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Only 34 Years Later & Deckard Is Old

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Written by Barry Benintende, a guy with a Terrier named Jack who somehow got this far in life finding ways to get people to pay him to write about film and music. He’s kind of smug about it too. You should slap him if you see him on the street.

The absolute film geek inside of me is screaming with joy and jumping up and down like a moron — there will be a new installment of Blade Runner. It will star Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling and it is projected to take place decades after the original. Which is good, since 1982 was a long time ago and Ford is not looking younger. The sequel is slated for January of next year. On board to direct is Denis Villeneuve.

Everybody, please join me in praying this prayer: “Don’t screw this up, Denis. For the love of God and all that is Holy, please do the original some semblance of justice.”

Villeneuve directed the brilliant Quebecois film Polytechnique, so there is some hope that the sequel, or follow-up, or whatever it’s going to be called, won’t make me cry. I hope the new film lives up to the quality of its older brother.

Ridley Scott’s original was amazing. Even though I saw it in a near-empty theater, next to a friend who snored through it; I was floored by the first version of Blade Runner. And even seven or eight of the versions that followed.

The futuristic setting  of 2019 is no longer the distant future, it’s practically upon us now. The dystopian film is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The dreary, filthy postmodern Los Angeles has arrived, sort of. Machines have taken over our everyday lives. They do most of the heavy lifting. They break down frequently and make our lives hell. The level of grime and sense of dread is not here yet, but images of Syria on the nightly news do come close.

The genius of Ridley Scott was evident on screen. There’s a detective named Deckard (Ford), who roams the streets, hunting down replicants who have escaped grueling slavery out on the colonies and made it back to Earth. There’s the awesome Raymond Chandler voice-over, that gives the film a noir-esque feel. Then there was Rutger Hauer’s android Roy Batty. Batty, a replicant with human appeal and an urge to live. There’s also the near-flawless third act, and Hauer’s amazing speech about “tears in rain.” Human or replicant, we’re all beings and we all have a limited amount of time on this planet. Blade Runner is not just great sci-fi, it’s a great film.

There are other versions, one of them is the Director’s cut, another is the Final Cut. A more disturbing version of this tale of dehumanisation.  I’m fairly certain there are more, but I lost count. All of them are varying degrees of great, I’ll let you decide which.  There are two camps of Blade Runner fans: those who think Deckard is a replicant and those that don’t. Put me in the camp that thinks he might be.

Throughout the movie, it is implied that Deckard is a replicant, but never outright said. There are subtle hints, but those may be red herrings. Was he or wasn’t he did not bother me one way or the other, it just gave me something to talk about with my fellow film-goers. Often. There were nights in Hillcrest, where I would down cups of espresso at Quel Fromage, debating back and forth with friends and strangers about the cultural relevance of Deckard and how different the film is/would be if he were a replicant. The theatrical release had what some call a happy ending. I always considered it vague; which is why I loved it. Life is never a neat package. Love is never simple. What makes a person alive? At what point do machines stop being machines and start having feelings?

Like any cult classic,the back story is just as interesting as the movie itself.

Apparently, Scott had wanted to film Blade Runner in Hong Kong, but it was too expensive. So, he shot mainly on Warner Brothers’ backlot in Burbank. According to everyone involved, he was notoriously hard to deal with. The American crew even made up t-shirts with derogatory slogans directed at Scott. But the finished product is a masterpiece of sci-fi and drama. So perhaps you do have to suffer for art after-all. The source material was born out of suffering too.

Dick first came up with the idea for his novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ back in 1962, when researching ‘The Man in the High Castle’ which deals with the alternate reality of Nazis conquering the planet in the 1940s. As part of his research, Dick had been granted access to World War II-era Gestapo documents located at the University of California at Berkeley. While he was there, he came across private diaries written by S.S. goons stationed in Poland. Dick was so horrified by what he read. The horrors on the pages he read lead Dick to think that Nazism was a defective thought process. The type of mind with those thoughts had to be riddled with flaws and numb to the pain of others. From such horrors sprang the novel.

Another part of the folklore surrounding Blade Runner that has swelled over the years is the  infamous ‘Blade Runner Curse.’  It is the belief that the film was cursed for any of the companies whose logos were displayed prominently as product placements met with hideous failures soon after. Many of them were among the world’s largest and most powerful. Well, they were until the curse, supposedly, laid waste to them all and salted the earth in its wake.

First up was RCA, a consumer electronics and communications conglomerate that was larger than life itself. RCA was bought out by its’ one time parent GE in 1985, and summarily dismantled. Next is Atari, the name everyone who thought of home-based video games thought of when they thought of video games. Atari collapsed during an industry downturn and never bounced back. The Atari that is here today is an entirely different corporate monolith altogether.  The folks over at Cuisinart went bankrupt in 1989. It survives today under new ownership. Also, there was the phone company. The Bell System monopoly was broken up in 1982, and all of the resulting break up ended up with all of the phone companies being cast to the winds, only to reform under a new banner. The airline Pan Am suffered the terrorist bombing/destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 and went bankrupt in 1991. Even Coca-Cola felt the pain of the curse. It was New Coke. If you missed it, it was a hideous concoction that failed so badly, the company brought real Coke back and apologized to the world. Last up was The KOSS Corporation.  Its’ logo is seen in the opening scenes prominently when Deckard is waiting to eat. The company suffered a crippling loss when it was discovered in 2010 that an employee, the CFO, had embezzled $34 million from the hifi pioneer.

Even with all of those tragedies, even with too many versions, even with too much talk about the smallest of details, Blade Runner is still amazing all these years later and worthy of a sequel. If Villeneuve screws it up, I am going straight to his house to scream obscenities at him until he turns the garden hose on me.

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Author: Barry Benintende

Barry has spent his entire adult life watching movies, listening to music and finding people gullible enough to pay him to do so. As the former Executive Editor of the La Jolla Light, Editor of the South County Mail, Managing Editor of D-Town, Founder and Editor of sQ Magazine, Managing Editor of Kulture Deluxe, and Music Critic for San Diego Newsline, you would figure his writing would not be so epically dull. He has also written for the San Diego Reader, the Daily Californian, the Marshfield Mail, Cinemanian and too many other papers and magazines that have been consigned to the dustbin of history. A happily-married father of two sons and a daughter, Barry has an unhealthy addiction to his hometown San Diego Padres and the devotion of his feisty Westie, Adie. Buy him a cup of coffee and he can spend an evening regaling you with worthless music or baseball trivia. Buy him two and you’ll never get rid of him.

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