Blade Runner never clamours for your attention. It dazzles, but not with bombast. There are space ships and shoot-outs, but they are there to establish the tone more than to drive the plot.
This film has a refreshingly meticulous pace. It succeeds in its style, its mood, and its dark tonnal palate. Its quirky but surprisingly un-gimmicky style blends film-noir elements with science fiction. An odd mix, to be sure, but it works. The sharp lines, the searching spotlights, the smokey/misty air, the deep shadows, the hardboiled, world-worn characters all make for great elements in a film that has big questions on its mind. Objects and characters on the screen are partly obscured, partly illuminated. In this way, the visual style itself creates an searching, inquiring response from the viewer.
This space-noir movie plays by its own rules, skirting dangerously close to many edges, and even falling headlong over some. Commercially, the film was a disaster when it first came out. The story doesn’t follow traditional arcs that Hollywood understands. Instead, Blade Runner meanders. The dialog is often silly, the actors ham it up more than once or twice (especially “Roy,” played by Rutger Hauer, who tries on a range of human emotions like articles of clothing). Harrison Ford as Deckard often displays inexplicable hang-dog and puppy-dog expressions as if he is doing facial-muscle warm-ups for some other film he has in the wings.
But while the movie isn’t flawlessly executed, it is sensationally conceived, staged, and designed. This is a movie that aims for everything from the juggular upward. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking film whose themes and ideas wander over the borderlines between humanity and machinery, perspective and information, spirit and mind. Machines return to their makers and their makers marvel fearfully at what they have made. And they marvel at the lack of control they have over what they have made. It is a story that echos Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In many ways, the created beings in both these stories become more intelligent, and even more human than their creators. As a result, the film begs many varying questions about humanity–it invites the viewer to break down concepts of humanity into varied parts.
This is one of those movies where, after the final credits roll by, you find yourself needing to climb back into your skin. You find yourself silent, lest you break the spell. You find yourself, as they say, “transported.” You might find yourself ready, soon after, to ask big questions, or to smile in the presence of them.