A lot of my favorite movies are from the 80’s. Not just favorite movies, but movies that formed my cultural vocabulary. Ghostbusters, Terminator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Aliens, Highlander, The Princess Bride, Ladyhawke…
Even movies I wasn’t old enough to see in the theater (without sneaking in or having my date buy my ticket, which of course I would never do) made a big impression, because those were the movies we watched on video in college. I could quote Aliens and Predator verbatim. And I believe I have mentioned on other blogs how Kyle Reese spoiled me for all other men.
The cheese factor was high in the eighties, but so was the awesome. Sci Fi movies wouldn’t be what they are today without a couple in particular. Alien, which actually came out in 1979, and Blade Runner.
In Blade Runner, future Earth is sort of a pit. LA is made up of canyons between 40 story buildings, people crowded in, living under a constant twilight and fall of acid rain. Harrison Ford plays Dekker, a “blade runner” who’s job it is to hunt down and “retire” (i.e., kill) replicants–androids were were built as slave labor on the off world colonies. They aren’t allowed on Earth. Four replicants have rebelled and come to Earth looking to have a word with their creator. And that’s not going to go well for anyone.
While on the trail of the rogue androids, Dekker meets Rachel, an experimental replicant, who has had memories implanted so she doesn’t even realize she’s no human. Dekker falls in love with her, which is important, but rather less interesting than everything else going on in the movie.
This is detective noir tied up with a dystopian sci-fi ribbon. (I love how they use LA architecture like the Bradbury Building to ground the movie in the noir tradition.) Or maybe I have that backwards. But the point is, I didn’t appreciate this movie until I (a) I saw the director’s Final Cut, and (b) I was a grown up and saw pasted the dated hair and electronic score and brooding hero to the bigger themes of man (and robot’s) search for God, what happens when Man becomes God, and, wow, who are we really.
[When Blade Runner first came out Harrison Ford (who, according to Wikipedia so it must be true, clashed with the studio and the director) said this movie was about a man falling in love with a toaster. Which it’s not, but funny, because Battlestar Galactic is so much the grandchild of this movie.]
This movie is definitely worth watching if you like sci-fi– In fact, it should be required watching as Sci-Fi movie history. But to enjoy it, here’s some things to keep in mind:
1) There’s some gross R rated violence, fairly tame by 21st century standards, but kind of gruesome. Also some sexual references, again, not much compared to today’s movies (and TV) but sort of creepy. Not for the kids.
2) Rent the “Final Cut” version, which is the movie director Ridley Scott wanted to make. (Proof how seemingly small changes in the editor room make a completely different movie.)
3) Get ready for some crazy ugly hairdos on the women. (Why does this always date a movie, whether it’s set in the past or the future? Aliens, on of my all time favorite movies, could have been made yesterday if not for Sigorney Weaver’s hair… Okay, and her mom jeans.)
4) The electronic Vangelis score (which is a cult classic, apparently) makes this feel thoroughly 80’s, in a way that movies like Alien(s), Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Princess Bride don’t.
Oh, and according to this movie, in 9 years, we will have flying cars, so I’m really excited about that. The constant acid rain? Much more likely, but not nearly so exciting.