When Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was released in 1982, audiences weren’t the only ones who rejected it. Critics, for the most part, praised its intricately grungy, medieval-technolopolis look yet sniped at the movie for its thin story line and overwrought moodiness, and for Harrison Ford’s ersatz-Philip Marlowe narration, which only served to emphasize how little was going on. In the new director’s cut, there are a few nips and tucks in the editing. The main change, though, is the elimination of that pesky narration. Now maybe audiences and critics alike can discover what a few have been saying for years — that Blade Runner is a singular and enthralling experience. Never mind the plot. From its spectacular opening shot, a hellishly beautiful vision of 21st-century Los Angeles, the movie casts a druggy, hypnotic spell.
In the year 2019, Deckard (Harrison Ford), a professional android assassin (or blade runner), is assigned to hunt down four lethal replicants who have arrived in Los Angeles from an off-world colony. One by one, he well, hunts them down. Here, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the most stirring character isn’t a person but a robot — Rutger Hauer’s haughty, platinum-blond replicant, who, like HAL, is willing to kill only because he so desperately wants to live.
The secret of Blade Runner is that Scott’s fantastically baroque, future-shock imagery, all dark decay and techno-clutter, effectively becomes the story. As the layers of mood and detail settle in, the very process by which we watch the film — scanning those shimmering, claustrophobic frames for signs of life — turns into a running metaphor for what Blade Runner is about: a world in which humanity has been snuffed by ”progress.” This is perhaps the only science-fiction film that can be called transcendental. A-