Film Club / and That in Itself Will Tell You Everything You Need to Know

Blade RunnerBlade Runner
Directed by Ridley Scott

 

 

 

 
 

Blade Runner is overrated. 

There. I said it. 

Yeah yeah of course there’s some things that it does right. It  looks great obviously (mmmmmm all that lovely neon) and it sounds great too (*makes slow motion synth noises as I pretend my hand is a flying car*). Harrison Ford is constantly dour and bemused and tired in all the best ways. There’s robots (sorry – I meant replicants). Special effects. Sexy ladies. Glass. Rain. Saxophone. Everything you could possibly want right? 

Everything except a soul. (Oh the irony). 

My go to theory about Ridley Scott is that he’s one of the best production designers that’s ever lived but he’s a crappy director. 

Whoops.

(See also: del Toro, Guillermo).

Of course your idea of what makes a good director will depend upon what makes a movie click for you. And for lots of people they just want their movies to look good and sound good and everything else is just… toppings. But I don’t know – I’m one of those guys who likes a good story and well – that doesn’t really seem like something that Ridley Scott is really all that interested in. I mean yeah sure – give him the right script and he’ll blow you away. There’s Alien obviously. And I remember The Duellists being really good (although it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). But most of his other movies are more about the spectacle than anything else. You remember certain images and moments (Russell Crowe saying “Are you not entertained?” / Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon holding hands in a car / Ray Liotta tucking into some home cooked food etc) but it’s hard to think of any good Ridley Scott scenes.  

I don’t know if this metaphor will make sense to most people but Ridley Scott kinda reminds me of a European comic book artist. The type that you’d get in Heavy Metal you know? All of this scrumptious fully painted artwork and minute attention to detail and it all looks so amazing and better than anything you’ve ever seen in your life and then you get a translated copy and it’s just… kinda okish. And a lot more cheesy and leaden footed than you’d expect. 

The best example of this in Blade Runner is the way the film climaxes (uh oh).

Yes I think Rutger Hauer is a cool actor. And yeah I do like the tears in the rain speech. But at the risk of being excommunicated from the nerd community or whatever I’ve gotta ask erm – why is he holding a dove? And erm that shot where he lets the dove go and you watch it fly up into the sky is… kinda mawkish no? Kinda like the sort of thing that you’d expect to see in a student movie rather than “one of the best films of all time.”

In fact going further – I feel like maybe Blade Runner is the starting point for a way of watching movies that has always struck me as being sorta aesthetically impoverished? You know – the whole Christopher Nolan thing where a movie is something that you either “get” or you don’t. A puzzle to be solved. And everything important can be summed up in one sentence – “Oh yeah well of course you know that Deckard is a replicant right? That’s what the unicorn means.” 

At the risk of being horribly offensive I feel like that’s kinda a teenage mindset? I think I’d rather watch movies where the whole thing is what it means. And the whole thing is harder to put into words. And a movie is more than just looking cool and sounding cool. 

But hey – what do you think?

 

I did not enjoy the Bladerunner the first time I saw it. It starts off slow and continues that pace fairly consistently, but the poster, the name and the casting of Harrison Ford makes one assume, not unreasonably, that there is going to be a lot of well, running with weapons, potentially bladed weapons. Imagine if they had called Schindler’s List “Great Escape 2” and made a big thing of casting Big Liam from Taken versus Voldemort. It wouldn’t make the movie any worse but people would perhaps not be set up for what they were about to experience. 

The slowness of the movie is also matched by the fact it’s very dimly lit so I think I sort of forgot I was watching at some points because I was waiting for it to kick off and instead there is just a lot of talking. 

In the end it was the video game adaptation that made me revisit it. Man that game looked great and importantly had whole sequences where you run around with a gun. At the same time it introduced the gumshoe detective element so that I sort of got that it was supposed to be a Raymond Chandler-esque film noir. So Instead of writing it off I would say this is probably my favourite movie, and is also one of the reasons I would describe myself as a movie enthusiast and not just a person who likes movies (which is basically just a person right). 

