Blade Runner: Masterpiece or Misfire?

It's time to explore the sci-fi realm that is, Blade Runner 2049.

Rory Cameron
16th October 2017
Rutger Hauer in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Image: Vimeo

As Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 aims to replicate the success of Ridley Scott's 1982 original, Kaine Laidlaw and Rory Cameron debate the first film's quality.

Masterpiece - Kaine Laidlaw

Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s gritty “future noir”, is an unmistakeable classic. Since its debut in 1982 the film has become a cultural phenomenon, and has only gained more traction with the release of multiple different cuts that have enthralled for decades.

It’s difficult to find a sci-fi film in recent years that hasn’t been influenced by Blade Runner, with movies and even animations showing clear inspiration, and you can’t really blame other filmmakers for trying to capture the same feeling of Scott’s visual epic. The settings in Blade Runner are completely stunning. From the rain drenched, neon soaked streets of 2019 Los Angeles, to the mesmerising architecture of the city skyline and the Tyrell corporation, Scott presents a dark futuristic world that feels not too distant from reality.

You can’t talk about Blade Runner without striking conversation about the iconic soundtrack produced by Vangelis.

The combination of melodic synthesizer tones and classical jazz elements intertwines perfectly with the gorgeous cinematography and mood of the narrative.

The plot is brilliant, raising questions about empathy and morals, challenging expectations of what it is that makes someone human, made possible by Harrison Ford’s excellent portrayal of hard-drinking detective Deckard. Of course, there’s also one of the best monologues in cinema history; the powerful “tears in rain” speech delivered by Rutger Hauer.

There may be some issues with the film, but it is nonetheless a masterpiece.

Misfire - Rory Cameron

Finally, after 35 years of waiting, Blade Runner 2049 looks like it may solve one of the greatest mysteries of cinema: will a new instalment of Blade Runner ruin the seminal art house film?

Sorry, my mistake, but it is easy to get confused, given that there are SEVEN other cuts of the original. In fact, Blade Runner has altered its image more often than you did aged 15 (goth was always going to be just a phase).

Frankly, the cult following behind this film is overstated and not entirely merited. Granted, Blade Runner has been fundamental to the drive of sci-fi as a whole, and its influences are visible in most sci-fi greats that followed: Ghost in the Shell [& reboot]; Robocop [& reboot]; The Matrix, (set to be rebooted).

The first few cuts of Blade Runner are what totally undermine the integrity of the film, to the point that no amount of editing and rereleasing can completely exonerate the acclaimed Director’s Cut or Final Cut.

Any true film noir must be pervaded by an integral philosophical question and/or ambiguity. But this key feature is removed in the original cuts for the sake of dumbing down the film for the audience. There is no ambiguity over Deckard’s humanity: The unicorn dream sequence (suggesting that Gaff knows that Deckard is a ‘replicant’) was only shoehorned into the film 10 years later, and worse still, the criminally bad voiceover by Harrison Ford explaining the film remains, neutering any mystery within the film.

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