Saturday, 28 March 2009

Blade Runner : The Final Cut.

"I've... seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain... Time to die." ~ the soliloquy of Roy Batty.

Blade Runner is the second masterpiece shot back to back with Alien (1979) by Sir Ridley Scott. But unlike Alien, Blade Runner is not a box office hit during its initial release. It was also critically panned at that time because majority of the audience was reported not being able to truly grasp the essense of the storyline. It did not help that in 1982 it also had to face off tough competitor, in particular one of the highest grossing movie of all time called E.T. The initial release version also did not get the final approval of Scott who faces numerous issues making this movie. Fortunately, history would prove otherwise, thanks to a small group of fans who continue to stand by it. Eventually after several more releases of various versions, Blade Runner eventually gains its rightful status as one of the best neo-noir sci-fi movie to date.
The movie is loosely based on the late Philip K. Dick novel, Do Android Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968). Instead of direct adaptation, scripwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples decides to concentrate on the selective ideas of the novel, disgarding the more indepth themes and background informations like religion and mass media (Mercerism and Buster Friendly), fertility and sterility of the populations (due to World War Terminus and subsequent radiation fallout), real emotions (Penfield Mood Organ) and what it takes to be human.
Reportedly affected by his brother death from cancer, Ridley directed Blade Runner based heavily on the theme of life and death shrouded in noir-ish atmosphere. The cool sounding title is taken from a novel by Alan E. Nourse of the same name.
The story begins on November 2019 AD with an atmospheric view of L.A. which has evolved into a sprawling megacity covers in heavily polluted haze not unlike KL during the Sumatran open fire crisis several years ago. In the center of the megapolis lies two massive structures which belongs to the Tyrell Corporation. It is hundreds of stories high and is the major economic lifeline for the city. Within one of the levels, Blade Runner Holden (William Paull) manages to detect one latest version of Replicant call Nexus-6 (which is virtually identical to human and uses as slave in Off World Colonies for occupations deem hazardous to be carried out by humans) by the name of Leon (the late Brion James) via Voight Kampff Scale test (an empathy test to differentiate human from Nexus-6) but is shot with a black hole gun. Down on the streets, recently retired Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is interrupted by Gaff (Edward James Olmos) while having a meal at a sidewalk noodle stall. Gaff, a mysterious Cityspeaking (a mix of Eastern European and Asian language) police officer with an imppecable dress sense, wants Deckard to follow him immediately. Deckard pretends not to understand of which Gaff retorts, "Lófaszt, nehogy már. Te vagy a Blade ... Blade Runner." (Hungarian: "Horsedick, no way! You are the Blade ... Blade Runner). Gaff told Deckard that the Replicant Detection Division Captain Harry Bryant (M. Emmett Walsh) wants to see him of which he then oblige. At the station, Bryant briefs Deckard about an escape of six Replicants from an Off World colony on board a space shuttle. They found the shuttle adrift with all 23 passengers dead. And Bryant wants Deckard to resume active duty in order to track and "retire" the Replicants due to Holden's permanent injuries but Deckard refuses until Bryant issues a thinly veil threat to him ("If you're not cop, you're little people!"). Without any choice Deckard reluctantly accepts the task for a final time. At the briefing room, Bryant shares the profile of the Nexus-6 Replicants to Deckard. There were originally six Replicants but two were killed whilst walking through an electrical field. They are trying to break into Tyrell Corporation. The remaining Replicants are Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), their leader who is a combat model with an A Physical Level (superhuman strength & endurance) and an A Mental Level (genius level intellect) ; Leon Kowalski (Brion James) who could load 400 lb nuclear-warheads all day with A Physical Level and a C Mental Level ; Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) a A Physical Level and B Mental Level Replicant who is a member of a political homicide squad on an Off World colony; and Pris (Daryl Hannah) is a "basic pleasure model" with A Physical Level and B Mental Level. Bryant also explains that the Nexus-6 model has a four-year lifespan as a failsafe to prevent them from developing emotions and desire for independence. This also means the Nexus-6 possess extraordinary abilities in order to maximise their worth. Deckard then goes to Tyrell Corporation with Gaff watching his every moves, to conduct a Voight Kampff test on a Nexus-6 there as instructed by Bryant. Deckard is received by Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell's niece. Then Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), the genius who founded the Corporation and created the Replicants for Off World Colonies introduces himself. He wants Deckard to prove the reliabilty and effectiveness of the Voight Kampff by test on Rachael. After more than hundreds of cross referencing and questioning, it turns out Rachael is a Replicant with implanted memories of Tyrell's deceased niece. Tyrell explains that with memory implants it would provide the Replicants a sort of cushion to cope with the sudden emotional development. Intrigue, Deckard then leaves with Gaff to check on Leon's former residence at Hotel Unterwasser. There Deckard picked up a piece of scale on the bathtub as well as taking a stack of photos belonging to Leon. Unknown to them, Leon is standing outside the hotel observing them and later joins Roy who is at a Videophone booth. Roy is deteriorating as his limited lifespan is getting near. They go to see the artificial eye creator Hannibal Chew (James Hong) at his Eyes World laboratory. Tearing Chew's artic clothing apart and leaving him to the point of being frozen to death, Roy forces Chew to reveal to him who could extend the four years lifespan. Chew told him to see Tyrell but only J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) the