I think what makes me love it is strongly related to to the issues Joel has it with. It _is_ not very accessible, it _is_ a bit stilted but I fell this slight lack of accessibility is the barrier to entry for people not prepared to pay attention. I am very happy looking at it and experiencing it and like the way it forces me to appreciate the production in a way that now washes over me. But of course the design is well known so I might talk about that in separate essay, but having watched it on many occasions and subsequently visited various Asian cities it’s like having some sort of augmented reality experience. The word dystopian gets thrown around waaay too much but beautiful as it kind of is, the world in Blade Runner is clearly not a sparkling vibrant future but a cyberpunk hellscape, and the mystery which remains unanswered is why anyone who had been hanging out watching C-Beams at the Tannhauser Gate would want to return to this dump. The film’s rare nod to the source novel is the point out how we have strayed so far from nature that even animals have to be manufactured because we murdered them all.

To rewind slightly to Schindler’s List it’s worth noting that one of the cool things this movie does is make it undeniable that the hero is a dickhead, and not the way that Indiana Jones or Han Solo are a bit selfish and cocky way, but an actual member of the gestapo hunting an oppressed minority with a broad remit to shoot people in the back of they fail his weird purity test. Sure he goes around investigating stuff and getting hard copies of things, but presumably even if a replicant is captured without a struggle there is not some sort of rehabilitation programme and the replicants are just murdered all the same. Deckard is not even a particularly accomplished detective, he is a rubbish shot and gets repeatedly owned by pretty much everyone he meets. Also and let’s not fuck around here, he gets a bit rapey with Rachael, immediately after negging her into believing she is basically a toaster. 

Perhaps it’s just because this was made in the early eighties and all the movies had to star a compromised tough guy in a tough compromised world, the sort of world where where flying cars are the fringes benefit for for environmental collapse. If you were to have nice guys wandering around then the world would lose credibility and it would be hard to assert that everyone and their eyes are for sale in this late-stage capitalist nightmare, and if this is the case then it really works. 

While the film’s overt attempts at exploration of what it means to be human are fairly pedestrian, it still creates an incredibly moody doleful atmosphere and forces us to appreciate that if Deckard is a prick, it’s because he is just another point of solitude in the vast mega city: alone among tens of millions of flickering lights. Everyone in the film is fucking miserable, and our two protagonists are not even fighting for wealth or power but just for some sort of meaning, shambling through a world where everyone else is the same. Whether it’s the calls to prayer ringing out in the background, their giant pyramids or their weird robot puppets the whole city seems to be looking for some sort of higher purpose. 

Speaking of higher purpose Joel mentions the doves sequence which is undeniably on the nose, but the magical shot comes before that, with Deckard a sad, empty, defeated mortal still clinging on to life in the rain by his fingertips. He may not burn as brightly as Roy but that stubborn spark reveals itself as, with the abyss below him, he looks up at robot Jesus to save him and Roy, prowling above him like an offended tiger, realises at the same time we do that the Blade Runner is not the avatar of everything that has ruined his life or the instigator of the plot but just an other lost nobody. As he he gives the Tears in Rain speech all Deckard can do is gale uselessly because he as nothing useful to say and no wisdom to relate. 

Now of course that dissociation from the hero doesn’t make this the cleverest movie in history, but as Joel possibly said in his previous write up of Train to Busan, when it comes to movies good dumb action is better than bad boring cleverness. Blade Runner manages to balance the smart/action/production values graphic equaliser as high as they will go within their various constraints and creates something soulful and wonderful. 

Ok. You know what? I’ll give you the magical clinging on to life in the rain by his fingertips shot. That is a good shot. 

I still haven’t sat down and given it a rewatch yet (and haven’t decided which cut I should go for – Cool Original? Tangy Cheese? Spicy Sweet Chilli? I don’t know….) but I did watch a quick “Making Of” on youtube which was composed almost completely of people… talking about all the intricacies of the production design (no big surprise there I guess). 

Jonathan says that the film has “a lot of talking” in it and yeah – he’s not wrong. But that description did make me wonder why I’m not more enthused by it. I mean if I was going to describe my favourite sort of movie “science-fiction films where people stand around talking alot” is basically exactly it. So what gives? 

At the risk of sounding like a crazy person I think maybe Blade Runner has the wrong type of talking (LOL). Like yeah the whole movie is kinda about “what it means to be human” (a sentence that always kinda makes me sigh) but it doesn’t really give any interesting answers apart from – erm – memories? And something something unicorn? Oh and tears in rain. And oh yeah people always want more life (my alternative suggested title for this movie = “Four More Years”). 

