Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews:
People tend to think of me as a bit of a sci-fi film nerd, but for years I harbored a deep and dirty secret: I’d never seen Blade Runner. Recently I decided to remedy that. The only problem is that the DVD has been discontinued or something, so my local Blockbuster only had one copy that seemed to be perpetually out. Finally last weekend I nabbed it. The Snook hadn’t seen the Director’s Cut (which was the version I had), so we settled down to watch it together. I was pretty excited. I read the Philip K. Dick book it’s based on (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) a few years ago and really liked it, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad. Boy was I wrong. Sorry, my fellow SF nerds, but Blade Runner sucks. It is without a doubt one of the worst book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen. It’s like they took one single plot point (“cop hunts androids that look like people”) and threw out nearly everything else that made the book interesting. Even the few cool things they left in – like the Voigt-Kampff test – were ruined because all sense of context was missing. (The test measures empathic response to taboo questions about dead animals and people, which are especially shocking to humans since nuclear war has killed off most living things. The movie curiously doesn’t mention this at all.) Where was the Mercerism? Why didn’t Pris and Racheal look like each other? Why did the plot keep messing up how many replicants there were? What happened to Deckard’s wife and his aspirations to own a sheep? The whole thing sucked. Yeah, yeah, so it looked cool. It had that whole “future-yet-film-noir” thing going on that critics love to rave about. I’ll grant you that. The scenic design was completely visionary. But in terms of plot… I stand by my review. It sucked ass. I’m going to go re-read the book and try to put the sight of Rutger Hauer hooting in his underpants out of my mind.

I had a much more entertaining cinematic experience this afternoon as Amy and I headed out to see Mean Girls. It was pretty good. I do like that Lindsay Lohan (and for the record, I think the boobs are real). My only complaint was that it just didn’t seem mean enough, especially with the cheesy feel-good ending. (I read some reviews this afternoon that mentioned how certain scenes and dialogue were tweaked to slide it in under an R rating. That explains the random “Butter your muffin” line, anyway. I wish they’d left it alone.) The high point of the whole movie was when the wheelchair chick said “I don’t hate you because you’re fat; you’re fat because I hate you” and then wheeled herself off the platform backwards. Amy nearly fell out of her seat laughing, and I lost it laughing at her. We’re easily entertained. So in the end I felt that Mean Girls was like Heathers-lite. The bus thing was shocking, but it was no “I heard she sucked down a cup of liquid drain opener and smashed through a coffee table”, now was it?


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  1. Wha…wha….WHAAAAAAT????

    OK…because you’re a Goddess, I’ll give you wiggle room in the idea that since you loved the book, the movie in NO way can compare because they are, essentially and literally, two different stories. I can see how that would piss you off because I felt the same way about “Virgin Suicides” which is my favorite book and completely TRASHED by Sophia Coppola and Kristen Dunst.

    Having said that, I saw and fell in love with the movie long before I read the book (which, strangely enough, I hated because it was so UNLIKE the movie) and have maintained Blade Runner as my all-time favorite movie, ever. The story in the movie speaks much more effectively to what makes us all human than the book does, IMHO. It’s of no small consequence that I’m DREADING “I, Robot” this month for exactly how much it’s going to not take and expand on that theme the way “Blade Runner” had (that and it’s got Will Smith playing Will Smith, pretty much like every Will Smith movie).

    The other thing about ‘Blade Runner’ which you might want to file away is it’s a GREAT depression movie. I spend most of 1993 unable to get off my futon in my first post-college apartment, completely depressed and despondent and “Blade Runner” fed that darkness like heroin to an addict. It’s the perfect movie for a low, melancholy day or two when nothing is good or right. For some reason, it suits in mood and music and starts communicating on a much different level then just a sci-fi movie. We all need our comfort foods and for me, it’s “Blade Runner”.

  2. I have always loved the visual atmosphere of the film, and the integration of the music into it. It’s got the only soundtrack I’ve ever wanted to buy, and I had to wait years before it was finally released! You’re quite right that it discards some significant parts of the novel, but it also discards some rubbishy parts.
    It’s a favourite film of mine, but on reflection prompted by your comments (I regularly check out your site because I value your opinions, Kris, though I hardly ever post here) I guess that’s because I see it as a work in its own right rather than a transcription of the book. (For the record, I had read the book about five years before I saw the film and then again about five years later.) Final observation: if you felt the film didn’t live up the the book, run a mile rather than read the cheap, uninspired, inconsistent “sequel” to the film that K W Jeter wrote. It’s awful – truly talentless work.

  3. I figured this post would rile up some people. 🙂

    Beau, I take it that the version you saw first was the “original” one, with the voiceover and all? Have you seen the newer one? Does it change your opinion of it? Me, I went into the film thinking it was a classic and being prepared to be blown away. Instead I was just annoyed. Deckard’s not a goddamn replicant! (And it should be frickin’ “andys”, anyway.) The whole thing reminded me of that movie “The Running Man”, which took a single interesting idea from a Stephen King short story and turned it into a moronic star-vehicle piece of dreck without any of the ideas or charm of the original story. I can see your point about the mood and music though, which perhaps I didn’t credit enough in my comment about the design.

    And you’re totally right, Dave, it was basically impossible for me to see the film as a work in its own right. Perhaps it’s because it so prominently displayed the Dick credit as it if that somehow gave it sci-fi legitimacy. I’m sure it will be the same with Asimov and this whole “I, Robot” thing. I think more authors (and estates, I guess) should so like John Irving and pull credit from films that desecrate his work. At least then it might be possible to mentally unlink the two, instead of thinking that “Based on the Philip K. Dick story” actually means something beyond “Ridley Scott read the back of the cover on the toilet and came up with this movie.”