genetic engineer who suffers from accelerated aging called Methuselah Syndrome would have access to him. Later, Rachael visits Deckard at his apartment to prove her humanity to him but leaves in tears after Deckard coldly tells her that her memories are implants. Meanwhile Pris makes her move at Sebastian by deliberately crashes into his vehicle outside the Bradbury Building where Sebastian is the only residence. She then strikes up a conversation with Sebastian and began to manipulate his loneliness and feeling. Sebastian invites her to his apartment where he spends time making toys who also doubles as his friends as he are not allowed to migrate to Off World colonies due to the genetic disorder. Meanwhile Deckard is seen in his apartment drunk and halfdreaming about a unicorn before he gets back to work and uses a computer scanner to go through Leon's photos of which he finds the image of Zhora. Deckard then goes to check on the origin of the scale and is informed that it is a snake scale which is manufactured by Abdul Ben Hassan, who owns a shop at the Animoid Row. Interrogating Hassan, he informs Deckard that the snake was purchased by someone who works at Taffy's Snake Pit Bar, a strip club down in Sector Four. Deckard questions Taffy Lewis (Hy Pyke) but fails to get any information from him. He calls up Rachael to meet him there but is rejected. He subsequently watches Zhora performance and later pretends to be an investigating officer who questions Zhora in her changing room but she suspects Deckard is a police office, swiftly delivers a blow to his throat and escapes. Deckard chases Zhora through the streets before shooting her dead. Captain Bryant and Gaff arrives to sarcastically commended Deckard for the job well done but instead of three Replicants now there are four to be retired as Rachael has been missing from Tyrell Corporation. After they leaves, Leon suddenly appears and savagely beats up Deckard before Rachael shoots Leon in the head with Deckard's gun. Rachael follows an injured and equally shaken Deckard back to his apartment where they have physical intimacy. Back at the Bradbury, Roy arrives at Sebastian's apartment and seeks his help to bring him to see Tyrell. It seems that Roy and Pris are also lovers. Sebastian knows they are Nexus-6 but only agrees after being coyly asks by Pris who is also reaching her lifespan expiration. Under the pretext of a corresponding chess move, Roy and Sebastian manage to see Tyrell personally where Roy confronts Tyrell on the four year lifespan issue. Tyrell explains that many experiments and tests have been carried out but all fails, resulting in the subjects being dead. Roy seemingly resign to his fate, then seeks for absolution from Tyrell as he has done many actions deem "questionable". Tyrell brushes this aside and instead praises Roy for he is the most perfect Replicant Tyrell has come across and Roy should "revel in his time" for these extraordinary capabilites. Insulted, Roy crushes Tyrell's head with his bare hand and goes after Sebastian. After receiving news about the death of the two men, Deckard arrives at the Bradbury and is ambushed by Pris who eerily pretends to be one Sebastian's toys. She nearly kills Deckard until he manages to reach for his gun and shoots her. Roy arrives immediately after the shooting and begins to taunt Deckard in a game of cat and mouse throughout the dipilated building although he is deteriorating away fast. Finally, Deckard runs out of space to escape from Roy, he tries to jump over the adjacent rooftop but fails to do so and hangs on his life by a hand on a steel beam. Roy sees this and jumps effortlessly over. He looks at Deckard and says, " Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." As Deckard slips, Roy catches him and lifts him up to safety with one hand. Roy, staring at Deckard and with pigeon in his arms, says, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments...will be lost in in...rain. die." He is then gone and turns white as procelain. Deckard could only looks in disbelieve what he has just heard and gone through. Gaff arrives on the rooftop and again sarcastically commends Deckard for task accomplish. He then tells Deckard, " It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?" Back at his apartment, a frantic Deckard looks for Rachael and finds her. Glad that she is alive, both leaves the apartment and on the way to the lift, Deckard comes across an origami of a unicorn.
Blade Runner has the same visual impact on me as Alien has done, although in different manner. This movie introduces me the term, "cyberpunk", even though this concept is not really express in it. Due to budget constrains, many of the sets are "retro-fitted" which adds to the realism. It is also a movie which kinds of "foreshadowing" the future development of multi-cultural major cities around the world today. Cityspeak for example, which is a language forms from combining words from different languages and dialects. Singlish, Manglish? Massive billboards on the side of buildings are a norm nowadays but Blade Runner highlights it in popular format first. And there are scenes on the streets which shows a potpurri of various cultures, much like a modern metropolis. Then there is its influence on virtually every other sci fi tv shows, movies and even animations. There are so many ways to interprete the movie. Roy saves Deckard because in his dying moment, he values life above all and should appreciated tremendously. Because for Roy, his fate is like a goldfish in a bowl, a built in death sentence. I am not sure why Gaff allows Rachael to live though. And yes, I concluded Deckard is a Replicant. But this is very much depends on the versions. The Final Cut made it clear, without any doubt because his eyes glow in one scene, he has a daydream about a unicorn and Gaff made an origami of it. Gaff also made a stickman with an erection, just prior to him and Rachael make out. Thus like Deckard reading Rachael's memory file, his too are being made known to Gaff. At his apartment, there too are stacks of old photographs like Leon fonds to do. The movie also question the timeless concept of what is it that defines human. Like Friz Lang's Metropolis, the Replicants seem to seek "humanity" whilst others like Byrant and Tyrell seems to have lost it and become cold like a machine.

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