Why Blade Runner is not a good movie

In my review of Blade Runner 2049, I have mentioned that I was not a fan of the original movie released in 1982, that most people, whether they are in the movie business or are a more than casual film viewer, find to be a cinema masterpiece. In theory, I should be among their ranks. This is a sci-fi film, a genre which I love, it was conceived to be taken seriously, it is visionary in its design and concept. Also, it is directed by Ridley Scott, who is one of the all-time sci-fi masters in the movie business. I really appreciate his approach towards filmmaking, his preference to use actual, real life sets instead of computer generated green screen effects, to actually film as much as possible out what we, the audience, will end up seeing on the viewing screens. His body of work is exemplary, and he can claim 2 milestone movies out of the sci-fi film history, Alien and Blade Runner. Yet, despite all the odds, I never could get behind Blade Runner. By now I must have seen it at least 5 times and it always felt bloody boring. Yes, sure, the world building in the movie was fascinating, the score was amazing and the base concept was a killer. But in the end, I was just like: meh…

Now, the purpose of this article is not to review the film, not 100% anyway, so I will not go in all the aspects of the film. That was covered numerous times by people far more qualified than me. The purpose is for me to highlight all the reasons why I think that Blade Runner is a dud. To be fair, I must specify, that I will be talking about the final cut of the movie and not of the 4-5 other cuts that have come before this. I have chosen the final cut since the general consensus amongst fans and experts alike is that this is the version to watch. Also, there will be spoilers.

One of the unfortunate aspects of Ridley Scotts works is that, despite being an established director, he does not care that much about the script. To be more precise, he does not care to have an air tight script. He is more comfortable than others to shoot something with plot holes. So, regardless how good of a director he actually is, his final work will only be as ever good as the script, which brings us to Blade Runners massive handicap, the script. Now, since the last time I saw this movie was quite a while ago, I have re-watched it yesterday and I also took notes, which is a first for me.

The movie can be broken down on 3 story lines which unfold in parallel: Deckards hunt for the replicants, the replicants quests for more life, and the romantic interest between Deckard and Rachael. In my opinion, this last part is the weakest of the 3 and usually covers that part of the 2nd act where I check out of the movie. There is no chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Young. None. The entire thing feels forced. He is a grizzled, hard boiled cop and she is the posh, uptown damsel in distress. It is a noir movie cliché, which Blade Runner actually is, but the 2 actors mix as good as oil and water. It also does not help that Sean Young is dressed up and moves like a marionette. She always stands out like the thing that doesn’t belong with her hair due and clothes. Her appearance is more 19th century France than 21st century gritty Los Angeles. There is a love scene between the 2 characters in the 2nd act, but truth be told, it is initiated more like a rape than lovemaking. I cannot decide if this is due to the lack of chemistry between the leads, today’s optics and sensibility about this issue or maybe both. Also, it this this story line where we learn about memory implants and that Rachael is a prototype, the only replicant with this technology. Since she has nothing to do with the other replicants in the movie, and had to go through the Voight-Kampff test specifically because of this feature, I would say that this indicates, alongside the whole unicorn thing, that Deckard is also a replicant. If this is not so, then the entire machine test scene in the first act has no purpose and becomes a bigger plot hole that it already is, which will be covered later. To be fair, the nature of Deckard is never really resolved, not that it would make any of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

Probably the most consistent, solid story line in the movie is the quest of the replicants for more life. Roy, Leon and Pris are working their way up systematically until they reach Tyrell. They started out 6 but 2 of them already gave their life for the quest before the movie event started. The interesting thing is that the 4th replicant, Zhora, is an odd one out. We learn early on that she was trained to be part of a death squad, that she is deadly. And while the other 3 of her friends are being productive to reach their goals by getting employment in Tyrells company or gaining access to Tyrells inner circle, she just assumes the role of a dancer in some kind of saloon. It is never explained how that role would help her in gaining more life. And when she is tracked down by Deckard, her attempt to kill him is discouraged way to easily and runs away. All her actions are in opposition of her nature, of her backstory.

