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Blade Runner – Art house masterpiece, box office flop

This is a guest post by Ronan Moloney. Read his other piece here.

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blade runner

1982. What an incredible year for cinema. E.T had us all balling our eyes out and wanting to meet aliens (though this attitude changed somewhat after Independence Day), Raiders of the Lost Ark made fedoras cool again, Poltergeist had homeowners ensuring their new houses weren’t built on Indian burial grounds and Death Wish II was just awful.

However, there was one movie released in 1982 that would go on to be considered the greatest and most important sci-fi movie of all time. Ridley Scott’s’ masterpiece – Blade Runner based on the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ by renowned science fiction writer Philip K Dick.

IMG_0061On February 1st 2016, it was announced that Blade Runner 2 would begin filing in July. Harrison Ford back as Deckard and Ryan Gosling on board also with a script that Ridley Scott (writing and not directing this time) has described as ‘a damn good one’. Could this sequel compete with it’s classic predecessor? It seems a strange time for a sequel. It has been over 30 years since Blade Runner. That, and it could be seen as risky as producers are now looking for certain hits in the current economic climate. In 1982 Blade Runner was not an instant success, far from it.

Blade Runner is now regarded as a classic, but at the time bombed at the box office and bored cinema viewers and critics alike. The reason for the drastic change in opinions over the years has been down to Scott’s Director’s Cut of the film, released ten years after the original in 1992.

The visuals in Blade Runner are like an epic poem, discussing intense issues of personal identity, what it means to be human, reliance on and fear of technology, racism, slavery, morality, fear of death, and deceptiveness of human eye-sight. All of these topics and more of course, within a film that includes numerous other films itself – Apocalypse Now, the movies of Stanley Kubrick, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon and more. Every time you watch Blade Runner, you discover new themes you did not know were there, all while the excellent soundtrack by Vangelis carries you to a world and future that is both frightening and similar to our own, capturing the feelings and emotions of the characters and surroundings.


The question then, what changes were made to alter the film in such a drastic manner?

There were decisions made by the producers that greatly altered the message, plot and meaning of Scott’s creation. Producers wanted Blade Runner to be an action movie, and advertised it as such. Most of the novels of Philip K Dick have been made into action movies in fact, such as Total Recall and Minority Report. Blade Runner was set to be an action movie about the a futuristic cop tracking down his futuristic criminal prey. The trailer released for Blade Runner, had a voice-over and was pretty black and white as to what the movie was set to be about, a futuristic game of cat and mouse with the good guy against the bad guys, and not what Scott had intended.

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On viewing the final cut of the film, producers were shocked and frightened by the slow pacing and lack of action; anticipating audiences would not understand it. Given the huge budget of the film, they panicked and made two huge decisions that changed the film. They added a voice-over by Harrison Ford to explain the plot of the film and changed the ending for a ridiculous happy one, having our hero escape with the girl into the sunset which totally went against the film’s tone and undermined its integrity. They didn’t take their audience seriously and underestimated their intelligence choosing to explain everything.

IMG_0060The voice-over totally distracted from the tensions and story created by the visuals and atmosphere, while irritating audiences (apparently Ford himself was not happy at having to do it as he too felt it was destroying the movies’ integrity). The ending in particular went against the film’s dark tone and made little sense in relation to the story, and the actions scenes filmed were not to a high standard. In fact, in an interview in the late nineties, Scott said it was his one regret not to have more and better action scenes. This coupled with the competition once released in 1982, Blade Runner the action movie was doomed to fail, and it did at the box office.

Fast forward to the late 80’s, Blade Runner began to be shown at late night cinemas, receiving a better reception. Rumours were abounding that Ridley Scott has his own movie cut, and this was released in September of 1992 to critical acclaim. The voice-over was removed as well as the bizarre happy ending. Scenes were added as well that questioned the identity and nature of the film’s hero, both intriguing and shocking audiences. Was Deckard what he hates the most?

The film has gone on to be studied in film courses and colleges all over the world and is now regarded as one if not the greatest sci-film of all time, despite its initial box office flop. It is strange then, that a sequel is set to start filming in 2016 given the vast sums required to bring the world of Blade Runner back to life. Producers in 1982 wanted an action movie and put up $28m to create that. Ridley Scott created an artistic, visually stunning movie instead which was altered and then collapsed in the box office. What do producers have in mind for Blade Runner 2, an expensive artistic adventure? All out action movie? What will happen? Yes. Questions…


Great Article!

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