That Ridley Scott has never come close to surpassing his own postmodern sci-fi film noir really goes to show how accidental Blade Runner really is. Famously a flop upon its release, the film was based on Philip K. Dick's fab novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? and although it was radically different form the book in many ways, it captured the look, feel and spirit of the sci-fi writer's world to perfection.
But reviewing a film I grew up with, a film that for a long time I just accepted as the best film I'd seen will feel ridiculously biased so I'll just focus on The Director's Cut and why I think it's, to date, the most effective version of the film out there.
For one thing, there's no voice-over. And although some will miss that extra touch of noir it's just not necessary and Ford' monotonous read takes away from the stunning visuals. Then there's the ending. Now I'm not saying it makes perfect sense and far surpasses the original's optimistic take but it certainly makes more of an impact dramatically. Neither ending truly gets Philip K. Dick's point but for the film specifically, The Director's Cut feels more appropriate.
As for the film itself, what can I say? It looks amazing. The cityscapes coupled with Vangelis' unique score make the already impressive visuals beautiful whether it's during the sunny hover-car rides above buildings or down on the darkness-shrouded (and rather damp) ground levels. Yes the odd practical effect here and there hasn't dated terribly well but on the whole this is still one of the best looking sci-fi films ever.
The cast is about as spot-on as it gets with Harrison Ford doing his private detective-style schtick with more heart than most and making his hitman anti-hero completely likeable despite the inherent cruelty his job demands. Sean Young has never been better as stylish love interest Rachael and neither have Daryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer whose relationship in the film is subtly underplayed yet remains very powerful throughout. Even the secondary characters are iconic from dodgy replicant creator Tyrell to his rapidly aging assistant JF Sebastian, no one puts a foot wrong and everyone looks and feels the part.
The story is very subtle in how it's told and chances are, if you haven't read the book, you'll probably miss a lot of key things here and there. But with repeat viewings and an appreciation for the various metaphors and details the film has to offer you should have everything you need right there. Do read the book if you can, though: very different but equally good.
Blade Runner has to be one of the most imitated, ripped-off sci-fi films out there. Many have tried to "replicate" its style and feel but none have bettered it. Hats off to the likes of Dark City for trying though. Then again, Blade Runner itself has its own influences and I'm sure if Wong Kar Wai was to adapt a Philip K. Dick novel it would look something a little bit like Blade Runner.
Overall, whether you love it or not this is a cult classic that, if you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely check out. Don't expect space battles or laser beams flying across the screen just sit back, grab a drink and immerse yourself in this beautifully created dark, miserable world in which androids are more human and far more poetic than humans themselves.