Finally, we get to the main story line, Deckards hunt for the replicants, which really, is as air tight as a slice of Swiss cheese. First we learn that 4 illegal replicants are loose in Los Angeles and needs to be “retired” before things get embarrassing. The sense of urgency is so strong that Deckard is forcibly pulled back from retirement.  He is showed the recording of how the blade runner before him is killed by Leon as well as the faces of the other 3. His is ordered to take out the 4 skin jobs but not before he conducts a Voight-Kampff over at Tyrell headquarters, on an unrelated replicant. Now, these tests are important since replicants are pretty much indistinguishable from normal human beings, so if the test works on a newer, more sophisticated model, it will work on the regular ones as well. Trouble is that: 1) in order to administrate the test, the subject must be compliant and answer a series of strange question while looking into a machine and we already saw how that goes down in the first 2 minutes of the movie, so it is safe to say that this course of action would not work; and 2) they know what the 4 replicants look like, so there is really no need for the test to begin with. Unless Deckard is a replicant as well, there is no good reason for Rachael’s test to happen. Tyrell could have been introduced some other way and the entire Rachael story line is pointless. But any way we cut it, that test in the 1st act is a plot hole, the only thing up for debate is just how big it is. Anyway, after that is done, Deckard and Gaff check out Leon’s apartment. This would have been the very first thing to do but came in second. In the apartment, they find some sort of scale and some pictures. Later in the movie, Deckard takes one of the pictures and processes it through a machine. With enough zooming in, he finds the image of Zhora in the reflection provided by a small mirror on the picture. This is considered to be a major breakthrough, although he already seen the picture of Zhora during his briefing. To be fair, here Zhora has a small tattoo on her face, but still, it is the same face. I can only deduce that Deckard is not that attentive on briefings. Also, kudos to Ridley for doing the CSI thing with the zooming in decades before CSI even would be aired. By tracking down the scale, Deckard arrives to a saloon, where he finds Zhora dancing on stage. We already covered how this makes no sense from Zhoras perspective. He chases Zhora a couple of blocks away from the saloon and kills her. Now, here comes a new plot hole. Before discovering Zhora on the stage, Deckard calls Rachael and invites her to the saloon but she turns him down. So, she knew where Deckard was. But just a short time later, when Deckard is standing over the corpse of Zhora, Rachael is standing in the crowd heartbroken. How did she knew where to be? Also, once Deckard sees her, she leaves. In a couple of moments later Deckard finds out that Rachael has become a wanted replicant because she went missing from Tyrell. Am I to understand that Tyrell would give the kill order over his prized replicant prototype just as she would walk out the front door? It would go against of Tyrells behavior that we have witnessed so far and also, this was not the first-time Rachael was in the city, she has visited Deckards home earlier. So, this just doesn’t make sense. But right after this whole thing, as soon as things cool down on the street, Leon attacks Deckard. They fight, Deckards gun is tossed somewhere in the busy street and just about as Leon would kill Deckard, he is shot by Rachael with Deckards gun. Now, I have 2 issues here. First, where was Rachael before? This fight takes place very close where Zhora was killed and from where she has walked out from, but still, time has passed and it is not THE same place. How did she know to be right there, right then? And second, how the hell did she find the gun? Was she watching Deckard from the shadows all along and came to the rescue as danger descended upon him? This would go against everything we know about Rachael, as we were showed twice that when Rachael walks out, she is gone. So, what gives?

Thankfully, the third act is rather solid and nothing sticks out like the examples above. Hopefully, I was able to argue my case that the script is weak, at best. I do not want to take away of the experience of others, but I am firmly convinced that if this story would have been a crime thriller set in the 30s instead of being a sci-fi set in the 21st century, nobody would have remembered that the movie ever came out.

Overall, the world building and the technical aspects of the movie have secured an everlasting legacy. But the fact remains, it is not that of a good movie. Blade Runner (1982) on IMDb(function(d,s,id){var js,stags=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id)){return;}js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”https://ia.media-imdb.com/images/G/01/imdb/plugins/rating/js/rating.js”;stags.parentNode.insertBefore(js,stags);})(document,”script”,”imdb-rating-api”);

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