The future is steamy. Towers spew fire under perpetually dark clouds. Citizens of Los Angeles roam a claustrophobic Chinatown wearing what seems to be trash, surrounded by what literally is trash (in the future, people are too busy bartering with indistinct store owners to not litter). In this town, the only lights are searchlights, which a blimp shines into every building with zero discretion. Why do all these things exist? Why do rooms have fans with six-foot blades? Why do some people wear gas masks? Why?

This is the maddening world of “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s “futuristic vision.” It’s a place where brilliant scientists work in the most desolate of slums, where Harrison Ford can run around shooting at a woman dressed in a futuristic bra and panties and a completely see-through raincoat and where no one raises a single eyebrow in concern or curiosity. These things happen in the future — apparently often.

Scott’s “vision” isn’t profound — it’s just filled with stuff. Imagine Wes Anderson rummaging through a dumpster, but eliminate Anderson’s sense of color and you have every set in “Blade Runner.” Scott’s philosophy seems to have been, “forget function, let’s just throw stuff at them.”

But the madness has only just begun. Something seems off about not only everything in “Blade Runner,” but everyone as well. The characters in “Blade Runner” don’t really act normal. They don’t really do much of anything, actually.

Sure, Ford runs around, dreams about unicorns and rapes a robot (in what could be one of the film’s more complex scenes), but what does he actually accomplish? The realization that he’s a robot? It doesn’t make any difference, and it doesn’t tell us anything. It’s the spinning top at the end of “Inception” — a cliff’s edge that postures at meaning.

In every scene of the film, there’s stuff going on (Scott makes sure you notice). Film classes across the country have no doubt dissected the possible themes, metaphors and extremely subtle nuances of “Blade Runner.” They’ve wrung the towel dry, and the bowl underneath is more sweat than water.

Here’s the thing: “Blade Runner” isn’t particularly exciting (unless you like watching Ford getting his ass kicked or shooting unarmed women), isn’t stimulating to look at (unless you’re a fan of David Fincher’s style in “Se7en”) and provides only hazy meaning to grab at (unicorns, an owl, piano playing, et cetera). This is anti-fun philosophizing, a movie that should be washed away … “like tears in the rain” — I had to say it.

Watch “Blade Runner” a dozen times and you’ll still feel the wet grit of the city long after the credits roll. No film of the past 50 years has been so hauntingly immersive. Its set designs are beautiful, its themes complex; “Blade Runner” is the definitive dystopian sci-fi film.

Many viewers might have difficulty entering 2019 Los Angeles as a result of its dreary pace. They might even find it off-putting and depressing. They might notice how absurdly outdated the fashions and technology of this 1982 film are. But this is no space-opera, this is no thriller. It’s a deep, dramatic meditation. The questions it ponders are the same questions we’ve asked for a thousand years. They’re the same questions we’ll ask for another million.

“Blade Runner” is desperately human. Its characters are not easy to know, but they’re all the more powerful because of it. And the casting is perfect: take Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, played with as much childishness as thought. His “Tears in Rain” monologue is simply ethereal. That something so eloquent could be uttered amid the empty-faced crowds and jagged cityscape makes you wish you could see the things of which Batty saw and spoke.

Watch “Blade Runner” a dozen times more and, though bit-by-bit more subtexts will be revealed, you’ll still walk away with that same watery conviction. The soundtrack will be just as jarring, the characters just as befuddling and profound and 2019 Los Angeles just as hyper-real.

You watch “Blade Runner” a hundred times and, as strong as ever, hope takes form in the beams of light shining down from floating ships. They promise to take you far away from the rainy destruction of your home and taunt you as much as they encourage. Nobody knows how much time they have left and, really, it doesn’t matter.


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