A fellow blogger made a top ten list of films he called, 'fools gold,' films that while un-like the Emperor who wore no clothes, these films were merely not that well dressed. They were bold choices. I was asked to respond to his critique of Blade Runner, which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time regardless of genre. Before I continue let me acknowledge his site:
http://thecinemacafe.com/the-cinema-treasure-hunter/2013/7/4/fools-gold-1?rq=blade%20runner . There are a lot of thought provoking posts in Arthur Grant's that, like his review of Blade Runner will make you think.
One of his objections is the ‘overly simplistic narrative,’ where Ford’s only job is to hunt down and kill replicants. He also feels that Deckard's incompetence is a big drawback as well. I answered the incompetence issue saying that the reason might be due to battling the the highly improved Nexus 6. Let’s not forget that Leon(Brion James)completely fools and kills blade runner Holden. An interesting point is that Deckard does not kill the two males replicants only the female ones. I hope this does not lead to a discussion of 'sexism' but it is a fact, and buttresses that Deckard is out of his league with the new breed of replicant. It is obvious that the Nexus 6 is an improvement over the other 'skin jobs' he has hunted. Deckard is old, he has, after all been drawn out of retirement. Deckard's incompetence is not enough to bring down this film.
Another point of contention is that according to the reviewer, "There is however a giant void at the centre of its universe. All the king's horses etc. cannot bring the main character to life," and he cites how Deckard goes about his job with no emotion, “he doesn’t seem to care for the job either, or for anything else.” Does his taciturn approach to his assignment sound familiar? Sure. Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mickey Spillane and so on and so forth. If Deckard is a replicant, might his creator, have used the detectives and private eyes of films and dime novels as a template for Deckard? The film effortlessly transcends genres. It is science fiction yet has elements of film-noir, and one of those elements is the woe-begotten, cynical, worn down detective. Another element of course is the femme fatale: Rachael.
Another point of contention is that, "None of the other characters are given enough time to register much interest including Sean Young's Rachael." She, along with Deckard and Batty and on a simpler level J.F. Sebastian do register much interest. We see Rachel first seen as a confident, self-assured woman. Her repartee with Deckerd is classic. To Deckerd question about what she would do if coming across a photo that showing two women kissing. She asks him, “Are you testing me to see if I’m a lesbian or a replicant?” She is devastate to learn that she is not human. She expresses betrayal and a sense of loneliness that everything she believed is a lie.
As for a lack of motivation. The film does not take place in Happy Valley, people do not sing kumbyyah. All of L.A. is a miasmic disapora of hopelessness, darkness, it a portent of hell. The ubiquitous advertisements urging people to commute to the off-world, for a new life, are a ruse. Those who can leave have already left. The adverts for the off-world remind me of the line from the song, "Will The Circle Be Un-Broken, "there’s a better home awaiting, in the sky Lord, in the sky.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bRJLkNqNXI. So, if we search for motivation perhaps we look no further than that of getting through one day so to live another day, and emotions are buried under the daily grind of life.
With no emotional depth coming from Deckard we are urged to look toward Roy Batty. Batty's first words when he visits the eye-maker are lines from, Paradise Lost. Milton’s Lucifer is evil, vile, he has gone against God, yet Milton portrays him in a way that makes it possible to empathize with his plight. The criticism however comes from that any understanding or empathy we might have for him is lost when he kills J.F.Sebastian(William Sanderson). It is a good question. Why, would he kill the only sympathetic character in the film? We can speculate.
J.F. is a sick man. He suffers from progenia syndrome, a fatal disease that usually takes the person’s life in the mid to late teens. J.F. is twenty-five and is living on borrowed time. Does he live in fear? Is Batty doing him a favor by not letting J.F. live in fear? Is J.F. killed because he works with Tyrell? Whatever the reason, Batty chose to kill him, and we cannot find a good reason as to why. Batty, was made to kill, usually at the behest and for the reasons of others, but beginning with the murder of the passengers and crew shuttle now kills for a reason. Batty will kill for his own reasons. Batty has freedom to choose his own decisions. But, Sebastian's death is not enough reason to detract from the film.
A question I have, is why does Batty choose to save Deckard? He could have watched Deckard fall to his death. If Deckard was a replicant, is it one replicant saving another? Or as he nears the end of his life does Batty choose to show another side of himself? We can empathize with Batty seeking penance from his maker, who rebuffs him by telling him instead to revel in his exploits. Batty wants his legacy to be remembered, and so Deckard is saved. He tells Deckard that he has, “...seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” Don’t we all want to pass on to our heirs what we have seen, or done, And he laments by acknowledging that all he has seen, everything he has done, ”All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain.” Is that not a fear we can understand? Sebastian's killing notwithstanding there is a lot for which we can empathize with Batty.
The one emotion that the stoic Deckard has no trouble in expressing is fear. Abject fear. We see this when Brion tells him, “Painful to live in fear isnt’ it?” And Roy reinforces that, “It’s quite an experience to live in fear. That’s what it is to be as a slave.” Maybe he saved him because Batty can empathize with living in fear, as do many of us.
I should point out that Arthur Grant listed a lot of positives. There are some films in his list that indeed are not well dressed. Blade Runner, in my opinon is dressed to the nines.