Friday, July 1, 2011

BSFME Contestant #6: Blade Runner: The Final Cut

We are nearing the end of Best Science Fiction Movie Ever (BSFME) Week, and we've read some very compelling arguments for The Fifth Element, Back to the Future II, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, and The MatrixToday, Jen Miller brings us our final contestant--Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

Blade RunnerWithout any question, Blade Runner: The Final Cut is the best science fiction movie of all time.  For starters, it contains the best movie quotation ever:

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've 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.

The imagery of Roy Batty's words is so beautiful, so peaceful, and so sad--it's a rare quotation that is all of these things at once.

For those of you who haven't seen the film, Blade Runner tells the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who is pulled out of retirement for one last job as a blade runner--hunting down and "retiring" four escaped biologically-engineered near-humans called "replicants." 

As a literature professor, the imagery of the movie is one of the things that I find most impressive.  Eyes consistently appear throughout the movie as gateways, as paths to knowledge--eyes are key to the Voight-Kampff test that determines whether someone is human or replicant, the eye-maker for the replicants proves to be the way that Roy and his companions find their creator, and Deckard's electronic device for viewing photos (his artificial eye, if you will) enables him to find the replicants.  The replicants are compared to fallen angels on a number of occasions, which ties in with perhaps the most powerful theme of the film--the relationship between creator and created, father and son.  The juxtaposition of an eye with the pyramid of the Tyrell corporation in the opening sequence of the film works to establish these themes right from the beginning in a very artistic way.

The overall look of Blade Runner is also noteworthy, particularly in the way it has influenced many other science fiction films and TV shows since then.  The image of space cars zooming between unimaginably tall buildings was seen in Star Wars II and III, for example, and the dark, dystopian vision of the future has been repeated in countless films, a recent example of which is some of the extra scenes from James Cameron's Avatar.  Even if you haven't seen Blade Runner, if you are a fan of science fiction films, you have undoubtedly seen a movie that carries its influence.

Of course, the biggest reason that Blade Runner: The Final Cut is the best science fiction movie of all time, and not a previous version, is the ending.  I'm not going to spoil it here, but this is an ending that is thought-provoking, not just in terms of the movie itself, but in considering larger questions about what it means to be human.

Certainly, there are times when the movie is difficult to watch.  It is very dark, both in imagery and in content, and there is one scene with Deckard and Rachel that I find painful every time I see the film.  But this alone should not discount Blade Runner from consideration; rather, such difficulties make the movie that much more challenging and thought-provoking, and support an idea that I frequently find to be true: the most important stories are those that are hardest to hear.