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 Blade Runner
(1982) on IMDb

Blade Runner (1982)

Man Has Made His Match… Now It’s His Problem

Collage of a man holding a gun, a woman holding a cigarette, and a futuristic city-scape. Blade Runner
The Blade Runner movie poster. The film © 1982, 1991 The Blade Runner Partnership Poster artwork © 1982 The Ladd Company

Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir science fiction film, directed by Ridley Scott. The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, was based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The film stars Harrison Ford and features Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy, M. Emmet Walsh, William Sanderson, Joe Turkel, and Brion James.

The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically manufactured beings called replicants – visually indistinguishable from adult humans – are used for dangerous and degrading work in Earth’s “off-world colonies”. Following a small replicant uprising, replicants become illegal on Earth; and specialist police units called “blade runners” are trained to hunt down and “retire” (kill) escaped replicants on Earth. The plot focuses on a brutal and cunning group of replicants hiding in Los Angeles and a semi-retired blade runner, Rick Deckard (Ford), who reluctantly agrees to take on one more assignment.

Blade Runner initially polarized critics; some were displeased with the pacing, while others enjoyed its thematic complexity. The film performed poorly in North American theaters but achieved success overseas. Despite the box office failure of the film, it has since become a cult classic. Blade Runner has been hailed for its production design, depicting a “retrofitted future”. The film is credited with prefiguring important concerns of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, such as globalization, climate change and genetic engineering. It remains a leading example of the neo-noir genre. Blade Runner brought author Philip K. Dick to the attention of Hollywood, and several more films have since been based on his work. Ridley Scott regards Blade Runner as “probably” his “most complete and personal film”. In 2007, the American Film Institute listed it as the 97th greatest American film of all time

Seven versions of the film have been created, for various markets, and as a result of controversial changes made by film executives. A rushed Director’s Cut was released in 1992 after a strong response to workprint screenings. This, in conjunction with its popularity as a video rental, made it one of the first films to see a DVD release, resulting in a basic disc with mediocre video and audio quality. In late 2007 Warner Bros. released in theater and DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray the 25th anniversary long-awaited digitally remastered definitive Final Cut by Scott.


Rick Deckard

Rick Deckard is the protagonist in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well as Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, based on the novel. In the film, Rick Deckard was played by Harrison Ford.

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter, or “Blade Runner”, a special member of a police department (San Francisco in the book, Los Angeles in the movie) who is employed to hunt down and “retire” artificial manufactured humanoids (“replicants” in the film, “androids” in the novel). Since they were declared illegal on Earth, it is up to the Blade Runners to “retire” (kill) any that find their way to Earth. At the beginning of the film, Deckard is called out of retirement after a group of unusually brutal replicants hijack a shuttle to Earth, intending to infiltrate their place of manufacture and extend their four-year lifespans. Deckard is reluctant to resume work, but is told he has no choice and must use some of “the old blade runner magic” to succeed. He follows the model of a film noir detective, mixing pursuit of clues and interviews with suspects with brutal violence. Like many noir heroes, he finds it hard to turn down a “damsel in distress,” (the replicant Rachael) when she asks for his help.

The original novel’s plot is similar, except that Deckard is an active bounty hunter, rather than retired; he is never referred to as a “blade runner” as this term is not used in the book; he is instructed to hunt down six androids (a total of eight having escaped); and the androids are not aiming to extend their lifespan, but simply to escape slavery on the colonies.

There are lengthy debates among the movie’s fandom on whether Deckard is a replicant himself. The Director’s Cut DVD of the movie seems to lean towards the idea that Deckard is a replicant, as new footage was added that supports that side of the argument. Actor Harrison Ford has stated that when he and director Ridley Scott were discussing the character prior to filming, they both agreed that Deckard was not a replicant. However, in multiple subsequent interviews, director Ridley Scott has come forward stating that Deckard is in fact a replicant. Ridley also states that Harrison Ford has given up the idea of Deckard being human.

The original novel includes a similar question, but in a more subtle form. It is made far more certain that Deckard is not an android. However, he is a Mercerist (he uses a device called an “empathy box” to commune with other humans in the experience of a mysterious, unknown man named Mercer, who may or may not exist; this is part of the evidence that he is not an android, as no android has ever been able to do this), and he makes use of a device called a “Penfield mood organ” which allows him to “dial” any emotion or state of mind he wishes to experience, at any moment, for reasons of practicality or pleasure. (Neither of these have any analogue in the film.) As such, although Deckard is physically human, the question of whether he is “human” by any meaning of the word in the reader’s world is left open.

In K.W. Jeter’s Blade Runner novels, Rick Deckard is rediscovered by the Tyrell Corporation, who want to use him to retire the mysterious “sixth replicant” from the group he last hunted. (These novels use the character of Deckard as shown in the movie, not the original novel.) This mission ends up leading to further adventures involving various conspiracies between the Tyrell Corp., the United Nations, and Replicant Sympathizers.

It has been suggested that Rick Deckard’s name may be a punnish reference to René Descartes, whose philosophical writings include several on the topic of what is and is not human, as well as the concept of the human body as a machine. This interpretation is reinforced by the reference to his famous statement “I think, therefore I am”, by the character Pris (to the robotics engineer/scientist J. F. Sebastian).

Roy: “We’re not computers, Sebastian. We’re physical.” Roy’s face is almost scowling now.
Pris gets up and says with a smile, “I think, Sebastian…” she puts her arms around his shoulders, “…therefore I am.”

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