YMMV / Blade Runner

For the Blade Runner 2049 YMMV page, see here.

Blade Runner (1982)

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Does Rachael actually fall in love with Deckard or does she become his mistress because she knows it's the only way she can avoid being retired by other Blade Runners?
    • Does Gaff let Rachael go because he has a moment of compassion, wants Deckard's job, or because a Blade Runner having a Replicant mistress is just part of the Dirty Cop nature of the work?
  • Ass Pull: The "Deckard as a Replicant" theory comes across as this to the rest of the film since it's barely foreshadowed at all, beyond the unicorn dream/origami:
    • For one thing, the point of the film is that the Replicants of the Nexus-7 are stronger, more durable, more acrobatic than the average human. If Rick Deckard is a Replicant of the same make or something older than that, then he clearly doesn't match the Replicants in skills and indeed the film's fight scenes when Deckard hunts down the Replicants, repeatedly shows Deckard winning by scrapping by, being exhausted and fatigued, and winning by fighting dirty. If Deckard is also a replicant, i.e. or an older model or a later up-to-date model, it makes no sense why he should be designated for a job that involves fighting down models far more advanced than he is.
    • Defenders, such as Mark Kermode, note that Deckard in the film is often cold, distant, and a little boring and that Deckard being a robot would explain this. Others point out that this explanation contradicts with how Roy Batty, Priss, Zhora are far more visibly emotional, as is Rachel, and that Deckard being a little reserved, unemotional, and cold better illustrates the Replicant-Human face off, with Deckard being human, since otherwise it's one robot with Dull Surprise against another robot who quotes Blake and Milton.
  • Awesome Music: Has its own page.
  • Broken Base: The different cuts, Deckard's true nature, the unicorn, etc.
  • Cult Classic: Has since become so ubiquitous in pop culture that it's hard to picture now, but at one time the film was very much this. It's also the very reason it got a sequel 35 years after it came out.
  • Death of the Author: One of the reasons Deckard's being a replicant or not is still hotly debated is because no definite answer was given in the film, and the filmmakers give contradictory answers when asked. Fans who feel that Deckard is a human point out that the theme of the film, and the tragedy of Roy Batty, i.e. the Replicant who is more human than human, who risks his life to save Deckard despite having every reason to let him die, loses much of its impact if Deckard is a Replicant unaware of his true nature, since it doesn't definitively vindicate the humanity of androids over humans if the Anti-Hero human we follow around was a robot. Incidentally this is why Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer insist that Deckard is a human and not a replicant because the dynamic between Deckard and Batty in that climax loses most of its impact if it was the other way.
  • Designated Hero: Rick Deckard in all versions is a low-rent cop who hunts down and murders humanoid robots for a living. The voiceover in one version even has him remarking that terms like "skin-job", a Fantastic Slur used by a co-worker, is analogous to the N-Word. He also forces himself on Rachel, and his killing of Replicants is often quite dishonorable (shooting Zhora in the back) and others when they are injured and weak. Likewise the end of the film has Roy Batty saving his life, not because he respects Deckard but precisely because he has contempt for him and his kind, and his act of rescue is meant to spite Deckard and taunt him about his lack of worth.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Roy Batty is an Anti-Villain with sympathetic motivations, but he's still a ruthless murderer who's willing to resort to Cold-Blooded Torture. His villainous traits tend to get overlooked by fans, especially given his Redemption in the Rain and moving Final Speech.
  • Ear Worm: The end titles.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Gaff. In the Westwood Studio's video game, he's something of a Stealth Mentor.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Most of the antagonists are depicted as almost flawless beings, superior in both mind and body to normal humans (who for the most part are portrayed as grizzled and beaten down). This is especially true of Roy, who as the ‹bermensch is built like a Greek god. Both of the female replicants are also quite easy on the eyes and none of them are above using sexual persuasion as a tool to get what they want (both Priss and Roy come onto Sebastian in an attempt to persuade him to help them, and Zhora is designed for political assassinations which probably involve the promise of sex as a way of getting closer to the target and she shamelessly uses her own nude body as a distraction when Deckard comes for her).
