Blade Runner (1982): A Beautiful Sci. Fi. Meditative Exploration of Justice and Identity

   “Blade Runner” is one of my favorite science fiction films of all time. It is also a film I had not seen for years until I saw that “Blade Runner 2049” was coming out. The last version I saw before this was “The Extended Cut” and in the future I plan on doing a comparison of all the different versions, but for purposes of this review, I’m just sticking with the original Theatrical Release. “Blade Runner” is a film that brings so much depth through ambiguity, it doesn’t tell you what to think or to believe but from character actions we can infer greater meanings and truth. This is where the film thrives and what I’ll be analyzing more fully in my review, as the larger ideas aren’t spelled out, they hinted at and let you put the pieces together.

The film was directed by Ridley Scott, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples and produced by Michael Deeley. The story is based off of the Philip K. Dick book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick is an author whose books have been adapted into many of my favorite sci. fi. films.

The story takes place in a futuristic dystopic 2019 where the Tyrell Corporation has invented Replicants as slave labor to do dangerous jobs or the populace and government. They were given a short life span and for those that manage to escape, police known as Blade Runners hunt them down and “retire” them. This story picks up with four escaping to Earth and their attempts to infiltrate Tyrell Corp. as Deckard, a Blade Runner, hunts them down.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – The Universe is easily the richest part of it all. This is a version of Earth that could happen. We have a crowded, dirty city full of adds and neon lights where the rich live above the sky and the poor live stacked on top of one another. This is also a world of indifference as watching a replicant get killed means nothing to the everyday people, just like what we see today with how people react to shootings and usually find it justified when an authority figure of some sort (police, military, etc.) is the one doing it.

The Replicants – The replicants who escape are the best part of this film. Whether it is Zhora just trying to live her life as a dancer and isn’t involved in the plots of the other 3. Leon and his desire for justice, especially after Deckard kills Zhora, Pris and curiosity and fun nature and Roy with his desire to understand and to live, a character who wants justice and to be fixed since he was made a slave and made to die. They were the best part of this film and I would’ve have watched a full length film about any of the 4. They were complex and weren’t bad beings, they were seeking freedom and justice in a world that only saw them as monsters and treated them as slaves…and they found meaning beyond that. They were so much more than how others saw them.

Human or Replicant Ambiguity in Deckard – One of the running themes of the film is what makes a person human and Deckard is used as that base, as many times it is hinted that he might be a replicant hunting his own people…as Rachel asks if he’s ever done the test and his avoidance of it shows there is more going on with him. The fact that Rachel is able to fool the Replicant test is a good example of this too and how Deckard could have been designed simply to kill. This ambiguity lends power to the narrative at it humanizes all of those in the world and shows just how unjust what Deckard does is.

Memories and Identity – Another theme that is explored is that of memories as they relate to identity. We see this when Leon is asked about his mother in the opening scene, as he knows he’s a replicant and the memory he’s been given is false and Rachel who believes her memories to be real and shares those memories as a way of getting to know Deckard. Even after she knows they are a lie they still shape her and how she relates to others, unlike Leon who’s actions come from knowing the lie and reacting to the present.

The Means of Justice – There are a few ways that justice happens in the film. Whether it is the Blade Runner Gaff, played by Edward James Olmos giving time for Deckard and Rachel to escape, or the killing of Tyrell by Roy. Tyrell didn’t care about his creations and upheld the system where they would be hunted down. Roy killing him is around the time that he finally finds freedom in what time he has left to live.

The Cons: Deckard, Rachel and Consent – The one con that keeps this film from being perfect is the scene after Rachel saves Deckard from Leon. She is troubled, doesn’t know who she is and Deckard just forces himself on her. If it isn’t rape it is the same kind of evil. I wanted Roy to kill Deckard after this as even though I think it showed that Deckard didn’t see Rachel as a person yet, it is never called out in that way and can only be inferred. Deckard never faces any consequences from Rachel from it and they still fall in love. I hated this scene and it is the one thing that keeps this film from perfection.

“Blade Runner” is a film that has had a lasting legacy and far reaching legacy on science fiction. It helped bring about some of my favorite shows like the new “Battlestar Galactica” as replicants and cylons are pretty similar, the dirty advanced sci. fi. futures of “Cowboy Bebop” and “Ghost in the Shell,” and countless other works that explore self, personhood and greater themes. I’ll be exploring “Blade Runner 2049” after this but I wanted to go back to this classic first. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. This film is a work of genius and if you are a fan of sci. fi. you will most likely enjoy this film as much as I did.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

 

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Battlestar Galactica Mini-Series Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1, 2 – “Night” – War, Politics, Religion and the Survival of the Human Race

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We continue Apocalypse Week with “Battlestar Galactica.” “Battlestar Galactica” is one of those shows that I will always come back to I think. The themes of religion, spirituality, history, politics, war and survival are handled so well that every time I watch the series I discover something new. I am of course referring to Ronald Moore’s re-imagining, I have not seen the “Original Battlestar Galactica,” but do plan on it at some point.

