Film Review: Blade Runner (The Final Cut)

There are times when mood, company and even the weather dictate what movie you watch. There are others when you simply throw anything on and don’t care what is it and there are those rare, rare times when the stars seem a align and consciously point you towards the film you should watch. This is one of those cosmic events.

Literally just as I finished reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? the movie it spawned, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, was re-released into UK cinemas and it seemed to be a rather big hint that it was time to see how the book and the film compared. Now, however tempting it was to charge to the big screen and take in “The Final Cut” in all it’s glory, I own it on Blu-ray, and a night at home is cheaper, and I don’t have to put up with people talking over the best bits!

Harrison Ford & Ridley Scott - Blade Runner

I’ve seen Blade Runner a few times over the years, and have always found it fascinating. It’s always dragged me into it’s story and kept me entertained, not through reputation but through theme. Yes it’s got Ridley Scott directing, Harrison Ford leading and Rutger Hauer giving a now famous poetry recital, but it’s the interaction of the characters and their reflective debate that has drawn me in and kept me interested. The ideas of what it means to be human and the lengths you would be prepared to go in the desire not to die.

This time around though I had the source to compare it to. I had the book fresh in my mind and so watching the film everything took on a new dimension. I was able to look at the characters, story and themes and compare them to the images, ideas and plot already in my head from the literary work.

The first thing that struck me is how characters and materialist objects are all very slightly tweaked. They are familiar and yet also wrong. The names of everything close and obviously connected but at the same time changed as if to try and gain independence. And while that could potentially prove to be distracting it wasn’t. You instantly made the connection and then moved on. Went back to the story and to the film simply wondering why they had bothered to make such minor alterations that seemingly serve no real purpose.

These subtle changes while OK in character fall apart visually. Everything just felt wrong compared to the descriptions and imagery of the book. The city is too inhabited. Too full of life compared to Dick’s novel and Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Deckard just seemed too extroverted and coiled. Too strong and aggressive. In the novel I saw him as a very deprecated and depressed individual and that is just at odds with the man we meet on film.

Owl - Blade Runner

The other thing that is noticeable in any comparison is how major elements of the book are virtually ignored or simply hinted at in the film. Especially the role of animals in society. There are numerous references throughout the film about animals but they’re never explained or expanded. It often felt like you were being given the punchline after they’d forgotten to tell you the joke. I think if you haven’t read the novel then you wouldn’t realise this, they would probably seem like nothing more than simplistic throw away comments, but with a little knowledge it actually served as a reminder of an entire element of the story that you were being denied.

And I think the reason that you are denied this is that they have changed the tone, the fundamental message, to simplify the tale and make a more concise film. Essentially they’ve just taken the characters and a single theme and created the movie. Shifting the focus from Deckard (Ford) onto Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s just not as satisfying when you know what they’ve left out. It causes the film to somehow lose a richness that the book has.

Vangelis (Soundtrack) - Blade Runner

My biggest complaint though is with Vangelis’s soundtrack. It’s lauded as being haunting and evocative and yet for me it completely destroys the imagery on screen and implied completely the wrong emotions. Blade Runner is set on a futuristic desolated Earth and the soundtrack, while certainly futuristic, is also alien. The electronic synthesized scores seemed to transitioned the action to a foreign environment. It made me feel at times like I was on another world, more fitting to a story about bug-eyed aliens than escaped robots.

I’ve written reviews before (Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers) that hint towards the fact that when I have read a book which later became a film, I’ve enjoyed the film more. That I saw how the films were able to condense the story, borrowing just the right bits, to add necessary pace, tension and emotion to create a more enjoyable end product. But this time around it hasn’t happened. I still love Blade Runner, but I think I got more from the book it came from. The film is too twisted and too many steps away from it’s original inspiration which has meant that it has lost some of the interest and personality from the over all story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a classic movie, it’s just I think I prefer the characters in my head and the lives they lead than those on the screen in front of me.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

nb: before I read the book I had given the film 8/10 on IMDb

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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