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Another classic movie which turns 30 this year is Blade Runner.
You’d be hard pressed to find a science fiction fan who does not love this movie or, at the very least, has not seen it.
Director Ridley Scott had just scored big time with his great film Alien (1979), so his follow up was this, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
The plot deals with a police detective in 2019 who is assigned to track down and terminate renegade androids who have found their way back to Earth.
Harrison Ford plays the detective, Rick Deckard. Ford had just made Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) before that. This may be the main reason why Blade Runner did poorly at the box office since people were expecting its tone to be similar to those two movies.
In addition, Scott had to deal with studio pressure to make changes to the movie he found undesirable. Chief among these changes was having Ford narrate the movie and an ending which is meant to be upbeat.
However, the home video market was becoming more and more prominent (by the mid-1980s, virtually every home in America had a VCR), which allowed Blade Runner to build what would become an impressive following. The movie would go on to win the 1982 Hugo Award (science fiction’s highest honor) for Best Dramatic Presentation.
When the movie turned 10, Scott was allowed to go back and remove Ford’s narration and make the film’s ending more (appropriately) ambiguous. The removal of the narration, in particular, makes Ford’s performance more nuanced. However, the scene-stealer is Rutger Hauer as the leader of the androids Ford is pursuing. Although Hauer appears to be the villain of the piece, he turns out to be the most sympathetic character in the picture.
I must also mention the influential art direction by Lawrence G. Paull and David Snyder. Compare this to, say, the look of the Star Wars prequels and it’s clear that Scott’s film is more impressive to look at, even without CGI.
More changes were added for the film’s silver anniversary in 2007. All these versions can now be enjoyed on blu-ray.
This film’s ultimate success would lead to more adaptations of Dick’s work. The only ones that even came close to matching Blade Runner in terms of quality, though, were Total Recall (1990) and Minority Report (2002).