I still remember the first time I watched this episode and how excited I was at all the possibilities it offered in it’s stories and characters and the reality of the relationships and world it was already exploring. Very few Pilots manage to pull this off. I think what helps was a lot of the themes of religion, war, politics and purpose were explored by Moore in “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” but where DS9 was limited by being public television…there weren’t those limitations on “Battlestar Galactica” for better and for worse he could explore those themes fully.

“The story kicks off with history: The Cylons were created by the people of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol as a labor and military force. Approximately 52 years ago, the Cylons turned on their human creators and the Cylon War ensued. After an armistice was declared, the Cylons left the Colonies, ostensibly to seek a homeworld of their own.”

“The Colonials maintain an Armistice Station as a place where Cylon and Colonial representatives can meet in order to maintain diplomatic relations. However, the Cylons have never sent an ambassador. No one has seen a Cylon since the end of the Cylon War, over 40 years ago.”

This is done over the Cylons returning to the station and Six (played by Tricia Helfer) kissing the Colonial Representative before the station is destroyed. We then go to the different characters with Admiral Adama retiring the Battlestar Galactica and introduction to the main crew and characters…the main locations being Battlestar Galactica and those coming to Galactica via way of Caprica…the most important characters being Gaius Baltar who invented the security (and gave over the data to a Cylon Six he was sleeping with and didn’t know she was a Cylon) that the Cylons hijacked to destroy the Colonies and Laura Roslin who is the Secretary of Education who finds herself President (and recently learned he had Cancer) when the Cabinet is destroyed on Caprica. From here the story unfolds.

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Here is the assessment of the Pilot Epidodes:

Pros: The Music – In this instance the music was largely composed by Richard Gibbs and he does a fantastic job and creating tension with the creating of tension in battle and all the different feelings with the end of the world.

The World: Ronald Moore did a great job with his writers creating this world. There are 12 Colonies, 12 Cylons and such a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds that we barely scratch the surface but are still given so much. We know about the last Cylon War, the silence of the Cylons and that they fear being destroyed again and are reacting as such. We also see the Cylons have an extreme belief in a single God while the Colonists are believe in many Gods. We see the military relationships between the civilians and government via Laura Roslin and the conflict in the military among the military through Lee and his father Admiral Adama and Starbuck and the XO Tigh. We also see the relationships and power dynamics between ships and Cylons a bit too.

The Premise: The premise takes the robots and nuclear destruction of humans but does something interesting with it…the robots are given humanity and reasons for what they do and we see conflict among the human factions…which rarely happens in movies that go this route (see “The Terminator Series”). This unique twist and adding religion to the mix with the Cylons being a believer in God adds more depth to a premise that is usually taken as pretty simple.

The Action: There are quite a few ship battles and a lot of destruction…from the nuking of Caprica and destroying of civilian vessels by the Cylons…to the battles between Vipers (Colonial) and Raiders (Cylons). It really drives it too since there is so much desperation. Each fight is a literal fight for survival, as humanity is far outmatched.

The Colonials – More on what I said above but very brief…the military, civilian and government relationships are really rich in this episode. We see different people and groups reacting to the end of the world and doing what they can to survive or help as many people as they can to survive or to fight. This is the group experiencing the apocalypse and the destruction of their worlds and lives.

The Cylons – There are 12 Human looking copies and over the course of the episode we meet 4. Spoilers being one of the main characters in the Colonial Fleet is in fact a Cylon. The new Centurions and Raiders look really awesome too. They have a sleek and deadly design.

The Characters – The characters and character relationships are the strongest part of this series, besides some of the messages so I’m going to say now that any character who gets exploration…isn’t a dull character. They are really interesting and intriguing and have great dynamics with others.

Admiral Adama – Edward James Olmos is one of the greatest actors for a reason. We see it in this with how he is a man dealing with finally having a normal relationship with his divorced wife, his son who died from him pressuring him to join the force and his other son Lee Adama (Apollo) blames him for all of that. He is the heart of the fleet besides Roslin who pulls the people together and fights to defend the human race when he realizes that they’ve lost the war after President Roslin helps him to see. He is the one who gives the lie of Earth to the Fleet to give them hope and reminds them that their lives are worth fighting for, as well as apologizing to Lee in regards to his son and their relationship. Starbuck the rebel fighter pilot is also like a daughter to him, contrasted with the fact that she hates the XO Tigh who is one of Adama’s closest friends.