Like there’s this kinda binary that exists between people who are into cheesy sci-fi like Star Wars on the one side and people who are into more sophisticated sci-fi like Blade Runner on the other – but I guess to me they’re both kinda the same thing? (And I’m not just talking about Harrison Ford). I mean it’s all basically American sci-fi isn’t it? It’s a cool guy with a gun going around shooting things and having lots of exciting fights and sexy time with beautiful toasters women. And yeah yeah I know Ridley Scott is British but that hardly matters and whatever various reasons I kinda think of him more as an American director rather than an British one. Mostly because well – he’s much more interested and concerned with how things look rather than how things think (so to speak). Or to put it another way – he seems like someone who’s more into the luxuriousness of an image for its own sake rather than being too concerned with what successive images might communicate when arranged in a certain configuration. Or to put it another way: he’s like an author who’s so in love with the construction of his sentences that he doesn’t even notice the things that his story says (although ha to be honest most well known fancy authors are like this I think).   

Also – brief side point. I know that the fashionable thing nowadays is to view the Replicants as persecuted victims and Deckard as a prime example of ACAB (or again as Jonathan puts it: “a member of the gestapo hunting an oppressed minority with a broad remit to shoot people in the back of they fail his weird purity test”) but there was a brief clip of the movie that they showed in the Making Of I watched which includes the fact that our plucky band of heroic Replicants erm (checks notes) killed 23 people of a shuttle crew? Which – well – certainly throws everything into a new light. I mean maybe everyone on the shuttle crew was dressed and acting like Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained or maybe there wasn’t even a shuttle in the first place and it’s all just a prefabricated excuse to go after these sub-human machines that won’t just accept their station?

There’s a thing I read a long time ago that basically said – the hero of a movie can do whatever reprehensible stuff you want them to do and just as long as you make it a thing that happened in the past and you don’t actually show them doing it – the audience will forgive them. I wonder if that’s the same kind of thing happening in Blade Runner? Because we don’t see the Roy and the Replicants (their first album is their best) actually doing any mass killings they still manage to maintain our affections. (Or at least I guess so? It’s been a while since I’ve seen it – but I think the first time I saw it I definitely thought that the Replicants were the bad guys – but I don’t know – maybe that’s just my human privilege showing?)  

“Enhance.”

[Computer noise: Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!]

I rewatched Blade Runner last night (Final Cut flavour). God – what a boring movie. I think it bombing on it’s initial release is actually a good sign and one we should have stuck too. I mean – holy shit. I can only imagine the disappointment of the people who went to go and see this when it first came out. You arrange a time with your date. Book tickets to the cinema. Load up on sweets and popcorn and ice cold soft drinks and – what do you get? – a bunch of people standing around and talking about nothing interesting. Indiana Jones except he’s inept and tired all of the time (in the middle of the movie he takes a fucking nap for godsakes). Oh and also hella rapey. And then the final act is basically Rutger Hauer showing the world why everyone hates actors (“Hi Ridley – so here’s my plan: what if I pretend to be a wolf? Then I can cry like a child. Then I’ll be Jack Nicholson in the Shining! Then I’ll just do lots of gurning. And some meaningful looks. Then I’ll grab a dove. And then I’ll do a big speech that doesn’t really feel connected to anything. And then I’ll die. It’ll be great.”)

Yeah I get he’s a malfunctioning robot replicant come to the end of it’s lifespan. But it doesn’t feel deep or meaningful. It just feels like… an actor doing random stuff. 

But then I kinda feel like that’s my whole issue with Blade Runner right there. It’s never really as deep and meaningful as it really thinks it is (here’s a question for you: what does this movie actually say?). Instead it’s cosplay profundity. It looks and acts like it’s saying something deep. I mean it’s all so slow and boring and the hero keeps fucking up and getting his ass whooped that it must be smart right? And you know – something something memories something something human something something tears in rain. 

“Enhance.”

[Computer noise: Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!]

(Credit where it’s due. There are lots of points in the movie where it doesn’t hold your hand. The bit where they decide to go and check out Leon’s hotel is a good example. No one says “I think we should go and check out his hotel that he mentioned in the recording.” It just tells you it all visually. Which yeah ok – is what cinema is all about. Or should be about. But then again you know – that’s just a starting point? Right?) 

