Tag Archive: Harrison Ford


Where Jar-Jar Binks went wrong

By now everyone has seen the video postulating that Jar-Jar Binks was actually an evil Sith Lord. According to the video, Lucas had hinged the whole Star Wars prequel franchise on the success of Jar-Jar. When the fans reacted negatively, he created Count Dooku in order to continue the story without Jar-Jar as the big villain. The video suggests Lucas “chickened out” when he cancelled Jar-Jar as the one true mastermind, but Lucas did not chicken out at all. Jar-Jar was not working properly and had to be strategically replaced. What happened? Read on for more! View full article »

Blade Runner: Too Many Replicants

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Those who read my last post on Blade Runner would know that I felt the lack of voiceover narration was a detriment. I grew up on the version of the film with the voiceover narration and I had thought that was the Director’s Cut of the film. It turns out I was horribly wrong.

The Director’s Cut that played at the NuArt was in fact so similar to the “Final Cut” that played a week earlier that it was almost identical. There were small differences, sure, but overall, it was still a hard-boiled noire story wrapped in a sci-fi setting. Without the narration we lack the nuances of the inner turmoil that Deckard is going through. We get he’s a burnt-out ex-cop, but not what burned him out. This layer adds an important moral and philosophical complexity to the work.

Deckard as a Replicant

Beyond the lacking narration, it’s clear that Ridley Scott had decided once and for all that he wanted us to believe Deckard was a replicant. The minor edits made to the film don’t make the claim outright, but try to hint at it. The problem is that this is in a somewhat haphazard way.

To start with, Scott takes advantage of a continuity error that was removed after it was found in early cuts of the film. Deckard, after agreeing to come back as a Blade Runner, is told that six replicants made it to Earth, but one was killed after they tried to infiltrate the Tyrell Corporation.

Later, when Deckard is in his showdown against the last replicant, Roy Batty, we hear Batty specifically refer to Deckard by name. This of course could only happen if Batty knew who Deckard was. It’s these two points that provide the critical argument that Deckard is a replicant. Unfortunately, Ridley Scott forced this idea into the story. We know this because it creates other plot holes.

Problems with Time Scale

Early on we’re told that the replicants hijacked a ship and came to Earth about two weeks prior. By hinting that Deckard is one of the six replicants, Ridley Scott is asking us to believe that Deckard arrived on Earth with the others, infiltrated the police as a replicant-hunting Blade Runner, and built up enough history that he’s considered the top man for the job. That Batty was able to call Deckard by name would hint at this, but let’s keep in mind that another replicant, Leon, got himself hired at the Tyrell Corporation and was discovered within two weeks of his arrival. The timelines just don’t fit.

Problems with Deckard as a plant

It’s possible that Deckard was created by the Tyrell Corporation and planted within the Blade Runner unit. A sort of anti-replicant replicant. The critical flaw with this argument is that nothing is done to set up this idea. Tyrell himself does nothing to indicate that there is a plant in the police force. There are no significant visuals indicating that Deckard is somehow unusual, either in abilities or the speed with which he built his reputation. In fact, he’s referred to as “the old Blade Runner”, suggesting that he is a very experienced replicant hunter. This doesn’t indicate anything more than he has a knack for it.

Evidence for Deckard as Replicant

To be fair, there are small bits of evidence that Deckard is unusual. For example, we see no photos of him in particular at his apartment. This would suggest that such photos don’t exist. Instead we only see antique pictures. There is, of course, also the final scene where we see an origami unicorn. Gaff, Deckard’s rival, makes origami figures and this suggests that he knew the contents of Deckard’s unicorn dream. This could only happen if he knew Deckard was a replicant. Finally, there’s the fact that Batty knew Deckard by name.

Problems with the photos

The photos are visually referenced twice in the film and aside from the camera lingering on them for a moment, no mention is made of them. The fact that Ridley Scott lingered on them is telling, but no further weight is given to them, so we don’t know what to make of them. Without any further supporting evidence, the pictures mean nothing other than Deckard’s odd taste for old-style photos.

Problems with the Unicorn

In both the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut, the unicorn only appears once. It’s close to the middle of the film and Deckard is playing the piano, lost in thought. It’s an odd moment and actually a little out of place from the rest of the film, if you think about it. Deckard isn’t asleep. He’s just sort of daydreaming by the piano. One moment we see him, then we see this unicorn, then we’re back to him. As with the photos, no more mention is made of it. The closest we get is the origami unicorn Gaff leaves behind. Aside from that there is nothing to suggest something beyond the idea that Deckard decided to drop some acid about halfway through the film.

I’m not suggesting the unicorn sequence means nothing, but I do insist that it was so vague that it can’t be used as evidence of anything without additional evidence to support it. No such evidence exists. It’s an element that is so vague it could be used to argue anything. Maybe the unicorn is a common hallucination among Blade Runners. Maybe it’s a symbol for something within the Blade Runner units. It could represent anything, which means without something else to support it, it means almost nothing.

Problems with Roy Batty calling out Deckard

Why Scott allowed this line in the film is beyond me. As Batty is chasing Deckard throughout a building he very clearly yells out “Come on, Deckard!”. What was the purpose of this line? As explained above, Deckard could not have been the sixth replicant. Further, Batty would have had no time to search the Tyrell Corporation databases to find Deckard. Finally, as he is about to die, Batty very specifically says “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” This suggests that Batty view Deckard as a human being, albeit one that is very good at staying alive against physically superior foes.

