by Alec Rudolph
I almost never see new movies, particularly action and sci-fi. It seems like countless films that fit those genres have been made over the last few years. The short reason is none of them appeal to me. The long reason is this: there is always too much focus on visual effects and big booms and not enough focus on the characters and the actual story. A great example of this is Jurassic World. A film with so much potential, it was ruined by completely unrealistic and over-the-top action sequences and sinfully poor character development. The movie failed to connect to the audience. I anticipated the same experience with Blade Runner, especially with the idea of some bounty hunter in the future whose job it is to “retire” strange life forms that come to Earth. It felt like too much.
What I instead found was a futuristic masterpiece which I should have expected from legendary sci-fi director Ridley Scott. Not only was the movie visually appealing, but it had the character development that makes a film great. The action was not over the top, rather most of the scenes were intense and filled with emotion, and emotion is what develops characters. The audience is able to identify with their emotions, especially in scenes such as the Voight-Kampff machine test. In that scene, not only is Leon presented with a situation intended to spur emotion, the audience is as well. This is one example of the “human” aspect of the film that makes it great.
This “human” aspect is something that is missing in many films today. It is what Blade Runner does differently. After all, the movie is based upon finding what makes us human, finding what distinguishes us from all other forms of life. That is how humans find replicants. But when we attempt to find what makes us human, we discover that there may not be anything that makes us human at all.
This is where a steady uneasiness comes from in the film. We should expect the humans to act more human so we can distinguish them from replicants, but they do not. The civilians on the streets are all dressed the same and are all walking in an orderly fashion. The replicants act more human than humans do. Rachael is proven to be a replicant by Deckard, but we cannot help but see the emotion in her eyes more than anyone else’s.
Although replicants are supposed to be the non-human life form, Scott shows that there really is no one thing that makes us human. Replicants and humans are essentially the same. Our memories will forever be “lost in time” when we die. We all die at some point, leaving our precious memories behind, no matter what kind of creature we are. So is there something that makes us human, or are we just like all other forms of life, spawned here to live out our lives with no particular direction then die? This underlying question far surpasses the visual effects and futuristic setting of the film, and that is what makes Blade Runner great.