But wait. I have another question. 

Towards the start there’s this exchange: 

Bryant: They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions. The designers reckoned that after a few years they might develop their own emotion responses. You know, hate, love, fear, envy. So they built in a fail-safe device. 

Deckard: Which is what? 

Bryant: Four year life span

Ah. Ok. So the robots replicants were built in with planned obsolescence. Like iphones. LOL That’s a cool touch. Also means that people keep buying them I guess. Also yeah Capitalism blah. 

But then there’s this bit later which erm also contains one of the best examples I’ve seen as to why people hate science-fiction:

Tyrell: The facts of life. To make an alteration in the evolvment of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once its been established. 

Roy: Why not? 

Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutations give rise to revertant colonies like rats leaving a sinking ship. Then the ship sinks. 

Roy: What about EMS recombination. 

Tyrell: We’ve already tried it. Ethyl methane sulfanate as an alkalating agent and potent mutagen. It created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before he left the table. 

Roy: Then a represive protein that blocks the operating cells. 

Tyrell: Wouldn’t obstruct replication, but it does give rise to an error in replication so that the newly formed DNA strand carries the mutation and you’ve got a virus again.

aka YAWN YAWN YAWN

Like seriously they couldn’t have just said something about reversing the polarity of the neutron flow and just left it at that? No. Because hearing two characters waffle on about made-up science nonsense is not what I’m looking for when I go out on a trip to the pictures. Here babe – have some more popcorn.

Oh but wait – what was my point? Oh yeah – the bit that comes right after that:

Tyrell: But, uh, this– all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you. 

Roy: But not to last. 

Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly.

So erm. Wait. I’m confused. Did they build the robots replicants with a four year life span as a fail-safe? Or because there’s a trade off in terms of how advanced they could make them? And you know – this isn’t some small niggle – this is literally the motivating goal of the antagonist so erm it seems kind of important? Except well Blade Runner isn’t as smart as everyone thinks it is. The bad robots replicants have to die because erm reasons? Try not to think about it too much. 

“Enhance.”

[Computer noise: Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!]

At the risk of sounding like a dick (whoops. Yes. Too late I know) I wonder how many people have read the book? (Yes. We know. It has a different title). They’re very different animals. And I mean if the main characters didn’t have the same names I’m not sure you’d be able to realise that the film was based on it. Obviously the book is at a disadvantage because it doesn’t have all of the resplendent visuals as the movie does (seeing “flying car” written down just doesn’t have the same effect unfortunately). But the book is more interesting because – well – it’s about stuff. It’s about a lot of stuff. Mostly in fact – it’s about empathy. Who has it. And who doesn’t have it. And how you should treat the things that doesn’t have it. In the book there’s a big deal made about the fact that the robots androids don’t have empathy and how that means that it’s ok to kill them. In fact that’s what the Voight-Kampff test is all about. It’s checking to see if people have empathy towards other beings (mostly animals). 

In light of this it’s very interesting to me that in the whole nearly two hour running time the word empathy is mentioned only once:

Tyrell: Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil? Involuntary dilation of the iris?

That’s because Blade Runner isn’t really interested in empathy. 

But then that raises the question: what is it interested in? Humans? Memories? Artificiality? Something else? 

“Enhance.”

[Computer noise: Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!]

I think the key to understanding Blade Runner and understanding why it fails as a movie comes about halfway through. You know the scene. In fact you can probably even hear it (“Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!“) Deckard feeds a photo into somekind of future scanner machine and then sits there for about 3 minutes or so zooming in and out and doing frankly impossible things (can you really look around something in a 2D image?). I think that this is the philosophy of Blade Runner and also of Ridley Scott. Like there are lots of stories about the making of Blade Runner about how Scott obsessively dressed up sets and images to make them look as realistic and as detailed as possible (at some point someone said something about layering? Which I guess just means that his images have lots of physical layers to them? Lots of cool foreground stuff and lots of cool background stuff). And yeah you know – it works. I’m happy to admit that Blade Runner is a visually stunning piece of work. It looks gorgeous. You can lose yourself in it. Everything looks fully realised. 

(But hey you know what – so was Avatar. Ooof).

