Saturday, 15 December 2007

Review - Blade Runner - The Final Cut

Blade Runner. Philosophical. Interesting. Confusing.

One of those rare breed of films which are better when you think back over them than when you’re actually watching them. In this sense, it joins the ranks with ‘Unbreakable’, ‘The Sixth Sense’, and ‘The Usual Suspects’. Thinking about the film now, it seems like an insightful, intriguing, and thoroughly ‘different’ film. In the editing theatre of my head it comes across as poignant and exciting in equal measure. Watching it however is a different matter. It suffered from glaring pacing issues often moving along butt-numbingly slowly for long stretches. In fact, it didn’t really pick up until about halfway through. At the time I thought Edward James Olmos’ lack of lines was a criminal waste of talent (which I know from the similarly-premised ‘Battlestar Galactica’). Now though his performance seems powerfully understated and his last line of the film is made even cooler by the absence of many other lines for him. It’s only in my head afterwards that I can mentally edit it so that it seems more cohesive and satisfying.

I saw the Final Cut, the newest version in the cavalcade of versions since 1982, but as its name implies this should be the final version of the film. Apparently some of the other versions have a ‘film noir’-style voiceover narration. One of the more interesting aspects of the film was how it deftly merged film noir with science fiction and in that spirit of things I think it could have benefitted from some sort of narration over the top; both to lend to the gritty 1940s style of it and to clarify the typically Philip-K-Dickian confusing storyline.

It’s a very deep film and I can tell that really my initial impressions and subsequent musings have only scratched the surface of it. What was done very well was the world-building. This is usually an issue in a novel where the writer has the leisure and the need to create a deep, realistic world. The art direction for Blade Runner was top notch. The world felt real. It was like looking at a gritty, grimy realistic future Los Angeles not like the sleek, polished, and ultimately very-CG world of the Star Wars prequels. Nothing was overdone; everything just lingered in the background, unassuming but better for being so. When Roy talked about seeing burning ships by the shore of Orion, it was easier to believe him because one can imagine that happening within that established world.

There’s a lot to think about in the film: it’s been debated for 25 years. Issues of personal identity, the concept of the self, what it means to be human, and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not Deckard is a replicant. One of the more interesting points is how much happier and satisfied the replicants are all shown to be compared to the staid and depressed moods of the humans portrayed. Maybe only living four years the Nexus-6’s still have the innocence of a child compared to the world-weary cynicism of an adult human.

Also, as my friend pointed out, there seems to be a substantial Asian community in future LA. Easily confused as I am and because I was thinking in terms of Philip K. Dick, I continually felt I was watching ‘The Man in the High Castle’ where the Japanese have taken over the West Coast of America. Interesting overlap or meaningless coincidence?

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