R & I watched Blade Runner: The Final Cut last week. We hadn’t meant to, but you know how a Netflix queue can be. Films sneak into the #1 spot without you really planning for it sometimes.
Ah, Netflix queues, they’re interesting constructions, aren’t they? Of course, mine holds the movies that I really want to see, like Hugo or The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice. Then there are the movies that I want to see at some point because I’ve read good reviews, (like Creation) or friends have recommended them (like Black Snake Moan).
The queue also contains the films I’m not quite sure why they made it on the list, like Psycho a Go-Go.
(Oh, wait. I know why that one’s there.)
Lastly, though, there are films on the list because of some sort of personal connection. Say, for example, I have a goal of watching every movie Tim Burton made. Planet of the Apes‘ on that list, whether I like it or not. If you’re a completist like I tend to be, you’re going to watch it eventually.
Personal connections also (often) include films I’ve loved since I first saw them in the theater, and a new version has been released by the director. A “final cut,” perhaps.
So it is with Blade Runner.
Such a pretty picture, this.
****I know this movie’s thirty years old, but I’m a fan of spoiler warnings. I’m making the assumption that you’ve seen Blade Runner and have a basic understanding of the plot, if you’re going to read on. Spoilers are everywhere.****
The final cut promised to be remastered and spiffier than the original. It succeeds. The screen glistens with the rain and fog reflecting off the neon signs offering shark and tuna in the local fish shops and the lighted advertisements floating through the night, offering adventure and excitement in the off-world colonies. The stones that make up the Tyrell Corporation headquarters and Rick Deckard’s apartment (actually, both sets were based in the Ennis House in L.A.) glow as the sun sets or rises. (The sun’s never really up in this film.)
Ridley Scott has created the prototype space noir film, taking the Los Angeles of the 1940s and dropping it in the midst of the 21st century. 2019, seven years from now. Will we have flying cars and sentient androids in seven years? Seems unlikely, doesn’t it?
M. Emmet Walsh (affectionately known as Memmet in our house) was such a great casting choice for the part of Deckard’s boss, Bryant. He’s so of that era of Raymond Chandler and Robert Mitchum (even though he wasn’t all that old at the time; he’s just got the vibe).
I love the scene where Bryant is showing Deckard the records of the Nexus 6 replicants that the old blade runner is supposed to kill. They get to Zhora’s photo, and Bryant says:
This is Zhora. She’s trained for an Off-World kick murder squad. Talk about Beauty and the Beast – she’s both.
That line is so noir, so of its time—70 years ago. It lets you know what milieu the film is working in, in case you hadn’t already figured it out. This is handy when you get to what is, for me, the most troubling scene in the film: Deckard’s “seduction” of Rachel.
I never know quite what to do when this scene comes on. I love this movie so much, that this scene disturbs me all the more.
I know that Scott is calling back, again, to those old films where the hero (anti-hero, more often) is taking on the femme fatale, seducing his foil. It doesn’t work here, sad to say. Deckard’s attempt at seduction comes across as nothing but coercion. Rachel is too innocent, too wounded, for this scene to work any other way. She comes across as weak and defenseless (she just found out she’s not human and she killed a guy, for pete’s sake, and Deckard gets pissy because she won’t kiss him). In the old films (that, yes, have their own problems), Lauren Bacall or Barbra Stanwyck may have shown their vulnerability, but they wouldn’t have shown their weakness. There’s a difference. When Humphrey Bogart was seducing Lauren Bacall, she was seducing him right back.
Sean Young wasn’t given the opportunity to do this in Blade Runner, and more’s the pity. When we first meet her—a replicant who doesn’t know she is one—she comes across as strong, responding to Deckard’s interrogation with no fear and even a little bit of wit. She’s even courageous enough to save Deckard from Leon when the two are fighting, and Deckard is sure to lose.
After that, though, she falls apart, becoming a victim to be rescued and manipulated with no obvious agency of her own. Definitely not as interesting as the other two women in the film, Zhorah and Pris. Two of the three surviving replicants, they have purpose and a goal: find the person who can extend their life span before it’s too late and make that happen. Also, don’t get caught.
I sympathize with all the replicants, mass murderers that they are. They didn’t ask to be made or to be slaves, and to give them any kind of emotion and sentience along with an understanding of their own mortality seems nothing but cruel.
Hm, kind of sounds like the human condition, doesn’t it? That’s the point Scott’s trying to make with Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick tried to make with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel Blade Runner‘s based on. What makes us human? Is Deckard himself actually human? If an android is so close to being human, that you need a sophisticated test to know for certain, is it ethical that they are enslaved?
The close-ups of Roy Batty’s hand as he forces himself not to shut down, not to die, yet, touch me every time, as does his closing soliloquy.
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.
As the rain pours down, the dove Roy’s been holding in his hand flies off, symbolizing life and resurrection, (if we’re going to go the Christian route which Scott was—Roy puts a nail through his hand at one point to remain conscious, a nice play on the crucifixion, don’t you think?) and Deckard is left alone to wonder what it all means.
Deckard’s not stupid, even if his ways with women leave a lot to be desired, and he takes Batty’s death and Gaff’s last words to him (the title of today’s post) seriously. Racing home, he scoops Rachel up and leaves, hoping to evade the other blade runners who will be coming for her. He’s been given a chance, as evidenced by the origami unicorn he finds in the hall, to save the girl, perhaps to save himself. Because Gaff and Roy are right. We all die, replicant and human alike, and all our moments are doomed to disappear into the rain and fog.
Take those chances you’re given.