The Pile Of Shame: Blade Runner – Strangely Beautiful

Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.

Blade Runner has been a constant mystery in my life. Because I’m of the nerd/geek ilk, I’ve always heard about this wonderful sci-fi classic that I just have to watch (like all movie on The Pile). It was drilled into me that this movie was an important cultural milestone in the sci-fi and cyberpunk world and has become a bonafide classic in the eyes of official places and everyone who watched it. So this 1982 film had a lot of hope riding on it and I went into it with a bit of hesitation. That hesitation was valid, but there are so many layers to this movie that it is still swooshing around in my brain like liquid mercury. I have so much I want to say, but thankfully, I have the benefit of writing for a movie website.

Here’s the thing about Blade Runner, it’s unbelievably beautiful and it gets in your head, but it’s also very strangely paced and phrased. What immediately struck me about this movie was just how gorgeous it was. I watched the HD version with headphones on and the special effects and environments were absolutely jaw dropping. I couldn’t believe that this was a movie that came out when my parents had mullets and listened to disco. Nothing looked cheap and there was so much complexity involved in every scene that you can quite plausibly analyse the film frame-by-frame with no issues whatsoever. Someone has probably done that as well.

The sound design was godlike. The synth heavy ambient soundtrack created this stunning backdrop to this movie’s already beautifully painted canvas and every single note resonated to its perfect conclusion. The small sounds were accentuated for their full effect and the sound effects were spot on, even with that classic 80s filter on top of everything. A visual and auditory triumph that will surely stand the test of time, even with the odd 80s computer interfaces littered around the movie.

However, the narrative and pacing struck a sour note with me, but only mildly. The dialogue between characters was so strange that it almost sounds alien, which kind of makes sense in this world of Replicants and weird eye devices, but there was something distinctly off with how characters interacted with each other. The acting didn’t feel as on par as it should have been. The pacing was the other sore spot, where the movie had these long panning scenes with not much happening and then delivering the payoff as quickly as possible with the most obfuscation as possible. It was simultaneously simple while also having you struggle to keep up.

This all happened during my sight-read of the film. This was the first time I watched it and I really believe that I would have more appreciation for it after repeated viewings. There are a lot of small things that can be pondered about and the way the characters interacted leaves a lot of room open for interpretation. There are many themes and motivations that stem from the story that is not always immediately apparent. The most obvious theme comes from Roy Batty’s interactions with Deckard during the final scenes, especially the closing monologue. Facing one’s mortality and being able to truly live. Also giving Deckard a taste of his own medicine in a way by making him the one that is hunted, not the other way around.

There are so many other issues that can be tackled based on this movie. Feminism, the value of artificial life, dystopian politics, the rapid advancement of technology and so much more. It’s a paradise for a movie major’s Master’s thesis that is hidden beneath the awkward acting and strange pace. Blade Runner is the tip of an iceberg, a veritable mass of interpretation and intrigue hidden beneath the surface. This is why the critics initially did not like the movie, but it progressively became a cult classic and cemented itself as one of the most important films of our time. I can completely see that and it’s also why I really did enjoy Blade Runner, despite almost nodding off a couple of times or losing interest.

The whole setting surrounding Blade Runner was definitely a highlight. It was never really made apparent why the world is like this, outside of a couple contextual clues, but here we have this world that has human replicants that cannot be distinguished outside of a Voight-Kampff test that seeks to test empathy. Replicants, particularly Rachel, getting memory implants that make them immensely difficult to tell apart from a real human. The concept of Blade Runners and having to “retire” defective Replicants. How we see the grimy and dirty street life filled with lower class citizens and an illuminated darkness. Nexus-6 Replicants that attempt to stage a sort of personal revolution.

I wanted to get lost in that world, I wanted to explore it and try and understand it some more. The vast landscapes and cyberpunk aesthetic really solidifies that desire. It was a shame that Blade Runner’s story was so self-contained and deceptively linear that we did not get to find out more of this world. But the beautiful scenes and the magnificent cinematography would be enough for now.

I’m going to be honest with you, during this virgin viewing of Blade Runner, it didn’t really grab me. I felt lost, confused and almost like I needed some weed to fully grasp it. Lots of things were strange to me when I saw them and some scenes even made me laugh just by how ridiculous they seemed. But this movie got heavily stuck in my head and I cannot let it go. All I want to do is watch it another time and just experience more of it. Also, the more I think of certain scenes, like the whole part with J.F. Sebastien, the more they make sense.

Do I think Blade Runner is a classic? Absolutely. From a visual and auditory standpoint, there is no question. Its cultural impact was enormous and we still see the residual effects of it to this day within a lot of our media. It is still being referenced and taught in film schools everywhere and probably will be until the end of cinema. However, there was still something holding it back from it becoming one of my favourites. It might have been the pacing or the awkward acting, but I felt like I needed more out of the movie in order for it to retire in my prestigious top list of films. Not everything can be perfect, but Blade Runner sure tried to skirt the line. Let us hope its ambitious sequel will satisfy my craving.

There is still no end in sight for The Pile of Shame! Next time we’re tackling an old entry on my list that I have been meaning to watch forever. Donnie Darko.

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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa's national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.
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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa’s national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.