Based on the 1968 Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, director Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision of a near-future Los Angeles where the rain never stops, androids are on the loose and human memories are not what they seem is the most spectacular slice of cinema sci-fi imaginable.
The classic story, the impeccable performances, brio direction, Vangelis’s score and Jordan Cronenweth’s cinematography and the stunningly imaginative and eye-filling production designs (Lawrence G Paull) and art direction (David Snyder) – still incredibly influential 30 years later – add up to one of the finest sci-fi films of all time.
As scripted by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, the sci-fi plot is presented in the film noir style of the 40s, featuring a man alone in a dark world beset by evils beyond his control. Harrison Ford is terrific as that man, the doomed Blade Runner Rick Deckard, bounty hunter and embittered ex-cop, assigned to seek and destroy four rogue ‘replicants’ who have infiltrated LA to extend their limited lifespan.
Rutger Hauer is quite amazing, totally scary as the blond, glacial-eyed android leader Roy Batty and Sean Young is also outstanding as the almost-human replicant Rachael. There’s a fine support cast that includes Edward James Olmos, M Emmet Walsh, William Sanderson, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy and Brion James, while Daryl Hannah is especially striking as Pris.
It opened to mixed reviews and some resistance at the box office, but it got a second chance in the video era, suddenly becoming a huge hit and achieving classic status a couple of years after its cinema release in 1982.
A Director’s Cut was released in 1992 at 116 minutes, with restored footage, some cuts and the deletion of the original voice-over narration, which had been hastily added when American preview audiences complained the plot was incomprehensible.
And in 2007, the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, came the definitive The Final Cut, fully restored from the original negative and digitally remastered with improved visual sound effects, and considerable changes. This is the only version over which Scott had complete editorial control and artistic freedom.
The argument still rages which version is better, many admiring the noir-style voice-over, some preferring the original ending too.
With its influence seen everywhere in sci-fi movies an TV ads, there’s no doubt about the film’s lasting quality now. Some think that this is the great Scott’s best movie. And that would mean that Alien isn’t.
In 2015 a sequel was finally announced. Denis Villeneuve will helm the follow-up starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.
© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 40
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