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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER has such a long and convoluted history, that this is going to be an unusually long movie review.
Why? Because we've reached that moment in history where 1982's BLADE RUNNER is two movies, not one.
It must be weird for folks born in the 1990s and later. Let's say you're one of them. You look at movies now and they're good. You enjoy watching them. But someone older, a parent or grandparent, says of your era, "It's okay, but it's nothing like My era."
Now old folks have been saying this for centuries and they've always been wrong. They've always looked on their childhood through a romantic delusion of what was because when they were young they had a future, whereas most old people can only live in their past, thinking about mistakes they made and what they could have been.
But you might have noticed something weird going on because, that's the way it's been for centuries Until the New Millennium.
See, this is where it gets weird. Why? Because nearly every time you want to see the latest, hottest looking movie, it turns out that movie is a remake of a movie that came out in the late 1970s or the entire decade of the 1980s.
Now believe me, there's some old crusters who will try and snowball you about how great the 1960s were (they weren't). Oh sure, there were good moments here and there, the staggering fast advancement of space flight for one. That really shows what humanity is capable of with the right incentive. What a lot of people didn't know is that the ten brilliant years of NASA spaceflight in the 1960s was built upon the top secret military testing of the late 1940s and 1950s. It didn't just come out of nowhere.
Just so, today's tons upon tons of remakes, reboots, and ongoing sequels of movie franchises that started in the 1970s and went on through the 1980s didn't just come out of nowhere either.
It started with a man who took Science Fiction quite seriously and his name was Arthur C. Clarke. Like all Science Fiction writers of his period, this fiction writer and inventor (he invented the workable concept of geostationary or Clarke orbit. You like your Internet and cell phones? Thank Clarke) would have kept on plugging away at his craft, except that he was discovered by a director that the movie business was falling all over themselves to adore and that guy's name was Stanley Kubrick.
Together over a period of years, Stanley and Arthur formed the clay that would become 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
However - say all of the laudatory things you like about Clarke - and many have; say all the wonderful things you like about Kubrick - and many have; 2001 would have been nothing without the extraordinary special effects and Production Design. The SFX weren't simply models on a string, they looked and moved so damn real. Only one person was capable of pulling off such a feat at that time and his name was Douglas Trumbull. Here's where we get to the meat of everything that came after.
Once Trumbull made a spaceship, he so wowed the world of filmmaking that they left their old aircraft and V2 rocket inspired Chesley Bonestell spaceships and the future that artist created, behind. Well, almost.
Starting with 1968 and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, every spaceship went from smooth, sleek, and fins to highly detailed. Every interior went from metal and bolts to plastic and lights. Moreover, this wasn't simply other SFX artists imitating Trumbull's style, Douglas himself worked on every big budget movie that came to matter.
THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN? Douglas Trumbull.
Douglas didn't work on George Lucas Star Wars as he was too busy working his fantastic on Steven Speilberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.
Trumbull, Dykstra, Johnson, and Richard Edlund became the most sought after visual SFX artists. The thing was, they all won Oscars and all got real expensive real fast. Most most productions were already spending a fortune just keeping their crew all coked up and pliable, and were willing to hire someone cheaper* who could give them that Trumbull, Dykstra, or Edlund look.
When Director Ridley Scott was pegged to direct ALIEN, he was teamed with Swiss Surrealist Artist, H.R. Giger. Giger was going through his airbrush period and absolutely nobody created the fantastic art like Giger. To separate the uttelry alien concepts that Giger designed, Ridley needed someone who could give the earth spaceships that Trumbull look, and he was offered political cartoonist, Ron Cobb and comic book artist, Jean "Mobius" Giraud. Ron went over the top with Trumbull and Dystra's already meticulous space ship designs when he designed the the Nostromo and other earthcraft. Mobius went detail mad on the clothing including spacesuits.
What all of these people creating fantastically futuristic designs adhered to, however, was that however wild the form it gave the appearance of following function. No matter how stylish the designs were, they didn't look stylistic: existing only for itself.
Because Ridley Scott cut his teeth on the successful ALIEN, he was able to call in the big guns for his next project, BLADE RUNNER. That's when he allowed Douglas to go totally Trumbull.
True to form, in 1982 everyone was wowed by the visuals. Artist Syd Meade designed the future and Trumball brought it to life. Book after book after book talks about those utterly great visuals: John and Syd shared an Oscar.
I saw the original BLADE RUNNER not once, but three times in first run theaters. Yet in all of those times, I never fully enjoyed it. The movie, in fact, wasn't doing well with audiences despite the generally positive raves of art critics.
Like those who are koo-koo for Kubric, they were all enthusing over the cinematography, the magnificent special effects (over 30 years later and still unmatched by modern cgi as of 2016), the fact that a full color movie was using film noir esthetics.
I tried to like it, I sincerely wanted to like it. There was a great story hidden in BLADE RUNNER, I just knew it, I could feel it. But ultimately I couldn't like it because it was such a botched job.
So much repetitive exposition. So much needless narration. So much blah.
Years later I would discover - for the second time in my life - that I wasn't the only one who was grossly disappointed with a critically acclaimed, Oscar winning movie. There was one other person who also didn't like the 1982 theatrical release of BLADE RUNNER.
Director Ridley Scott
3 Shriek Girls