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Blade Runner

Does Blade Runner belong on the AFI list?  

16 members have voted

This poll is closed to new votes
  1. 1. Does Blade Runner belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes
      13
    • No
      3
  2. 2. Is Deckard a replicant?

    • Yes
      6
    • No
      10

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  • Poll closed on 06/12/20 at 07:00 AM

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Amy & Paul run through 1982’s moody Ridley Scott dystopia Blade Runner! They listen to the infamous original voiceover, learn what inspired Philip K. Dick’s source material, and yes, give their theories on whether Deckard is a replicant. Plus: Screenwriter David Peoples explains which pivotal scene makes the whole film work.

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Anyone else find it odd that the hero of the movie is a cop whose only job is to execute (aka retire) people he determines are not actually human? Don’t mean to get political, but as I was rewatching it during the riots it definitely stood out.

I voted to keep it, but only really for the world built for the film. We already have 2 iconic Harrison Ford roles, and I’d prefer A Scanner Darkly for a Phillip K Dick adaptation and Alien for a Ridley Scott film. But this world, much like Mad Max: Fury Road, feels totally immersive.

I don’t think Deckard is a replicant because of the camera trick used for replicants. Every time you see their eyes in the dark a halo appears around their iris, kind of like when you get red eyes in a photograph. ALL of the replicants are shown this way (even the owl in Tyrell’s office), but Deckard eyes did not do that.

SIDE NOTE: I would also love to see RoboCop on the the list.

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14 minutes ago, Stewart M said:

Anyone else find it odd that the hero of the movie is a cop whose only job is to execute (aka retire) people he determines are not actually people? Don’t mean to be political, but as I rewatching it during the riots it definitely stood out.

There are . . . a lot of movies that cast cops as the heroes who do things like this. It's a widespread mass-media thing. That said, at least Blade Runner suggests that his cause might have been wrong.

On this movie: I voted for it to stay, but when people make negative criticisms of the characters and/or narrative lacking depth I don't necessarily have a counter for it. That's partially because I once felt that way about the film too, the first time I saw it (and no, it wasn't the theatrical cut with the narration, it was the Director's Cut). At some point I saw it again on a projected screen and it clicked for me, but not specifically as a story, rather as a brilliant semi-abstract audio-visual experience. That's not something I can defend logically, just by saying that no other movie really FEELS like Blade Runner feels, with the kind of atmosphere (created by the music and visuals) that washes over you and makes you want to linger within the world it creates. That's why the original voice-over narration failed so badly, and also why I'm not really interested in answering the question of whether or not Deckard is a replicant: the greatness of the movie is in not knowing exactly what it means, rather it's in the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world and puzzle over the themes (how human are the replicants? Just as human? More human?). If someone tells you what to think then the fun and mystery are lost.

Also, given the dearth of sci-fi/genre fare on the list I don't think I'd want to lose it. You can see why the visual approach of this film was so influential.

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44 minutes ago, Stewart M said:

Anyone else find it odd that the hero of the movie is a cop whose only job is to execute (aka retire) people he determines are not actually human? Don’t mean to get political, but as I was rewatching it during the riots it definitely stood out. 

Griffin Newman (of The Tick and the great movie podcast Blank Check) started something of a movement among actors who have played cops and, in doing so, helped normalized cop-as-hero narratives. It's heartening to see them contribute to the cause.

29 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

That's not something I can defend logically, just by saying that no other movie really FEELS like Blade Runner feels, with the kind of atmosphere (created by the music and visuals) that washes over you and makes you want to linger within the world it creates.

100%, which is why I also love Blade Runner 2049. To me, the slow sequences that Amy called out are gorgeous and meditative.

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I'd say this film is more influential than good. It looks create and is effective at creating a world, but it's not as effective at telling a story.

I'd say I was getting off-topic, but since the podcast actually touched on these things: Trayvon Martin wasn't killed by a cop, but a civilian member of a neighborhood watch group (which reforms to police would be unlikely to affect). And "human capital" is a standard term in economics, which AOC herself used prior to objecting to others using it. Another economic finding is that our desire for uniqueness/variety as consumers is a big cause of rising "monopoly" profits. And the reason advertisers spend money on brands is the justified expectation that we will buy them is because others see what products we purchase and having seen the same ads can tell the kind of signal we are trying to send about ourselves.


