Shiny Shelf

Blade Runner DVD/Blu-ray

By Jim Smith on 07 December 2007

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

‘Blade Runner’ is surely the ultimate pseud’s film. In its essence it shows what happens when the script of an action movie is inexplicably shot in a manner that suggests those involved think they are working on something of the order of ‘Dersu Uzala’ rather than something which is basically Indiana Jones scowling his way through the plot of the ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’

‘Blade Runner’ has become a film for people to coo over; a way of announcing an interest in ‘cinema’ rather than mere ‘films’. This is really odd, as it’s essentially a blockbuster which has been slowed down, a moody trudge through set pieces that should be flying by, accompanied by one of the dirgiest scores in movie history. While it has pretensions to content, it’s actually about as deep as a puddle. And slow. So very, very slow. As such it shares far more than most would be prepared to admit with ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’, another SF studio product made to cash in on the massive commercial success of a cheap independent movie called ‘Star Wars’, although at least no one has ever seriously tried to claim the first ‘Star Trek’ movie as high art.

‘Blade Runner’ is easy. It’s faux complex. It’s a film which wears its supposed seriousness on its sleeve, a pouting, grunting adolescent of a motion picture, a movie for people who think that things are inherently more serious when it rains in the dark. The indulgence meted out to its journeyman director as he presents yet another version of the picture for sale changing little of consequence in the process, has the whiff of genuine pretension about it. (Although to be fair to Scott, the right to re-edit one’s own cinematic work should be seen as the inalienable right it is in book publishing and he had little to do with some of the previously released re-edits anyway.)

What no one seems to grasp – or perhaps wants to admit – is that ‘Is Deckard a replicant?’ isn’t a question which has an answer which is in any way applicable in, or to, the real world. Like the political solution to Israel/Palestine that is found during the course of ‘The West Wing’ it’s a repudiation of reality, not an engagement with it. It’s a difficult question, not a complex one – and it’s a question about the film’s narrative, not one about human beings.

The difference between what ’Blade Runner’ thinks it’s doing and what it’s actually doing would be comical, had we not had to endure a quarter century of people banging on about its contribution to the debate over the nature of existence. (The horror of its sequels seems to fortunately have spared us this fate with ‘The Matrix’ another scandalously straightforward film.)

It’s unfair to blame a film for the audience it finds, of course, but in the case of ‘Blade Runner’ it does seem, in part, a consequence of the films own dour, pinched deliberate ‘high seriousness’. ‘Blade Runner’ is a very silly movie which exults in taking itself alarmingly seriously. This is almost exactly the wrong way around. It’s something which sneers at the very idea that it should, in some way, be fun or deliberately entertaining, as if that would somehow be a betrayal of its terribly important storyline of an ex cop who is paid money to shoot escaped robots. One of whom is an exotic dancer, another of whom is Rutger Hauer.

A film for people who are embarrassed that the films they like contain fights, guns, spaceships and robots, but who either can’t be bothered with – or are perhaps incapable of – engaging with something actually difficult, ‘Blade Runner’ is both desperately ordinary and entirely misconceived. I’ve always though it to be, paradoxically, a film which by staking a claim to complexity merely demonstrates how very simple what its makers think is “complexity” is. Or, to be less polite, it’s a dumb person’s idea of what something clever is like.

Its great success over the years then is to be considered, I suppose, not so much unfortunate as brutally inevitable.

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