Laura Roslin – Mary McDonnell is wonderful in this role as someone both empathetic and strong. She holds the civilians together and finds survivors to bring to Galactica. She is also the one who reminds Adama that they need government and structure so that the people can be cared for. She was originally the Secretary of Education, and also found out she has cancer at the start of the episode.

Gaius Baltar – James Callis plays an awesome anti-hero. Gaius Baltar is the scientist who unknowingly gave over the security information to the Cylons since he was sleeping with a Cylon Six model. You see his selfishness of the bat in that he cheats on her and is watching interviews of himself and when the bombs fall he is first thinking how not to take responsibility…but than we see him use his information via Head Six (A Six living inside his mind) to reveal who the Cylon Mole is on the ship. He also sticks up for an older lady when he could have taken her ticket given his past actions. His most telling statement is at the end. “I am on no one’s side.” This is his anti-hero character for a lot of the series, which gives him lots of room to grow. His character arc is what makes him one of my favorite characters, and the awkwardness of how Callis plays him.

Lee “Apollo” Adama – Has a thing for Starbuck, blames his dad for his brother’s death and his brother was married to Starbuck. His life is complicated. He is the idealist though and it shines through and also the one whose goal seems to be to get out of his father’s shadow and make his own path. We see this in how he advocates for government and Roslin to be respected and his confronting of his dad. For him the big thing was finding out Starbuck was the one who passed his brother when he should have failed, throwing their complicated friendship into jeopardy, just as he is beginning to heal with his dad. Jamie Bamber does great.

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace – She is the arrogant fighter pilot who truly is the best at what she does. She doesn’t put up with crap (largely from the drunk XO Tigh) and is willing to risk her life at the drop of a hat for others. She also has a lot of baggage via helping her lover pass flight school when he was unqualified and the fact that she loved his brother Lee. Her story is fascinating and I can’t wait to write more about it when I review more of the series later. Katie Sackhoff became unforgettable in this role.

Caprica Six / Head Six – They are two different characters but the same actress Tricia Helfer. Caprica Six loves Baltar even though he doesn’t love her and saves him when the apocalypse comes. Head Six could be Angel, Demon or Hallucination is what is implied at this point and has a mental and sexual relationship with Baltar. She guides and manipulates his actions for his and her gain. Both are great characters.

Sharon “Boomer” Valerii – Played by Grace Park, she is the one who is a bit of a rookie and the main savior of a lot of the people as she helps President Roslin when they meet up with her and the fleet later on. She is stubborn and quick to anger and also in love with Chief Tyrol. They have a secret relationship and a great dynamic as they play fight. She is great as the officer who finds her footing. Also, she’s a Cylon who doesn’t know she is. We see another model of her at the end of the episode in the Cylon Meet up.

Chief Tyrol – Major feeler type He is the guy who you see in his face when he loses crewmembers to a Cylon Nuke and the desperation of survival. He is good at his job and very no-nonsense. His relationship to Sharon also feels real.

Karl “Helo” Agathon – Helo is the guy who makes the noble sacrifice on Caprica. He gives up his seat for Baltar so that the human race will have a better chance at survival. He is also the one who helps Sharon find her cool. Tahmoh does great and I can see why fan reaction brought him back when he was supposed to die this episode.

Gaeta, Dee and Billy – These three are very minor characters at this point but good in what they do. They give us glimpses of humanity. Gaeta is the one who idealizes leaders like Baltar and Adama and with it has hope, Dee is the one who has lost but sees hope in relationship via Billy and through Billy we see the loss on his face and him trying to work as his family was destroyed in one of the colonies. Billy is Roslin’s aide and they have some good moments.

Leobon and Doral – Doral is the everyday press mole who poses the dilemma of imprisonment without evidence and Leobon is the fanatic who nearly kills Adama. He is the religious fanatic to the Cylon Cause that we see outside of Six. We see them at the end with a Sharon and Six too in the military base that the Colonials had escaped to temporarily before jumping into deep space.

The Choices – Should one stay to try and save all when the chance of annihilation of all is at hand? Should people be imprisoned without evidence if they are suspect in a war of annihilation? What people should be saved when facing extinction? What is a just war? These are all the questions and choices faced in the episode and part of what makes this such a great series, beyond all the characters.

This is one of the best if not the best pilot of a tv series I have ever seen. I can’t recommend it enough. If you like character dramas, moral dilemmas, politics and war this is definitely your show and this episode is a great introduction. Can’t wait till when I do a look back and review the rest of the series.

“So say we all!”

Final score for this episode is 10 / 10. One of the best sci. fi. and television show pilots I’ve ever seen.

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