Director Ridley Scott's 1982 film "Blade Runner" is arguably the most famous and influential science fiction film ever made. It has exerted a pervasive influence over all subsequent science fiction cinema, and indeed our cultural perceptions of the future.
The film is a combination of 1940s film noir and futuristic detective thriller. The setting is the decayed, rain-soaked Los Angeles of 2019. Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is a retired Blade Runner, a cop who specialises in hunting down replicants. The replicants are artificial humans, indistinguishable from the real thing in every way but two; they have no memories, and they have lifespans of only four years.
Five replicants are loose in LA, led by the fearsome combat specialist Roy Batty. Deckard's job is to hunt them down. He stalks his prey through the neon-lit, future-noir city. The film climaxes in a showdown between the Blade Runner and his nemesis Batty.
Ironically "Blade Runner" did not do well on its initial release. The film was burdened by numerous studio impositions, including an inane happy ending and a frankly embarrassing voice-over from Harrison Ford. The film was criticised for its thin story line, gaps in logic, and over reliance on spectacle. Reaction varied between indifference and hostility.
Time, and a director's cut, have vindicated Ridley Scott's vision. Ford's voice-over is mercifully deleted, and other scenes restored. The spectacle is still there; the most richly detailed future ever seen on screen is visible for all to enjoy. But this alluring eye-candy conceals a rich thematic complexity. "Blade Runner" impresses with its inquiry into the nature of memory, identity, and what it means to be human. The characters, behind their damaged and defensive facades, are complex and well realised. Ford's performance as the world-weary Deckard, and Rutger Hauer's portrayal of the terrifying yet sympathetic Batty, are noteworthy.
"Blade Runner" fully and richly deserves its reputation. It is simply one of the most extraordinary films ever made.