But images themselves can only tell you so much. And regardless of how some fancy art critics may like to insist otherwise – an image is not a story. It’s just a slice of a story. But to tell a story requires a whole different set of skills. Especially if you want to tell a story that’s exciting and interesting and well – meaningful. 

The thing is tho – I don’t think Ridley Scott would agree with that. Or even be able to understand it. Because his approach is the same as Deckard’s – the thought being that you can look at a single image and keep zooming into it and examining it from different angles and that in itself will tell you everything you need to know. Connecting ideas across images doesn’t really exist in this frame of mind. It’s why there’s things that don’t make sense (another question: do you really need all the effort of a Voight-Kampff test when erm you can just look at people’s red robot replicant eyes? Doesn’t seem that difficult to me). It’s also why the film doesn’t care about empathy (ha – the film itself is a robot replicant). It’s also why it’s all so incredibly boring.  

Yes. It’s a film about images. A film about seeing. Because yeah ok Roy. I get it. You’ve seen things. But here’s the important part: seeing can only tell you so much. I mean I’m almost tempted to recommend that maybe it would work a little bit better with a voiceover? Not to provide exposition. But just to make it be about something more than just shots of people looking sad in the rain. 

Or in other words – you need words to make meaning.

Otherwises it’s just “Enhance” “Enhance” “Enhance.” 

But zooming in to nothing there. 

 

Following the cultural autopsy that was the Star Wars prequel series one of the criticisms of the new films was that everything looked too new. The original Star Wars was a beaten up second hand world populated by scavengers and rogues scrabbling to make a living on barren planets whose main feature was their inhospitable environment. By comparison the CG rendered world of Phantom Menace etc were too perfect to feel real. 

Whether because of the choices of the original Star Wars or not, everything in Bladerunner seems kind of cool but crap. The bulky Heath-Robinsonesque Voight-Kampff machines; the flying cars fighting for space with pedestrians and cyclists in crowded cities; the tiny dilapidated apartments; and of course the shiniest tech you do see is just for random adverts. And this is not some weird planet in a galaxy far far away but a very convincing forecast of our world – one where already everyone has an iPhone but the screen is cracked and the battery is dying and everyone has 15 different chargers with varying degrees of reliability. Just as now the idea of taking public transport feels like a traumatic nightmare best avoided, so in the far future if 2019 the likely lived experience of environmental collapse will not Mad Max but just that for those who find a way to keep things going everything is just a bit annoying. 

From the outset the awkwardness and barely concealed irritation of the characters certainly conveys a life of constant frustration as people are let down by modern conveniences and conventions. What’s worse is that this grind is perhaps the best they can hope for. Early on Deckard’s boss, M. Emmett Walsh, says “You know the score pal. If you’re not a cop you’re little people.” This kind of meaningless throwaway threat does enough to suggest that reliable access to basic services, and protection from the law, may in the context be privileges reserved the for the bourgeoisie and their enforcers, privileges that can be snatched away on a whim. 

Los Angles 2019 is a struggle, although interestingly despite this they have to advertise the off world colonies and even the peak-condition cyborgs sneak back to Earth so often that a special police branch is required. I think these inconsistencies and contradictions are what makes this film most interesting, because things are not just in place to serve the story gods. Rather the world feels lived in and that the characters live in it in a way that resembles story-arcs except they are off-centre and untidy. The protagonist is not a good guy, while the antagonist is a murderer but also a justified revolutionary, and is not clear if the hero and love interest even like each other, and neither of them are even human anyway. Meanwhile other characters like JF Sebastian are victims and collaborators with no more agency than the robot toys he creates. This messy approach brings a richness but also reveals a film that fights with itself in front of you with the plot demanding characters go one way while they promptly March in the opposite direction. 

It’s interesting to see the comparison with Alien 3 as being from different ends of the control-freak spectrum when it comes to movie direction. Fincher is the exacting watch-maker: he knows what the end product look like and he is struggling to get every component carefully in place – Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility – but it’s too brittle to survive all the disruptive forces on set. On the other side Ridley Scott throws a fairly random selection of artists together and despite what was by all accounts a thoroughly miserable experience gets them to produce something and works his magic in the edit. The upside is you get HR Geiger in Alien, and Vangelis on Blade Runner bringing the big moods to the production, and weird little moments like the tears in rain speech. The downside is that the plots and dialogue are all over the place as actors are left largely to their own devices. In Bladerunner’s dystopia however this chaos is a feature rather than a bug. 