Deckard isn't really set up to be a replicant by the film. Ridley Scott seems to have come up with that after the fact, adding in unicorn footage from his next movie. As noted, it makes no sense to send an inferior model of replicant to "retire" tougher models.


Rachel Rosen in the book is an attempt to disprove the validity of the test, under the claim that being raised on a space station resulted in a "false positive", though Deckard figures out that's B.S. In the film she's an unusual model in that it takes so many questions for the test to detect her. That seems distinct from the other models, although we don't have a name for that more psychologically human model. The character in the book is a bit more complex and perhaps has shades of being a "femme fatale" (although her only victim is an animal), but wasn't entirely coherent. I don't think this one qualifies as a "femme fatale" at all, since you can't really combine that with innocence. My understanding is that the scene between her and Deckard came off looking like a rape because the actors weren't getting along and so Ridley decided to lean into that if he couldn't make the scene as originally conceived convincing.


I'm one of the few people who've read Alan E. Nourse's "The Bladerunner", and Billy Gimp is not a thief. He's a gopher for a doctor who provides black market medical care (medicine has been nationalized, and the above-ground variety comes with eugenic requirements for sterilization). Coincidentally, both scifi novels involve people getting around a city via flying cars. I haven't been able to find a copy of William S. Burroughs "Blade Runner (a movie)", which was never actually made into a movie but is how this film got its title. Ridley Scott owns the rights to it, but maybe someone could ask him for permission to adapt that story and then use a different title.
For those curious how the film compares to "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", they were compared by What's the Difference here and Lost in Adaptation here.

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1 hour ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

There are . . . a lot of movies that cast cops as the heroes who do things like this. It's a widespread mass-media thing. That said, at least Blade Runner suggests that his cause might have been wrong.

On this movie: I voted for it to stay, but when people make negative criticisms of the characters and/or narrative lacking depth I don't necessarily have a counter for it. That's partially because I once felt that way about the film too, the first time I saw it (and no, it wasn't the theatrical cut with the narration, it was the Director's Cut). At some point I saw it again on a projected screen and it clicked for me, but not specifically as a story, rather as a brilliant semi-abstract audio-visual experience. That's not something I can defend logically, just by saying that no other movie really FEELS like Blade Runner feels, with the kind of atmosphere (created by the music and visuals) that washes over you and makes you want to linger within the world it creates. That's why the original voice-over narration failed so badly, and also why I'm not really interested in answering the question of whether or not Deckard is a replicant: the greatness of the movie is in not knowing exactly what it means, rather it's in the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world and puzzle over the themes (how human are the replicants? Just as human? More human?). If someone tells you what to think then the fun and mystery are lost.

Also, given the dearth of sci-fi/genre fare on the list I don't think I'd want to lose it. You can see why the visual approach of this film was so influential.

I'm kind of with you on this. I think the story/characterization can be thin. Amy's complaint that I can't imagine them when the camera isn't on them is spot on. It is such a great visual/aural movie that it kind of needs to be on here since there isn't anything like it. The closest two are Brazil and 2001. All three are a bit bigger than the sum of their parts in that their experiences more than something you can totally describe.

I do think Deckard being a replicant or not is important to what story is here though. If you're watching just for pure emotional experience, you're right that it isn't important. But I also included the poll partly to be funny since it's such a "big deal" when discussing the movie. I didn't realize it would force anyone to answer both or neither question. I also thought it would be funny to have a poll on which version is best with, idk, 5 options and now I'm glad I didn't add that.

2 hours ago, Stewart M said:

SIDE NOTE: I would also love to see RoboCop on the the list.

I second this motion. RoboCop is a great movie.

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1 hour ago, grudlian. said:

I'm kind of with you on this. I think the story/characterization can be thin. Amy's complaint that I can't imagine them when the camera isn't on them is spot on.

Yea I'm with all of you. Amy's line there stuck out to me, that's exactly what I was trying to get at in my mind. I like experiential movies though (2001 is still my #1), and that does still elevate this a lot for me. I'm fine with it as a sci-fi rep, but I'd be happy with others over it (or, along with it). Alien is probably my choice. Even maybe Terminator. Brazil is a good call. I think I'm on the borderline right now for keeping this on the list, though I did vote yes right now.

I'm still thinking about the movie and exactly where I fall with it. I'm not quite sure. Like imagine if you did connect with it deeply AND it had that visual experience. That's what should be on this list. And I feel this could have been that, but for whatever reason, it isn't quite.