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The narration in the theatrical cut is kind of dreadful, and veers straight into this at the end of the film.
  • Genre Turning Point: Blade Runner is the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier for the futuristic dystopian science-fiction film:
    • Before Blade Runner, the only film to conjure a vision on its scale was Metropolis by Fritz Lang (which did inspire Scott) but Lang's film, owing to its premise and the limitations of the silent film, created a simplistic world lacking in realistic details and references, where Scott made a future version of a real-life Los Angeles come alive in colour, sound, and set-design. Earlier science fiction films did raise the issue of the humanity of artificial intelligence and robots, but Blade Runner took it to the next level by making the line between robots and humans far more blurred, and interchangeable.
    • It was the first Philip K. Dick adaptation in motion pictures and, as Alan Moore noted in an essay on science-fiction, it marked a more post-modern approach to movie science-fiction compared to earlier films, openly making dystopias an allegory for contemporary concerns, issues of identity, and urbanization, with set-design, costumes, and other props visually communicating its aesthetic via World Building, an aspect that many later science-fiction films, such as Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (both are PKD adaptations), A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and The Matrix would incorporate.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The "Blade Runner Curse" is a bit of folklore developed around the film centered on how many of the companies with prominent Product Placement in the film would go bankrupt or go through disastrous setbacks in the following decade:
      • Atari was hammered by The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, barely survived because of its computer business, and is now a shadow of its former self.
      • Pan-Am is long extinct.
      • Coca-Cola launched the infamous New Coke shortly after the movie was released, although managed to bounce back stronger than ever.
      • Bell (or AT&T) was broken up for monopolistic practices. Most of the subsidiaries that were broken off of it have come back together as either Verizon or the new AT&T.
      • Cuisinart went bankrupt and was bought out by a rival company, living on only as a brand name (and a joke on Spaceballs).
      • RCA (big neon sign out Deckard's apartment window), as a company, bit the dust in '86. (The name is still trademarked by Technicolor, however, and sometimes used on products that come from its licensees, as well as the venerable record label.)
      • Polaroid photos are seen in the movie — the Polaroid company still exists today but has ceased making cameras and film.
      • TDK, whose sign appears on the building opposite the Bradbury near the end, seems to have made it through more or less OK—although its sign is partially obscured.
    • Gaff's last words to Deckard are "It's too bad [Rachael] won't live, but then again who does? In "Blade Runner 2049," we find out she doesn't.
    • The whole Deckard and Rachel relationship becomes this come the sequel. The Big Bad all but states outright that Tyrell set the whole thing up just to test his theory that Replicants could reproduce. Given Tyrell's resources, Rachel being a Replicant, Deckard possibly being a Replicant, and the plans for Replicant offspring...
    • The movie is set in the then-future of the 2010s and has a scene where a policeman (Deckard) shoots an unarmed replicant in the back. Fast forward three decades later and coincidentally, there have been several controversies in the U.S. in the 2010s where policeman have shot unarmed people in the back.
      • Unfortunately emphasized by the concept that Replicants are often referred to as "skin jobs," a term stated to be analogous to the N-word. The most controversial of the murder-by-cop cases have been against African Americans.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Hype Backlash: With a movie being hailed as a masterpiece of sci-fi, a good many people might walk away feeling disappointed, praising the visuals and some of the acting, but feeling that Blade Runner's story is hollow and empty. Its alleged philosophical value (which goes to the extent that the film is not rarely screened in schools and colleges) can also easily fall into this, as the plot neither opens so many questions that weren't addressed by many other and more known sci-fi works nor presents them in an overtly applicable way; the viewer can go watch the film expecting to see a straight Mind Screw fest and leave dissappointed that it was just a slightly contemplative noir film in a cyberpunk setting.
  • Most Annoying Sound: "CROSS NOW. CROSS NOW. CROSS NOW. CROSS NOW. DON'T WALK. DON'T WALK. DON'T WALK. DON'T WALK." Word of God says the traffic signals were intentionally made to sound annoying.
  • Narm:
    • The unicorn from Deckard's dream sequence.
