Movie News & Reviews

Summer Classics: sci-fi noir 'Blade Runner' remains distinctive

Harrison Ford stars in the 1982 science-fiction classic Blade Runner.
Harrison Ford stars in the 1982 science-fiction classic Blade Runner. Warner Bros.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (Final Cut) opens the Kentucky Theater's Summer Classics Series, Wednesday.

Scott's highly anticipated follow-up to Alien (1979) opened in 1982 to rave reviews. Already hailed as a sci-fi genius, his version of a dystopian, futuristic landscape is one that was so jarring it has been replicated by filmmakers for years. You can see his influence in subsequent films set in the future such as Total Recall and 12 Monkeys.

Blade Runner, and films it inspired, focus on a few aspects of a common paranoia of the future: corporate takeover, over-population and food shortage. But it also has a film noir tone that is unique to its genre, finding nuances in the shadows rather than lighting every inch of the frame.

In the film, a band of rogue "replicants" (artificial humans) have made their way to Earth illegally from off-worlds. As a result, and to his dismay, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced to end his retirement to track them down. Deckard is a former blade runner, futuristic police tasked to find and eliminate replicants.

Expect a healthy dose of ambiguity with the title character. Fans of the film and detractors alike have debated for years who or what Ford's character truly is. And what's a hero movie without a cheesy romance?

Blade Runner was also a much-anticipated follow-up for Ford as well, who was just one year removed from the first installment of his Indiana Jones series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and was in between the second and third (or fifth and sixth, depending on your perspective) installments of the Star Wars series, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).

In the Summer of 1982, it did have sci-fi competition from films like Steven Spielberg's blockbuster E.T. and the second Star Trek theatrical film, The Wrath of Khan, and finished the year at No. 27 in U.S. domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo. It's reputation has grown though, as it ranks No. 135 of the Internet Movie Data Base's list of the Top 250 movies of all time, and initially cool critics such as Roger Ebert warmed up to it, particularly in subsequent versions.

The Summer Classics audience will see the "Final Cut" version of Blade Runner, widely considered the best version. It's also considered by some to be the only version because the original cut of the film, despite many positive reviews, was steeped in controversy.

Since it was unlike any other film of its kind at the time, it was chewed up and spit out by the production company, fearful it wouldn't play to a wide audience. There were extensive changes made, but the most notable was the voiceover narration explaining portions of the film.

Scott caught some unfair flack recently for his work on The Counselor in 2013, which represented Cormac McCarthy's grating novel in a clean, concise manner. But his last several directing ventures have flopped critically (with the exception of Alien prequel Prometheus in 2012).

Blade Runner, however, is a prime example of the director at the top of his craft.