1982, Best Summer ever: “Blade Runner”

August 16, 2012

What is there to say about Blade Runner? Well, I can’t think of much that hasn’t already been said. In thirty years, the movie has been thoroughly examined, analyzed, interpreted, and then every so often a new version  is released, or Ridley Scott drops a factoid on us, and we go and do it all over again. So, no, I got nothin’ new to say about Blade Runner. Instead let’s just ponder for a moment what a stroke of luck it was that the film was even made, and the impossibility of seeing the likes of it anytime soon. To that end, let’s reflect on what this movie would look like if it was made today.

1) The story: Sure, the premise is pretty saleable: in the future, we use genetically-built humans as, basically, slave labor. Every so often a couple of them escape to Earth, and when that happens elite detectives called Blade Runners hunt them down. It distilled the basics of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and married it to a ‘40s noir movie.

If it was made today: This would be the only thing about the movie that the creative team would pay attention to. As a matter of fact, it probably wouldn’t even be released as a feature film, but instead would be a Syfy Channel series. “This week on Blade Runner, Deckard hunts a replicant who’s an identical clone of his late father! Warehouse 13’s Saul Rubinek guest starts. Tune in after Paranormal Collector.”

2) The existential quandary: Dick’s identity crisis paranoia which pervades the novel is largely eschewed in the film, which focuses instead on the precise meaning of “human,” and the paradox that, while replicants are recognized by their lack of empathy, the ones in the movie are shown to have have shades of humanity more pronounced than the human characters. This is why it was so disappointing to hear that director Ridley Scott always considered Harrison Ford’s Dekkard to be a replicant. Kinda defeats the purpose of having him witness the beauty of humanity in a replicant (and why it was so reassuring to hear Ford tell Scott, essentially, “bite my sack. Dekkard’s human.”

If it was made today: Bwahahahahaha! Yeah, see #1

3) The cityscape: No doubt about it, Blade Runner features the greatest, most immersive futuristic setting ever made, hands down. The model of the skyline took miles of fiber-optic cable to light up, and on the sets, Scott was such a perfectionist that he commissioned actual covers for the magazines, sold in kiosks seen in the background of shots for, like, a nanosecond.

Ugh…practical effects are so FAKE-looking!

If it was made today: Two words, baby: CG and I. We’d get sweeping computer-generated shots of a fantastical metropolis, which, along with being tinny and unconvincing, would also be totally improbable. Whereas Scott and Syd Mead took pains to conceive of a plausible city, with CG, you don’t have to worry about the rules of physics or anything distracting like that. Ground scenes would all be done in front of a green screen, bringing all the verisimilitude we’ve come to expect from that.

CGI makes everything better.

4) Dekkard: As a soul-weary cop, Harrison Ford is perfectly cast. A heavily-internal actor, Ford knows how to communicate a man carrying oceans of sadness and loneliness. It helps that he came to acting late in life, and brings with him a full life’s experience doing, you know, stuff other than acting, which gives him a more realistic air than any generic Hollywood pretty-boy who probably considers summerstock a defining life moment. It helps even more that Ford could walk into any Bogart/Bacall feature and actually look like he belongs there.

If it was made today: This would totally be a vehicle for Will Smith (and his massive ego). Or if we’re really unlucky, Channing Tatum.

Oh God, no! Nooooo!

5) Rachel: As love-interest Rachel Tyrell, Sean Young perfectly captures the look and enigmatic air of a classic femme fatale. She just looks great shot through a haze of cigarette smoke. Young would have one more great performance in her (No Way Out), and then she would batshit insane.

Lung cancer has never been more appealing

If it was made today:  Probably one of those girl/women Hollywood seems to like so much. Lauren Conrad, maybe. Or Adrianne Palicki. Actresses who, despite being older than Young was when she made Blade Runner, seem a solid decade younger.

What is she, like, 12 years-old?

6) Roy Batty: Rutger Hauer basically became a screen legend off this performance. He was good in nearly everything afterward (nearly everything—important caveat, there), but nothing ever matched his transcendent turn in Blade Runner, in which, he handily steals the movie and delivers a monologue that can still choke me up, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. There has never been a performance like it from a villain.

If it was made today: He’d be played by some badass hip hop star. Probably 50 Cent. Hey, gotta get the “urban” audience in the theater somehow, right?

7) The monologue: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. “

If it was made today: “Time to die, motherfucker!”

8) The ending:  Spoiler Alert: Batty spared Dekkard’s life as his own runs out. The replicant does have empathy.

If it was made today: After a fierce, wire-work-heavy martial arts fight, Will Smith says, “Aw HELL no!” and impales Batty and sends him off the edge of the Tyrell building into CGI oblivion. Ditto Tatum, except rather than deliver a line he just blinks uncomprehendingly at the camera.

9) Explosions: There are none.

If it were made today: Dekkard and Batty both wield mini-grenade launchers that lay waste to the Tyrell building before they fight mano a mano. There would be a lot more before that point, though.

Explosions make everything better, right?

10) The ending: Whether you like the studio-mandated ending that recycles footage from The Shining, showing a bucolic forest or not, the movie ends the same way: Dekkard and Rachel flee to live out whatever remaining time they have with one another.

If it were made today: “Rick! It was a lie! Tyrell only said I was a replicant to boost sales!” “I knew it baby. No way anything artificial can be as beautiful as you!” “That doesn’t mean I can’t be your ‘pleasure model,’ though.” “Lady, you are something.” Cue theme song by Rihanna.

So, yeah, think about that and ponder the bullet we all collectively dodged.

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