overrated: Blade runner (1982)

- By Oisín Walsh 

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Blade Runner is so often hailed as a masterpiece that I’m sure everyone has heard of it, even if they’ve never seen it. They’re better off for it.

From the outset, I realise I am in a minority as someone who does not enjoy this film. I find it boring due to a plot that is so complex that it is not so much engaging as it is confusing. I do think it is a good film, I just think it’s overrated.

The plot follows Rick Deckard, as played by Harrison Ford, a ‘blade runner’ who is hired to hunt down ‘replicants’,  androids who are illegal on earth in the year 2019. They have a limited life span, living for only four years. Much of the film is spent with Deckard as he tracks four replicants who have escaped to earth, and it is just not very exciting. The film suggests that we should question what it means to be human among a number of other philosophical questions. While I was watching Blade Runner all I felt was numb and bored, not very much was on my mind. The one moment of writing in this film that struck me was Roy Batty’s “Tears in The Rain” monologue. That entire scene works, it is thrilling, affecting, and achieves what I feel most of the film tries to do: make you think. However, this is the single point in the entire film that works for me. The film also thinks that we should question whether or not Deckard himself is a replicant. This would be a good twist, if the film spent any time investing in the character, but we don’t like him so why would it matter?

Many filmmakers have cited Blade Runner as having had an influence on them in works they have made and it’s clear why. Visually, it is a very engaging film. This futuristic version Los Angeles is dominated by towering skyscrapers and illuminated with eternal neon light. The dystopian vision of the future is clear and depressing (and thankfully one that has not been realised yet).

The music of Blade Runner is also entrancing. The score by Vangelis is something fantastic and it truly suits both the setting and the characters which inhabit it. But these elements cannot support the muddy, poorly paced plot, and elevate it to the status of a masterpiece.

There are several versions of the film, so which one is the perfect version? The one with the out of place narration? Have I had the misfortune of seeing the one which is poorly paced, written and just plain boring? I think it’s unlikely that any version of this film could ever convince me that this is as brilliant as so many people claim it to be.

Clearly, I didn’t connect with this film on a narrative level. I cannot deny that the film has a clear influence over many other entries in the science-fiction genre. Numerous films, TV series and video games clearly draw on the visual style of Blade Runner. I don’t think Blade Runner should be forgotten or its influence on other great pieces of art be dismissed. I do think Blade Runner can be called many things; I just don’t think a masterpiece of cinema is one of them.