As Joel mentions, characters say things that are kind of meaningful but also meaningless, while nonsensical things are over-explained. But I see that as all part of the immersive experience you get from being pushed into this different but familiar world. Isn’t self-important people repeating gibberish to one another the definition of our media culture? Whether purposeful or not the outcome of the dialogue is not to inform the audience but simply to make it clear that things work differently here. For example one of the very first people we meet is an eye specialist, and never need to know why eyes are a big deal or why they require liquid nitrogen, we just need to know that the technology we are dealing with is tricky and requires a large supply chain of contractors to support it. 

The message of the movie is that life is not an easy thing: It’s not easy to create, it’s not easy if you got it naturally nor if you are a super human robot. We are all the tortoise crawling through the desert, struggling to get the right way up and hoping some kind person will flip us over to the right way. Watching the character’s persistence in this beautiful broken world is kind of inspiring. 

The real star of Bladerunner is of course Los Angeles 2019. I have never been to LA so cannot confirm whether or not there is a giant pyramid, flying cars or giant smoke stack belching flame into the atmosphere but if there isn’t there really should be because it looks incredible.

The permanent night hazy neon and tungsten drenched bustle is so ludicrously influential that it has almost become its own genre: Neo Tokyo, Deus Ex, Shadowrun, there is even a game that came out recently called Cyberpunk 2077 which just lets your run around Bladerunnerland. My personal favourite Cyberpunk city is Midgar from Final Fantasy 7 which is also tackles a number of similar themes to Bladerunner in terms false memory, corporate overreach and environmental degradation. 

As with 12 Monkeys, the cities of Los Angles 2017 and Midgar are all faded beauty and sorrow: their ancient grander ripped apart by a lack of care for its history and that carelessness thrown into sharp relief by the newer shinier modern infrastructure. It is made clear in Midgar that the new shit: the trains, Skyscrapers and Angel Alita style floating upper levels are not for the masses, who are kept at bay by keycards, drones and body-armoured security guards. The clear message is “yes we caused the apocalypse, but we are going to continue to extract every last resource we can to be ourselves out of it, while you idiots live with the mess we made.” Whether it’s Tyrell in his pyramid, or the scientists in 12 Monkeys, the evil corporation in FF7, or Elon Musk and his stupid rockets the betrayal is written in the earth, witnessed by Deckard as glides over the rubble in his flying car and people hide from the acid rain. 

Music plays a vital role in creating this nostalgic sorrow, whether through Bladerunner Blues or One More Kiss Dear, the melancholy in these songs serves the same purpose as the heartbreaking Blueberry Hill in 12 Monkeys. They evoke simpler times when it was enough to love someone without the aggravation of that person being from a different point in the space time continuum, or a robot, or the last in a race of ancient wizards. As we come out of lockdown it’s not unreasonable for a lot of people to be asking whether life wasn’t already tough enough without society crumbling around them? I imagine we’ll be saying something similar after the robot uprising. 

I rarely go on about cinematography largely because I see it as a sort of magic, but the lighting employed by Bladerunner and again copied by pretty much everyone also helps to breath life into these cities. By using fog and lighting random parts of the backdrop your eye is drawn to alleyways and windows and doors which leave your mind asking hundreds of questions about what else might be happening in the city. This is perhaps why it works so well as a video game environment where you are kind of expected to explore every nook and cranny the manufacturers have carefully crafted. In a film like Bladerunner it helps make it seem more three dimensional, more like I am sharing the space with the characters and can look around, rather than having my focus driven by the director. All those unanswered questions make the environments seem richer and is helped by the fact the film is already pretty confusing. 

The overall impact is that to look at the wide shot in Bladerunner is to know instantly that something really bad went down here – not just for individuals but for the whole society – and that perhaps something bad is going on just round the corner of only you craned your neck to see. Perhaps why Joel finds it dull is that while the film implies trouble has happened it rarely builds enough tension to make you think something equally as bad is about to happen and so you rarely feel concerned for the characters until the very end. I wonder if that is because it is impossible to provide a lavish back drop and keep the audience focussed on events in the foreground without sacrificing one for the other. Or perhaps Bladerunner is all epilogue with only a weird bit of text at the start to describe the social upheaval caused by the AI singularity. 

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