    • It was supposed to be terrifying, but Roy Batty chasing after Deckard, howling like a wolf, and smashing his head through walls like a cartoon character? Amusing.
    • Roy biting his own fist.
    • The dying Pris thrashing on her back as if she's throwing a temper tantrum. Even between viewings, this scene doesn't necessarily age well. It does not help that the female stunt actress was too exhausted to do the preceding scenes and they had to get a man in poor makeup to do it.
    • From the 1997 game adaptation is Clovis reciting "The Tyger" while threatening the pet store owner in the opening, which gives the initial impression that the writers took the "Warrior Poet" concept far too literally and ended up writing the Big Bad as a big dork.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: Westwood Studios released a lovingly faithful Adventure Game based on this movie in 1997. The game featured randomized plot points and the player's actions could lead the game towards thirteen different alternate endings.
    • The 1985 game for the 8-bit home computers, on the other hand, was nothing special. Though, for rights reasons, that's technically an adaptation of the Vangelis sound track.
  • Older Than They Think: The title originated from the 1974 novel by Alan E. Nourse called The Bladerunner which was given a screenplay treatment by William S. Burroughs himself. The screenwriters adapted the title Blade Runner for their film because Ridley Scott wanted a new take on science fiction lore (hence renaming androids as replicants). In the original context, blade runner meant a black market guy who sold drugs in a futuristic dystopia where medical care had become expensive, and was entirely different from cop who retires replicants.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Roy is an Anti-Villain, but a villain nonetheless. His quest to stave off an early death is so compelling, and Roy makes for such an interesting, charismatic figure (helped along by Rutger Hauer's inimitable performance), that many viewers can't help but want him to succeed. In many ways, Roy comes off as a more sympathetic and engaging character than Deckard.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • Giant buildings, neon lights, multicultural cities, film noir aesthetics, and lots and lots of rain? Meh, we've seen it all before. The film's visuals and themes proved to be such an influence on Cyber Punk and grittier science fiction works that it's virtually impossible for them not to reference the film in some form or another, and as a consequence, the impact can be somewhat lost on audiences who have already seen the many imitators and their intellectual androids, ugly dystopias, and drunken future cops. Similarly, the philosophical questions about androids and their relationships with humans have been tackled in so many works and so thoroughly (even before and around the time of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'s publication) that the movie can feel empty in comparison.
    • Also unlike other science-fiction before it (Metropolis) and after it (The Matrix) which pivots on The Hero's Journey and The Chosen One motifs, Blade Runner is essentially a simple genre movie with a cop (Rick Deckard) hunting down a series of bad guys (Roy Batty and his Replicants). The plot by itself is not too complicated, and most of the film works on characterization and mood than the overly baroque plots and schemes later works like Equilibrium and others trafficked in. Philip K. Dick himself Lampshaded this during pre-production when he noted that the screenplay drafts he read disappointed him for how much it flattened and simplified his original book, but he was far more impressed with the visual design (that he saw during a set visit and was shown an earlier render of the famous opening) which he felt captured the spirit of his ideas.
    • Thom Andersen, the director of Los Angeles Plays Itself, a documentary about how Los Angeles has been represented in movies noted that Blade Runner actually feels more nostalgic as time passes rather than dystopic. He notes that the film's neo-futurist look at public spaces more or less reflected the optimistic theories of avant-garde architects and city-planners, whereas by The '90s and The Oughties, the greater sub-urbanization and compartmentalization, as well as gentrification has seen a closing down of public spaces. The end result is that Blade Runner feels Zeerust and retro-futurist and as dated and bygone as the Film Noir whose aesthetics it was borrowing from.
  • Signature Scene:
    • The shots of Los Angeles' cityscape at the start of the film. It was already special during production since it converted Philip K. Dick from a skeptic to a supporter of the film.
    • Zhora's death scene.
    • Roy's soliloquy in the rain, often listed as one of the finest moments of the science fiction genre and cinema in general.
