One of the greatest films in history just turned 34 years old. Blade Runner is a cinema masterpiece and this past weekend, Ridley Scott’s science fiction epic celebrated the anniversary of its theatrical release. The film hit theaters alongside John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982, and both have become genre classics beloved by fans around the world despite being controversial and divisive with many audiences. Both movies are incredible in their own ways and worthy of praise and study. Here in the Fandom writer’s room, we decided to sit down for a discussion on why Blade Runner is still incredible after three decades and just what the film means to each of us as fans.
Blade Runner is the movie that changed the way I understood cinema. Prior to watching Ridley Scott’s magnum opus, I had only ever watched movies for entertainment. After a growing interest in science fiction that began with Star Wars, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Last Starfighter, and Time Rider, my dad deemed that I was old enough to watch Blade Runner at 13 and I immediately fell in love. I will never forget staying up late discussing the film’s themes and ultimate meaning. Was Deckard a replicant? Did the androids have souls? Was Roy Batty a genius or insane? My young mind had been blown wide open and my love for the genre increased exponentially.
The first version I watched was the 1992 Director’s Cut, which influenced later viewings of the various releases (I still stand by my belief that Deckard’s narration is unnecessary). Repeated viewings enhanced my love for the film, as each time I saw new intricacies and meaning. Rutger Hauer’s depiction of the replicant Roy Batty is deeply layered, his final monologue a glorious testament to the power of filmmaking and improvisation (as Hauer added the part about “tears in rain”).
There is no science fiction film quite like Blade Runner. Made by a master of his craft at the height of the 1980s cyberpunk scene, based upon one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all time, the film is simply a masterpiece in all of its varied incarnations. It contains both style and substance, with a visual aesthetic that still looks good today and a plot that raises questions of autonomy and self-awareness. This is what science fiction is supposed to be, combining allegory with real human emotion and feeling to make people really think. [Danielle Ryan]
Blade Runner at 34 reminds me of being 21 and reading a University of Kentucky paper on Sartre. Jean-Paul Sartre posed the idea that if a creation realized that their God is imperfect, then why would they follow their creator’s orders? If there is no God, then what determines the worth of a replicant. The replicants created by Tyrell Corporation endure with superhuman abilities. In fact, they could replace all life on Earth if it wasn’t for the inception control. The planned obsolescence of existence is a cruel joke crafted by a jealous android designer. But, what of the replicants?
A replicant is essentially a child given the life of an adult. Their character traits and bare essence were programmed into them alongside basic life functions. Roy Batty and his compatriots don’t really have personalities, but the end result of their creators’ vices and prejudices. The replicants have a right to be mad about dying at the age of four. Plus, think about the basic conceit of Blade Runner. Only a handful returned to Earth for vengeance against Tyrell. If those Replicants became aware of their existence, then what about the others?
Most of these other Replicants remained Off-World to live the life they expected. Roy, Pris and the others want more life for a reason. They dare to strike into Heaven, find God and make him explain himself. But, they have the emotional intelligence of a child and they can’t reconcile things like time and need into their quest. In a different world, Roy would’ve killed Deckard on top of the Bradbury Building. But, a child doesn’t think things like this to a point of completion. All they know is that they’ve been cheated and somebody has to pay. Blade Runner states that God is real and he fears you. [Troy Anderson]
Blade Runner is an experience. It’s easy to write it off as the greatest science fiction film in cinema history. Fans have been guilty of labeling the film, putting it into a figurative box and breaking it out for special occasions. Blade Runner is way more than an entry on a “best of” list or some kind of badge of honor for cinephiles. What it really amounts to is that the film is lightning in a bottle that opens viewers up to a world of literature music and art in a way that very few movies ever do. The film is a total masterpiece that sets the bar on so many levels that ever trying to recreate it or recapture the magic of what makes it so special is a waste of time. There is nothing, and there will never be anything like it ever again. Blade Runner is a singular work of art that and it is fascinating.
What’s the most striking about Blade Runner’s fandom is how rampant it can be. The film is nowhere near perfect, but in a way it transcends the label of perfection by shining through its flaws. The multiple cuts of the story all contain continuity errors and special effects issues, but in many ways Blade Runner is as flawed yet just as fantastic and iconic as the original Star Wars. The music of the soundtrack is an incredible arrangement of beautiful ambient sounds mixed with acoustic instruments and electronic synthesizers. Vangelis’ work on the score is just as important to the film as anything ever accomplished by James Horner, Bernard Hermann or John Williams. More than anything, I’m just happy Blade Runner turned me on to Philip K. Dick. That stuff is amazing. [Andrew Hawkins]
“What does it mean?”
That was the question my half-brother asked me after I told him I had just seen Blade Runner for the first time. I’d known about the movie thanks to the cinephile circles I traveled in, but it wasn’t until I started my first job at a mom-and-pop video store (literally called The Video Store) that I finally got my hands on a copy. It was the 1992 director’s cut and it blew me away. It was a visual smorgasbord of sci-fi delights, but even I had to acknowledge that there was something narratively off about the film. I understood what was going on plot-wise but there was an unknown factor that kept me from loving the film the first time I saw it.
Then my half-brother asked me that question and my preteen mind couldn’t come up with an answer. It was then that he and I began to discuss concepts like death, forgiveness, love, and how you decide what makes someone “human.” I began to realize that science fiction stories could be much more than just vehicles for pulpy action and mesmerizing special effects. They had the capacity to make me ponder large, unanswerable questions and confront philosophical ideas that still vex me to this day and probably will until it’s time to die.
At the end of our discussion, my half-brother recommended books to me such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Philip K. Dick’s own Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I began to pay closer attention to the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Twilight Zone that I would watch with my father. Blade Runner set me down the path of taking sci-fi seriously and helped me see how the best stories in the genre illuminate something about the world we’re living in. Each time I watch the film – no matter which version it is – I’m always reminded that some of the films and stories that stick with you the most should be making you ask the question, “What does it mean?” [Drew Dietsch]