Friday, April 17, 2020

Howie Balaban Couch Critic: Blade Runner

Let’s get one very important thing out of the way first: Given the amount of praise heaped in this movie’s direction before I finally took the time to watch it a couple years ago, there was no way it could live up to such billing. Right? A movie that becomes a masterpiece for one reason or another sometimes becomes a victim of its own success in that it must continue to live up to those expectations for generations of viewers who may not be able to understand how and why the movie earned such acclaim.

For this installment of the Couch Critic (apologies for taking so long to come back to this, by the way), as we take a look at Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, I’m afraid you can count me among those who just don’t get it.

As I mentioned, I finally sat down to watch Blade Runner just a couple years ago. I had owned the “Director’s Cut” DVD because I thought it was a necessary piece to a movie collection. Then, later on, I purchased the “Final Cut” Blu-Ray on the cheap because I figured a movie that had so many special effects needed the upgrade. Truth be told, I’d attempted to watch the DVD about 15 years ago but got sidetracked. For a decade.

Anyway, before I made it a point to completely watch and try to enjoy this film, I decided to purchase and read the book upon which it was based. It should be noted that I bought two Philip K. Dick books at that time. One was the Blade Runner inspiration, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The other was The Man in the High Castle, which I’d started watching on the Amazon streaming service (I’m still on Season 1 because, well, life happens). Learning about that source material sent me down a web browser rabbit hole that taught me plenty about the author and how many of his sci-fi tales had been adapted, and bringing everything full circle, that was how I wound up making Blade Runner a priority again.

However, I read the book first. In so many cases of movie adaptations, this should always be recommended. In this case, I’m ashamed to say I struggled a bit. Before I watched Blade Runner, I actually read the book. Perhaps this requires a second reading and watching in the future. I almost feel guilty telling you that, in my opinion, the story was dry and unexciting, and helped me fall asleep a few times. I can say for sure that I understood the plot, yet it seemed to be all there was. Consider the book like a holiday meal. There was some meat, and some potatoes. But all the sides were missing. Putting it simply, I wasn’t floored like so many before me. This goes for the book and the movie. I “got” the story, but I suppose you could say I didn’t get the excitement? Did the subtleties just pass me by? I guess so.

As someone who tries to teach his kids about how movies (and in some cases, books) should be consumed with certain mindsets, I have tried to place myself in the time period of Blade Runner’s release, and of its book’s release, and yet I still come up feeling uninspired.

There are some who view it as a masterpiece, and I suppose that as far as early 80s special effects go, maybe it is. There are some who say it should be viewed as a simple noir detective story, but even then, I found it asking the viewer (or reader) to imply almost too much. But like I said, both the book and the movie deserve a second chance. Perhaps I did miss something.

Or, perhaps I didn’t. I mean, I did seek out the movie sequel and came away wondering why I’d wasted 2 hours of my time. Some things simply don’t appeal to mass audiences but have such amazing fans that they deserve, at the very least, respect.

So I’ll leave with this: I respect the story of Blade Runner, and it’s source material. But I’ll let other people like it.

Howie Balaban loves movies. He will try to review older movies here on a semiregular basis as a means of reminding us all they really don’t make ‘em like they used to. The next movie he plans to talk about is Citizen Kane.