Nostalgia’d Review: Blade Runner (1982)

In honour of this week’s release of the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049, we take a look back at crying in the rain with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner!

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[Credit: Warner Bros.]

Tyrell: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long… And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

Loosely based on the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric SheepRidley Scott’s Blade Runner is set in the near dystopian future of 2019 where ex-Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is reluctantly tasked with hunting down a fugitive group of bio-engineered androids called Replicants, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), who strives to increase their expected lifespan. Deckard meets and falls for advanced Replicant Rachael (Sean Young) and we’re ultimately left pondering the question, “what does it mean to be human?” The film also stars Darryl Hannah and Brion James as the Replicants who work with Batty in order to secure more life and is directed by one of my favorite directors of all time, Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma & Louise, Matchstick Men). 

“I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe”: Let’s Discuss Roy Batty’s Exemplary Monologue 

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

… Time to die.”

The cat-and-mouse chase between Batty and Deckard toward the end of Blade Runner is a strange sequence featuring a powerful Replicant wearing bike shorts seemingly toying with a broken-fingered ex-Blade Runner who has spent virtually every other scene downing whatever form of alcohol was around that he could find.

Their struggle comes to a startling halt when Batty saves Deckard from his imminent death and proceeds to recite one of the greatest speeches to ever appear in any entertainment medium, his “Tears In Rain” monologue:

“It’s with the frailty of existence that ultimately makes it worth experiencing.”

It’s a short monologue, lasting only a few sentences. These few sentences stimulate the discussion of what the end of a life means – whether all the emotions felt and experiences endured throughout our lives have any kind of meaning to them since they essentially perish in the end. As Sidney Perkowitz’s Hollywood Science describes, these sentences highlight “the replicant’s humanlike characteristics mixed with its artificial capabilities.” This moment is not only the death of the Replicant, it’s the death of any new moments he could potentially experience… And so, what separates the human from the Replicant in this case? When humans cease to exist, there are no longer any new moments to experience. The amalgamation of all these moments are left behind when one’s inevitable incept date approaches. In my view, it’s with the frailty of existence that ultimately makes it worth experiencing.

In choosing to share these particular moments with Deckard, Batty understands that his mortality is near and there is no possible way to extend the existence he was given. Spending his fleeting moments with Deckard, saving him from falling, is what he wanted to spend his final moments doing. Hauer stated in an interview with Dan Jolin that these final lines showed that Batty wanted to:

“[Make] his mark on existence … [The] replicant in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of.” 

When I first watched Blade Runner and this scene came up, tears streamed down my face while I sat in my dry environment. The fleetingness of life, how it can be taken away in an instant and everything you’ve experienced from childhood to the end will all wither away… Like tears… in rain… damn.

Let me take a moment to gush about the aesthetics of this scene because surely there can never be enough jerking going on about the disgustingly gorgeous visuals seen in Blade Runner. The blood strewn across Batty’s face, Hauer’s mesmerizing performance, a beaten up Deckard reflecting on Batty’s words, the pounding of the rain becoming a character itself during the scene, the blue hue featured heavily and the score… that Vangelis score manages to heighten all the emotions felt in an already perfect scene.

For those lucky enough to have never seen the theatrical version, Frank Darabont’s feelings on the clunky voice over added over this scene accurately describes my thoughts on the matter… Hey, speaking of the theatrical version!

Theatrical? International? Final?! The Multiple Versions Of Blade Runner

Answer: The Final Cut (2007)

There have been eight total recut/re-edited versions of Blade Runner throughout the years because nobody had any idea what the fuck was going on. Seven of them include the Workprint prototype version (1982), San Diego Sneak Preview version (1982), US theatrical release (1982), International theatrical release (1982), US broadcast version (1986), The Director’s Cut (1992) and The Final Cut (2007). Director Scott once showed a nearly four-hour-long “early cut” that was shown only to studio personnel so they were certainly a lucky bunch.

The five versions everyone refers to are also included in the 2007 Ultimate Collector’s Edition of the film and these are:

  • Workprint.
  • U.S. Theatrical Cut.
  • International Cut.
  • Director’s Cut.
  • Final Cut.

… And the three most commonly debated ones are the U.S. Theatrical ReleaseDirector’s Cut and Final Cut

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Spaceballs | MGM

While the theatrical version isn’t the worst thing in the world, the inclusion of the drab, over-expository voice over kind of takes me out of the film. I love VO, when it’s executed efficiently. Taking inspiration from other noir classics like Double Indemnity, whose protagonist (Fred MacMurray) is quite literally explaining the events of the murder to Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), provides vital insight into what was occurring in his mind at that moment (“Walk Of A Deadman”) as well as the required exposition for the audience. The VO in the theatrical Blade Runner just explains what you’re literally watching on screen, providing no insight into Deckard except maybe that his ex thought of him as “sushi… cold fish.”

… Not to mention the not so great “happy ending” sequence you’re probably familiar with. With certain shots taken directly from the cutting room floor of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining: 

I, like many others, live and die by the Final Cut version of the film and so does Scott, as it is the cut he had complete artistic control over and was the closest to his original vision for the film before all of the butchering perpetrated by the studio execs and confused individuals. Ironically, he had full creative control on the Final Cut and not the Director’s Cut which is just silly when you think about it.

So if you’d like to check out a version of the film prior to 2049, The Final Cut is the way to go. Afterwards, watch the theatrical version and enjoy the riveting experience you can only feel by watching Blade Runner

You may feel confused at times, you may feel conflicted and angry with certain decisions made by Deckard, you may question beliefs about artificial intelligence and what it means to be human, you may remain in a drunk haze of awe for every frame, however there is no doubt that you will feel. Whether you love every single aspect of it or despise it with a brutal passion, this influential tour de force of a picture is a must watch for any film fan. 

Blade Runner receives my favourite Matt Damon gif of all time.

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71st Golden Globe Awards | NBC

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featured image credit: warner bros.

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