Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Blade Runner Redux?

In 1982 the movie Blade Runner opened to rather weak reviews, and did not do all that well in its first run. Over time, it has become the rare cult classic which is admired by much more than a cult audience.

While I will reserve judgment until I actually see it, I can't help but be struck by just how awful the new Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report appears from its pre-release publicity. Worse, to the extent reviews are available, they are enthusiastic. That's a problem because the best things described in the reviews seem to be lifted lock, stock and replacement eyeballs from Blade Runner. (Who could forget the Blade Runner scientist growing artificial eyes in the same clear, cold liquid in which he is murdered?)

Or how about this review excerpt:

"Longtime Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's desaturated color pulls all the disparate worlds -- the scruffy streets, cold and gleaming interiors, magnetic highways and the womblike Pre-Cog Chamber -- into a dark, unified whole. As more aspects of science and crime-fighting in this future society emerge, the film probes the moral underpinnnings. The Orwellian nature of the new technology is obvious, but Spielberg see this less as the intrusion of Big Brother than Big Business."

Didn't Ridley Scott pull all those disparate worlds together twenty years ago?

Perhaps this Spielberg effort will be less derivative and less awful (stewed psychics?) than its publicity suggests. Perhaps the reviewers are correct.

But it is particularly annoying that the film seems at this point to be essentially Spielbergian Blade Runner redux - while the actual Blade Runner's first-run financial success was hampered by the success of a grossly inferior movie: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

POSTSCIPT: The similarities in the movies are not surprising. Blade Runner was based on science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Minority Report is based on an earlier short story by the same author. At this point, tt appears Ridley Scott chose earlier and better than Spielberg.

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