Ridley Scott’s 1982 film is a seminal work in the science fiction genre, drawing inspiration from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel.
Last weekend, on Nov. 15 and 16, Tulsa’s very own Circle Cinema hosted a late-night screening of the classic Science Fiction Movie “Blade Runner,” as part of a series of classic movie screenings this season called “Graveyard Shift.” Circle Cinema screened the film to celebrate the fact that the film is set in the year 2019, which has now officially come and passed.
“Blade Runner,” released in 1982 to moderate reviews, has since gone on to receive universal acclaim for being one of the best Science Fiction films of all time. The film stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who kills escaped androids before falling in love with one who thinks she is human. A sequel, titled “Blade Runner 2049,” was released in 2017, also receiving critical acclaim.
Ford is joined by a host of talented character actors in this film, as well as a host of talented technicians, in creating a profound and challenging story. Sean Young plays Rachel, Deckard’s love interest, who vividly remembers growing up and being human, only to realize that her childhood memories have been manufactured. Rugter Hauer plays Roy Batty, the leader of a gang of escaped android slave laborers, looking for a way to extend their limited lifespans. Edward James Olmos plays Deckard’s mysterious police partner, who perhaps knows more about the situation than he lets on. Many other fine actors populate this movie, making it feel dense without being too complicated.
The film was directed by Ridley Scott, best known for “Alien,” his other seminal Science Fiction movie. Scott, aged 81, is still directing movies today, and even helped make the 2017 sequel. The film’s special effects were done by Douglas Trumbull, the man who helped Stanley Kubrick create the special effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” – another giant in the field of sci-fi films. The special effects in “Blade Runner” pop out at you and command your attention. And they still hold up well today, despite the film coming before the advent of modern CGI.
“Blade Runner,” set in a technologically advanced future, depicts November 2019 – now – as a world with crowded buildings, futuristic neon advertisements, sentient robots and flying cars. Although the film was obviously not accurate as to what the year 2019 would look like, it was responsible for creating the genre now known as “Cyberpunk” – an aesthetic of futuristic neon cities overrun by corruption and technology.
This aesthetic style has gone on to influence countless films and video games (a came called “Cyberpunk 2077” comes out next year) in subsequent generations, giving us a feel for what a futuristic human society could end up looking like. With Elon Musk inventing new and exciting things every day, there can be no doubt that this exciting (and somewhat scary) future is around the corner somewhere.
But there is more to “Blade Runner” than meets the eye. The single greatest contributor to this film’s greatness didn’t even live to see the film completed.
“Blade Runner” is based off of a 1968 science fiction novel, titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” written by Philip K. Dick. The book, while still containing the same basic premise as the film, contains countless little differences and details that didn’t make the translation from the numbered pages to the silver screen. Because of this, people consider the book and the film to be unique enough from each other that both are their own unique experiences. I would recommend the book to anyone who loved the film, and vice versa.
Philip K. Dick wrote other successful novels and short stories in his lifetime. At least 10 of his stories have been adapted into movies or TV shows, and his body of literary work has endured and continued to grow in popularity in the decades since his passing.
Dick died in 1982, shortly before “Blade Runner” was released in theatres. He did not live to see the theatrical release of the film, though he did see a preview of the movie that wowed him. He called it “gritty and detailed and authentic and goddamn convincing,” and upon watching the film it is easy to see why.
“Blade Runner”’s popularity has impacted the world of Science Fiction in a crucial and significant way, paving the way at last for casual fans to think of sci-fi as a genre that can be used not just for cheap thrills and escapism, but for provocative and thoughtful storytelling.
Watching the film on DVD is great enough that the film is worth multiple viewings; it’s one of those films you can rewatch and notice a new little detail each time. But the experience of watching it on a big screen instead of at home is one that was well worth it for me, and presumably so for any other movie lover as well.
The film has been restored multiple times over the years (five different versions of the movie exist. Five!), and so seeing this latest and best version of the film – known as “The Final Cut” – in a crowded theater, gives us a chance to experience it better than moviegoers could when the film first came out. Having the movie up on a big screen with immersive sound made it more awe-inspiring than it ever had appeared to me before, and it was simply a great time. I can only hope that theatres like Circle Cinema will continue to have screenings of this film – and others like it – for years to come.
Circle Cinema is located in Tulsa, on Admiral Boulevard and Lewis avenue. It is both a classic, nonprofit arthouse theater and a building on the national register of historic places. Their next events include a classic movie screening of the film “Evil Dead,” as well as a limited theatrical release of Martin Scorceese’s latest film, “The Irishman.”