, shows a depressing view of the future. ``Blade Runner'' does a good job of showing a future utterly devoid of hope, but it is rather depressing.

While the film is visually stunning, there are almost no characters for the audience to identify with or sympathize with. They are mostly cold and detached. I found myself not caring about how the story was going to come out. The romance in the film doesn't work. Maybe it would have with better actors. Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer are the lead actors in the film. They look good, but they are not really good enough actors to carry a film like this. Ford is a likeable guy, but he's not got much emotional range. Some people think this is the greatest film ever made. I guess it is if style is all important and substance is not a priority.

The film rates a B, at least the final cut does.

Update, March 5, 2009. I saw the “Final Cut” of Blade Runner last night. The picture and sound are upgraded in this latest of more than half a dozen versions of this film extant. It looks and sounds great. My problems with the film remain. No emotional depth, it is just flat. The romance doesn't work. For a movie with a central theme of what it means to be human, a lot more human feeling would have helped. The production design by Lawrence G. Paull and art direction by David L. Snyder, however, are wonderful. That is the real strength of this film. It occurs to me that I have the same problem with this film as I do with most of Stanley Kubrick's films, and this film does remind me of a Kubrick film. Another random note. This view of the future is missing mobile phones and smart phones in particular, which make it seem quite out of date these days. A smart phone would have made Deckard's investigation a lot easier.

Spoiler section below

Just in case you've been living in a cave and have missed the whole debate over whether or not Deckard himself is a replicant, this has been settled by Ridley Scott, who says Deckard is a replicant. I watched the movie last night with this in mind. There are indeed some hints, unicorns and such, that Deckard is a replicant. However, he sure doesn't look or act like one. He doesn't have those weird, glowing replicant eyes, for instance. As a replicant designed to hunt other replicants, Deckard should be at the very least be a physical match in terms of speed and strength with the replicants he pursues. Instead, he gets the crap kicked out of him everytime he goes up against a replicant without his gun, even the replicants not designed for combat. This makes no sense at all. Also Deckard is not a replicant in the 1968 novel on which the film is based, Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” I think the movie cheats in using the tricks it does to hide Deckard's replicant nature. On the other hand, if the main characters are all replicants, this explains the lack of human feeling in the movie and the rather cold, emotionless acting style that permeates this film. That excuse still doesn't make this film appealing emotionally.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)