  4. Kris, if you love the look of the film you might like to check out the designs of Syd Mead. He was the conceptual artist on Bladerunner and a bunch of other things, as well as designing a lot of ‘concept’ designs for the motor industry etc. Matt at Scrubbles is a fan too and has a Syd Mead page at or try Syd’s homepage at

  5. Sounds like a classic case of too much build-up. Too bad it’s near-impossible to deflate your expectations before seeing/reading something that ‘everyone’ idolizes and raves about. I’ve had similar recent experiences with Shrek I (funny, but not all that) and the Da Vinci Code (great page turner, but didn’t really leave me with anything after the cover shut.)

  6. Kris,
    I always appreciate a difference of opinion and even though I love BR, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Regarding the versions, I actually have a bootleg copy of the original version with the voiceover that I hold near and dear to my heart. When I’ve got a break from school, I’m going to convert it over to DVD before the VCR tape breaks. I do like the voice-over version better because it fills in the story that isn’t told in the film even though it’s kind of cheesy.

    Regarding Decard, There is a great book called “Future Noir”out about the making of BR and Ridley Scott’s vision that confirms Decard is a Replicant. In the one scene in his apartment with Rachel, he walks out of one of the rooms and his eyes have the silver reflection of a Replicant and Ripley confirmed the subtle clues threaded throughout the film to imply that. That’s the whole point of the movie, how does one know they’re real? If a Replicant can develop their own emotions and have memories, how are they fundamentally different from humans? Deep, huh?

    Back in the days of cassette tapes, I actually recorded the music off the movie with the voice-over’s and made my own soundtrack until the official one by Vangelis was released. I still have it somewhere. It’s actually BETTER than the soundtrack because you get the addition of the ambient background noise which is one of those small details that makes the movie that much better.

  7. I kept thinking about it today, and every mental conversation went like this: “Hey, that really sucked that they made Deckard a replicant.” “Why?” “Because it’s not supposed to be that way!” and “Rutger Hauer was really freaking me out with the hooting and the finger breaking.” “Why?” “Because it wasn’t supposed to be that way!” Which I guess just confirms that I’m still currently unable to accept the film on its own merits. I still look at it and see everything that *isn’t* there instead of the stuff that is.

    I’ll grant you, in Scott’s “version” of the book it’s definitely cooler that Deckard is a replicant. (But I find it odd that Harrison Ford still maintains they’d confirmed during filming that he wasn’t, like Scott was just eking a few bucks more out of it, but whatever.) But yeah, it definitely adds back some of the moral and philosophical questions that are lacking. It’s fun to wonder about Deckard’s back story and whether he was created simply because only a replicant could have a chance against the others, and sad knowing that he and Rachel only have limited time together at the end.

    That said… I still like it much better in the book where he *is* a human, and he still struggles with feeling empathy towards the androids. And he has to cope with his mess of a wife, and weird status issues about owning animals, and how he needs the money and he isn’t the coolest andy hunter in town (until his partner gets messed up) and how his head gets all screwed up when Pris looks like Rachel. I prefer my leading men human, I guess, and I don’t think replicants are the same.

    That’s actually one of my biggest complaints with the film, the way they really blur the line between replicants and humans. In the book it’s clear that the andys CAN’T fake empathy. It’s the one thing they don’t have. And that obviously means it’s the absolute root of our humanity. This is just enforced through the whole Mercerism “religion” and shared vision/experience. In the movie, the replicants supposedly have the ability to learn and gain emotions that they weren’t supposed to have. Yet they still fail the empathy test (at least until Batty passes/dies at the end). In my book, that means they’re not the same. They may look the same, but they still don’t see why dead baby jokes are reprehensible. (It’s even more pronounced in the book, where everyone reveres the sanctity of life in the nuclear war aftermath.) To me, that’s why they ARE fundamentally different from humans. At least, the ones like Pris and the other two. And I’m not sure I buy Batty’s reversal at the end. Was it only because he knew he was dying? Was it because he had the super intelligence and the rest didn’t? How come some replicants seem to develop empathy (or at least the ability to fake it) and the others don’t? It just leaves a lot of unanswered questions for me.

    But… I like talkin’ about it, especially with somebody that’s passionate about it. You’re bringing me around on a few things. I wish I could see the original version. Maybe the voiceover hints at some of the things I felt were missing from this version.

  8. the voiceover definitely adds to the movie in my opinion – it’s a great nod to the whole bogart film noir ouevre. you feel deckard’s disdain and world weariness. i only wonder if now that you have seen the director’s cut first you may see the narration as overkill.
    you can still pick up some copies on ebay – i have a video copy that i managed to grab before it went out of print – would love to see it brought out on dvd, but i fear scott will pull a lucas on us and we may never see the original version released again.

  9. Granted it is not as good as the novel. But then – a 90 minute film (the 80’s standard) HAS to leave a lot out. I read somewhere that most film adaptions, if they included everything in a novel, would be something like 12-18 hours long. Plus, you have to consider that Philip K. Dick was rather obscure in the 1980s. But Harrison Ford was HUGE. Thus, I imagine it was directed toward an audience which probably had never heard of the novel, yet alone read it. Compare and contrast Frank Herbert’s Dune (which was fairly popular for a sci-fi novel) and David Lynch’s 80’s film adaption. Lynch’s movie tells a lot more of the “story” – but is also a somewhat boring film (that is not to say it isn’t still good – I think it is.)
    Ridley Scott is known for flash, action, and style over narrative – and that’s what you get in BR. he art direction is amazing. It does suck if you compare it to the book – but if you take it on its own it’s a really cool film for the time.

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