Just picked up a new digitally remastered copy of Blade Runner over the weekend. The plus side: the print looks great, the sound is incredible, and it still holds up even after 25+ years.
The minus: The version I got has absolutely no extras, not even old material from the previously released Director's Cut.
I'm hoping that it doesn't devolve into a Lucas-style game of a bazillion different editions to force us to have buy a new version every other year. (New for 2007! The widescreen, high-definition, official bootleg extended director's cut with commentaries and extras and tissue samples from all of the actors!)
Blade Runner remains one of those guilty pleasures for me. I know people who take issue with the exoticization of L.A. and the insinuation that in the dystopian future, Asia will have a huge influence on the world, as if that's a bad thing, and people like Edward James Olmos will be speaking a mish-mash of Cityspeak as a result of that confluence.
But on the other hand, perhaps it's just me, but as a child growing up in the Midwest, Blade Runner's dystopian vision was actually somewhat reassuring, reaffirming. Some of my non-Asian school friends saw it as a terrifying, creepy proposition.
I thought of it as something to be welcomed. That one day, familiar images from Asia would be as commonplace and ordinary as images from anywhere else in the world, and we'd be less alien to one another.
Oh sure, plenty of people were miserable, but unlike, say, Serenity, there was a certain egalitarian element to that misery. Everyone was equally oppressed by the pollution, the constant rain and darkness.
Some might hate the character of Dr. Chew, the eye manufacturer.
I take it in stride and see him as one of many guys who was working in their particular, isolated loneliness, to create better humans. "More Human than Human."
Eyes are extremely complicated, and so essential to the themes of the movie, that I consider his a key role with which to discuss the other ideas within Blade Runner.
His English isn't all that great, but he's not some hand-wringing Fu Manchu or crafty mandarin. He's just doing his job, and trying to do it well, and who can blame him.
Weighed against a great deal of science fiction before and afterwards, Blade Runner rings as a film with culture that doesn't treat culture like a liability.
At least in this future, there are people from all points of diversity and ability. It's not some Lake Woebegone future "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average," where we're all one big happy family in the alliance, the federation, the empire or whatever mass-organizing system we have.
And it feels more real and honest as a result. Even more so than does Crash, suppposedly so fixed in today's world.
From a POC viewpoint, the themes of Blade Runner are significantly important because it raises the question: How do disposable humans fit within a society?
In many ways, the Replicants are like the Chinese Railworkers of the 1800s or plantation workers. But I'm even more intrigued by the question this presents of: How important are the big issues, the deep issues of life and death, and of what we witness. What does it mean to experience, and to participate.
As the classic last lines of Roy Batty/Rutger Hauer go: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
I thought the voiceover in the older editions of the film were a little overdone, but the original lines that Harrison Ford speaks in those editions still resonates with me:
"I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die."
The Replicants weren't out to change the world, they just wanted answers. More time.
It wasn't a Matrix-style, 'let's change the system' call for revolution. It was just trying to resolve universal human and non-human dilemmas.
And I think that has actually affected my poetic and other literary work over my lifetime. But I'm not going to go into that now.
Of course, the fun lingering question is: Is Dekkard a replicant?
Before anyone jumps on me about "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and all of the Phil K. Dick business, yes, I've checked it out, and yes, I know the larger theme is about a world where it's become impossible to tell human beings from machines because the humans are becoming less humane and empathetic, while the replicants are developing more complex emotions in a weird Frankenstein parable. That's great stuff too.
But I think we're also allowed to analyze a story from different lenses far beyond how the creator may have intended it.
The long and the short of it is, if you haven't gotten around to seeing it yet, the new version is great to watch, and I think, despite a few flaws in the script, that it should remain one of the great classics of science fiction literature.