Well, it’s certainly been a number of years since I first saw this one – a sentiment echoed by many of the audience at last Friday’s showing of Sir Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner at the Beehive Honiton as I eavesdropped on the buzz in the cafe before the showing.
I was actually one of the few to see it in the year it first came out in 1982: I say ‘one of the few’ because it wasn’t a wildly popular movie at the time. There were various reasons for this, not least of which was that it was widely assumed to be ‘another science fiction film’ released in a month which also saw the release of Spielberg’s ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, John Carpenter’s The Thing, the Trekkie’s choice Star Trek II and the very first Poltergeist. So it had a bit of competition in the SF and horror flick marketplace………………….
Ironically, Blade Runner might have done better at the box office if it was ‘just another science fiction film’. But, instead, this is a complex and challenging film in all its many facets – from visual/contextual themes and cinematic tricks to the plot itself. And anyone in June 1982 thinking that they were in for a Friday night of undemanding, popcorn-munching sci-fi with a bit of gore here and there, and some nice special effects, was in for – well, not a disappointment as such – but certainly some mental graft as they navigated the extraordinary canvass that is Blade Runner. Sir Ridley himself described his own favourite project as a ‘literate science fiction film’ which was probably a nice way of saying ‘not for everyone’. Yet the SF label also kept away the ‘literate’ hordes who dutifully slept through the three and a half hours of Gandhi in packed cinemas every night that year.
Box office hit or not in 1982, the film has since been recognised for what it is: a cinematic masterpiece and one of the seminal movies of the 20th Century. It’s really a very beautiful thing, worth watching just for its vision of a multicultural/Asian Los Angeles in a fictitious 2019 choreographed to a haunting, very Eighties soundtrack by Vangelis. Add in a thoughtful plot loosely based on Philip K Dick’s cult 1960s book: Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep, and electric performances from Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and Darryl Hannah, and what’s not to like?
So what did the audience think? Here are a sample of typical comments from The Beehive bar afterwards:
“It’s much more violent than I remember”
“I forgot about that bit with the unicorn dream”
“Is HE one, too?”
“How long is she going to live?”
“Why didn’t he kill her?”
Exactly! Blade Runner’s power to provoke comment and argument is clearly still apparent after 33 years.
Of course, it was obvious that these people – like me – had seen the film in previous decades and had come to The Beehive to relive the magic, and for sure I was there with two other fans myself.
But it’s not for me to wax lyrical about one of my favourite films here. I’m sure that there are people who have doctorates based on it and you can read their theses, or a million and one reviews from others, on the Internet. What’s more interesting is that you can now enjoy classic films like this again on the big screen at The Beehive with your friends and with a crowd of similarly appreciative people.
Reviewed by Neil Madden