So who was the Sixth Replicant?

The sixth replicant was named Mary. The actress to play Mary was actually cast and apparently a scene was even filmed, but the character was cut out of the final film for reasons of budget and time. This is why we’re told in the beginning there were six replicants. It was a continuity error due to last minute editing and nothing more. Ridley Scott took advantage of this to suggest that Deckard was a replicant, but in so doing created several plot holes in the process.

Conclusion

Seeing the Director’s Cut at the NuArt was something of a disappointment because I expected to see the version of the film I grew up watching on television. There is little in the way of nuanced differences  between the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut. The major difference is that Ridley Scott really wanted to push Deckard as a replicant. The problem is he pushed too hard and forced edits that don’t make sense in retrospect. It’s not that Deckard couldn’t be a replicant; it’s that there’s no compelling reason to go there once you think about the film.

This may surprise some, but I had never seen the original or “final cut” of Blade Runner. The first viewing of the film that I can recollect was the Director’s Cut with the added ending sequence. For years, I thought that was the actual final cut of the film, not the director’s version. This past Friday at the NuArt theater in Los Angeles I was surprisingly corrected.

For years, at least since 2002 or so, the NuArt has been showing “Midnight Movies” on Friday nights. Here film buffs get to see a wide variety of cult films, art films and more. Naturally, when the listing for the “Final Cut” of Blade Runner popped up, I had to go. Wow. What an eye-opener.

Hard-Boiled Sci-Fi Noir

It’s thematically a completely different film. It’s almost worthwhile to own both the Final Cut and the Director’s Cut just to compare them. The lack of narration  turns the film on its head. It’s no longer about the philosophical question of humanity and “human-ness”, but instead a hard-boiled detective story set in the future, featuring a burned out investigator.

The change was noticeable from the first moment of the expository text crawling across the screen. Although having someone read words that are already on the screen isn’t generally a good idea, the weight of the voice went a long way towards setting the tone for the film. Further, the introduction of Deckard, the burnt out investigator feels remarkably empty. It looks like the any noir pulp detective intro. With the narration, we get an instant sense of Deckard’s character, his world-weariness and his place in the world. This plays through all the major character introductions of the film.

When Deckard “retires” his first target, the narration leaves a noticeably void in the story. We seethe gunshots, we watch the carnage, but we lose the philosophical questions that Deckard brings up about killing. We see him act in a stressed manner, but its hard to tell if it’s the result of the beating, the chase, or the moral ramifications of what he has done.

A Curt and Empty Ending

Roy Batty’s death scene is a thing of beauty. What gives the scene its weight is the acting. What gives the scene a satisfying cap is Deckard’s narration. Here, he comes to an understanding of what motivated Batty, his final target for retirement. Unfortunately, this understanding is almost completely lost because in the Final Cut version of this film, there is no narration! The realization of the motivations of his opponents and what that meant is completely gone, leaving a sort of thematic void in the moment.

The final ending of the film is given short shrift in the Final Cut version. Deckard returns home, finds his romantic counterpart and they leave, noting that Gaff, Deckard’s rival had been there first. That’s it. Again, the narration that would have explained the significance of this is critically missing. Further, a final section is left out that provides closure to the entire story.

Incomplete or Simply Different?

On it’s own, Blade Runner the Final Cut is more or less a noir film. We know who the good guys are, we know who that bad guys are and we know they are trying to kill each other. That’s the movie, basically. The standard Ridley Scott brilliance is there in each frame so the film stands on its own in a visual artistic sense. The problem for me is that I saw the actual vision Ridley Scott imagined.

For someone not already exposed to the Director’s Cut, I think Blade Runner is a good sci-fi noir film. It’s beautifully shot, and many of the scenes still resonate. For someone like me who practically grew up on the Director’s Cut, the film is incomplete. The question of morality and humanity is gone because critical pieces of the puzzle are missing. The ending is not satisfying because there is no final cap to the story. It just sort of ends with Deckard walking off.

Conclusion

Seeing the “Final Cut” version of the film was an eye-opener. I’m glad I did, but in the end I prefer the Director’s Cut more. Fortunately, I’ll have to a chance to finally see that one in theaters. It’s going to be shown at the NuArt the Friday after New Year’s. A sci-fi classic is a great way to begin the new year!

 

Reaction to the Star Wars cast

The Internet is still reeling from the revelation of the cast of Star Wars. The response was strong enough that Entertainment Weekly decided to put up a list of 22 reactions to the news. Here’s a quick recap of that article and some more information from The Washington Post after.

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Star Wars Episode VII may get original cast back

So the rumor mill is putting out the idea that the original Star Wars cast may come back. Star Wars, Episode VII takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi and will be directed by JJ Abrams. George Lucas, who sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney but retains some creative control, has stated that negotiations with the original cast has taken place. He didn’t say whether or not the negotiations are successful, but it looks like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are coming back. Harrison Ford has stated that he doesn’t want to come back unless Han Solo is killed off, so there’s a lot to ponder about for the new film.