      Roy: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • The skies above Batty when he releases the dove were supposed to be grimly grey, causing an unintended Cue the Sun moment. This was changed in the 2007 "Final Cut." Crew members stated in a behind-the-scenes documentary that this error occurred because they couldn't get the dove to fly in the rain. The water soaked the bird's feathers and made it too heavy to take off, so they eventually had to resort to filming the scene without the rain.
    • In many scenes featuring a Spinner (flying car), the cables lifting the car up are clearly visible. Like the dove, these are fixed in the Final Cut.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Deckard's love story with Rachel comes off as highly stiff and unconvincing. It's meant to evoke a classic Film Noir doomed romance but the chemistry between the two leads doesn't work, and the genre it's meant to evoke has several examples that merely show how it falls short. The fact that, at the very least, one of them is definitely a Replicant either explains or Lampshades this for some, but undercuts it for othersnote . Rachel is likewise a Satellite Love Interest and among the Replicants far less interesting than Roy, Priss, Zhora, and ultimately the Replicant who truly triggers Deckard's Character Development is Roy Batty.
  • Too Cool to Live: Roy Batty.
    Tyrell: You were made as well as we could make you.
    Roy: But not to last.
    Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.
  • True Art Is Angsty:
    • Played straight with the film's look and themes. The inevitability of death and mortality are both a major focus of the story, as is self-doubt and a feeling of entrapment, plus a good deal of existential angst over what it means to be human. Further emphasized by the Miltonian antagonist Roy Batty, Deckard's apparent alcoholism and depression, and the deliberately and artistically dark neo-noir aesthetic to highlight these themes.
    • Goes full well for the 1997 video game as well. Ray is subject to mind games from multiple factions, making him question his own identity and humanity. In one of the endings Clovis laments that he spent his final days fighting and killing in a futile attempt to find a way to extend his own life and the lives of his fellow replicants instead of cherishing the time he had left with his friends.
  • Uncanny Valley: Sebastian's toys are played by little people in prosthetics, and make some very inhuman, jerky movements. The replicants avert this trope as they are so human, physically and emotionally, but the scene where Pris disguises herself as one of the toys has her wearing some pretty Uncanny Valley Makeup.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The whole initial meeting with Zhora reeks of this, as it's treated as an I Know You Know I Know, with Deckard asking if she was asked to do anything unsavory to get her job as a stripper, and the unsavory nature of her job in general making such questions a joke. In the 21st century the view of sex workers has changed enough that such questions would actually be quite normal, making sure her consent was never violated.
    • To a modern audience, the Forceful Kiss from Deckard to Rachael has overtones of Date Rape, but at the time apparently nobody complained.
  • Vindicated by History: Upon its initial release, the film was advertised as an action movie, met with mixed reviews and an underwhelming box office performance (it did decently and made back its budget, but it was in no way the hit that The Ladd Company assumed it would be. It also had the bad luck of coming out the week after the much anticipated E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hit theaters). In the ensuing years it became a Cult Classic in its director's cut, and is now generally considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The designs and the city will still blow you away, they literally changed sci-fi films.
  • The Woobie: Rachael, whose entire world starts falling apart once she realises that she's a Replicant, and Sebastian, a kindly, lonely man who is manipulated and murdered by the villains.
    • Jerkass Woobie: Roy and Pris. Roy is a violent killer and Pris callously manipulates Sebastian, but all they want is freedom and a normal lifespan, which they are denied at every turn.
  • Wiki Magic: Blade Runner 2049 brought renewed and much welcome attention to the first film all over the Internet, including on this very wiki.
  • Writer-Induced Fanon: Ridley Scott is quite keen on the idea that Deckard is a Replicant over the objections of the screenwriters and Harrison Ford himself. Scott got the idea mid-production. It wasn't originally in the original novel nor was it planned at pre-production. Ford feels that Deckard has to be the main human being the audiences can relate to and properly be an Audience Surrogate and he was openly angry when Scott tried to insert the Unicorn origami scene since he caught on what he was trying to do. Hampton Fancher in any case feels that Deckard's humanity or lack thereof should never be openly addressed and become part of the surface experience of the film, and remain an issue of speculation.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/BladeRunner