You might ask, why have I lumped a cult classic sci-fi film and an 80’s commentary on racism in America?
Well, there’s a common theme here. I don’t really know how I feel about them or what I should say. This is an odd feeling for me, opinionated as I am. I had a feeling this “open mind” approach would get me into trouble.
First up, Blade Runner. It stars young and hunky Harrison Ford and was originally unsuccessful due in part to its simultaneous release with E.T. and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. Gotta hurt. Since then, it has won several accolades and is considered ground-breaking and influential in modern science fiction.
The film takes place in 2019 Los Angeles where these biologically engineered humanoid beings called “replicants” are illegal on earth due to a violent uprising (but totally cool on our off-planet colonies). It’s the job of the Blade Runners to hunt them down. Ford plays Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner, who gets recruited for one last job of hunting down four escaped replicants and that gives us the plot.
So why is it any good?
The basics of decent story and good action are definitely there. Beneath that is a layer of interesting philosophical, moral and religious themes that make you think if you feel so inclined.
It also has a pretty good look to it. The set design and special effects that brought a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles to life have that rare combination of cool without being cheesy, something you don’t see often in 80’s movies (although there was some sweet Kenny G.-like saxophone in the soundtrack).
Sounds okay, so why am I on the fence?
You know when parts of a movie are so over-quoted or parodied that it’s lost its meaning? Like when you watch a Few Good Men and Jack Nicholson says, “You can’t handle the truth!” It was probably powerful and riveting at one point, and now it’s just annoying.
The same is true about a movie so influential that you’ve seen things just like it in other films. It’s almost tiring. That’s no fault of the movie – in fact it’s a credit to it – but I think it lessened my enjoyment.
This is especially true when it came to those interesting themes I mentioned. I mean, come on, how many science fiction shows or movies are about the hubris of science or what humanity really means? Yes, I know that’s been a common theme in this genre long before this movie, but my point stands.
The worst part of the film was definitely Harrison Ford’s narration. It gives unnecessary information and Ford sounds like he’s bored out of his mind. Further research told me that Ford was actually kind of ticked about recording them and thought they ruined the movie. Director Ridley Scott agreed and there is now a Final Cut version that doesn’t have the film noir-wannabe feel.
So here’s my recommendation – if you want to get into science fiction films, this is a good place to start. If you’re a nerd about sci-fi and haven’t seen this, watch the film that heavily influenced later projects like The Fifth Element and Battlestar Galactica. If you’re neither, maybe just skip it.
One more thing before I move on – in all older movies that portray the future, we’re supposed to have flying cars and colonies in outer space, but they didn’t think we’d have color computer monitors? What’s up with that?
Okay, now on to Spike Lee’s 1989 movie Do the Right Thing.
Unlike the above movie, I’m not actually torn as to whether or not it’s a movie to see. It is good, and I highly recommend it. I’m just not really sure what to say about it.
The movie takes place in Brooklyn and explores racial tensions between an owner of an Italian restaurant and the black neighborhood it resides that eventually culminates into violence.What is remarkable about the film is how it explores racism through multiple viewpoints and addresses its complexity. The movie has believable and dynamic characters that move the plot and drive the point home. It’s especially chilling when the dust clears from the violence at the end and Spike Lee puts up two quotes, one from Martin Luther King Jr. about the importance of nonviolence and one from Malcolm X on the necessity of violence to defend yourself. Poignant stuff.
My only difficulty is that I feel horribly inadequate to comment on the realities of racism in America. As anyone will tell you, I’m the whitest human being on the planet and have spent much of my life in the fairly non-diverse Midwest. I did just talk about how well the film mirrored racial tension, but honestly, how the hell would I know? I live in a center of multiculturalism now, but everyone seems to get along just fine so far as I can tell.
To sum up – pretty sure it’s an excellent film, but I’m probably out of my element here.
Although there is one thing I have to say about late 80’s/early 90’s TV and movies. Isn’t it hard to take things seriously when everyone is in neon? Or is it just me?