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11 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea I'm with all of you. Amy's line there stuck out to me, that's exactly what I was trying to get at in my mind. I like experiential movies though (2001 is still my #1), and that does still elevate this a lot for me. I'm fine with it as a sci-fi rep, but I'd be happy with others over it (or, along with it). Alien is probably my choice. Even maybe Terminator. Brazil is a good call. I think I'm on the borderline right now for keeping this on the list, though I did vote yes right now.

I'm still thinking about the movie and exactly where I fall with it. I'm not quite sure. Like imagine if you did connect with it deeply AND it had that visual experience. That's what should be on this list. And I feel this could have been that, but for whatever reason, it isn't quite.

I like all these options. I think AFI would be more likely to put Terminator 2 on over Terminator but I'd probably be fine with both being on to be honest. Since we have repeatedly had the discussion of "too much from one director or genre on the list", we'd then be pretty heavy on 80s dystopian science fiction and three James Cameron movies.

One thing I think was interesting was Gene Siskel saying anyone could do the special effects in Blade Runner. My question is why hasn't anyone else done it? Why didn't anything look this good for a very long time? Is it purely because it was kind of expensive and mostly a failure until much later?

There's always talk of how influential Blade Runner is but nothing looks like it. Nothing sounds like it. Nothing feels like it. I'd say the special effects boom of the 80s is more likely tied to residuals of Star Wars (and availability of computers) than anything else.

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16 hours ago, grudlian. said:

I do think Deckard being a replicant or not is important to what story is here though.

Yeah, I guess I'd put it this way: to me the question is important, but answering it really isn't. Much better to leave it as a question.

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I enjoyed this episode, and while I love this movie, I agree with many of its criticism. For me this will always be a movie that had the potential for perfection but never quite reached it, no matter how many cuts of it they release. 

However, there's one thing that Amy and Paul neglected to mention in regards to this movie: Blade Runner was an essential work of art (in any format) that helped create the genre of Cyberpunk. Nothing quite like it existed before in the field of Science Fiction. Sure, there may be other works published before that could arguably fit into the Cyberpunk genre (a short story by William Gibson comes to mind), but Blade Runner has become the de-facto representative that defined the genre (again, not just in film, but in any art form). 

So, while I admit the film has flaws, I think it belongs on the links just because of its contribution to the field of science fiction. After all, how many films are there in the AFI top 100 list that define an entire genre. 

Edited by jmhimara
typos
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1 hour ago, jmhimara said:

After all, how many films are there in the AFI top 100 list that define an entire genre. 

that's a good question and could be opened wider:

what movies, whether on the list or not, define an entire genre?

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I think this may be the episode that I’ve agreed the most with Amy about anything. I voted to keep it on the list but I admire it more as a cerebral work of art (and as a film that helped define a genre) than as a well-told film. 
 

I agree with Amy that Ridley Scott’s films often feel like they were made by a replicant. There is an atmosphere of cold detachment on all of them for me, really, which sometimes is most apparent on pop corny films like The Martian when the crowd-pleasing moments feel really calculated (I liked The Martian despite those moments). It’s a reason why most of his films—except for Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise (although that has some tonal change-ups that are pretty jarring) and The Martian— don’t really work for me. If I had one fairy-tale wish, it would have been that Tony and Ridley Scott would have made films together like Joel and Ethan Coen. Somehow I feel like their mix of high-brow and commercial filmmaking would have resulted in films that were more balanced on a storytelling level. But we’ll never know.

As for the cowboy name for next week, I’m basing my name on a real person, so it might be cheating, but it just jumped into my head. The name is Boots Riley (if going by the real name) or Boots O’Riley (the altered version).

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This film is the greatest casting job ever in the history of Hollywood. Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton and Marci Liroff (uncredited) did something absolutely magical with Blade Runner. They got some of the  greatest B movie actors of all time, including Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Brion James and, yes, Harrison Ford himself ( like Brad Pitt, Ford is a B movie actor who made it to the A list), all known for their wooden, robotic performances, for a movie about robots who want to be human. It's casting as high art and it's the only movie I can think that works entirely because of its casting.
P.S. Deckert is totally a replicant or the unicorn origami (reminding Deckert of his recurring visions throughout the movie) at the end is pointless. 

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