Blade Runner: a love letter to the best SF film ever made

Earlier this month, Giant Freakin Robot revealed Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s favorite movies. There was a lot one would expect to see on the list. There was The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Planet of the Apes, which are three of my favorite films as well. The adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Contact was probably the least surprising considering Sagan’s influence on Tyson. On the more surprising side was a Michael Bay film and Deep Impact.

And then Tyson mentions Blade Runner as a runner-up: “This story was simultaneously deep and scary. But I never warmed to it the way so many lovers of the genre have. Which makes this comment more of a confession than a review.” So, to recap, a Téa Leoni movie somehow made it higher on Tyson’s list than Blade Runner. No amount of science can explain that.

Timothy Anderson’s pulp tribute to BR

If you had asked me ten years ago I would have said my favorite science fiction film is 2001: A Space Odyssey because I grew up reading Arthur C. Clarke. When I was a kid, the movie was something I could and did watch repeatedly. Blade Runner, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery to me growing up.

I had the original version of Blade Runner recorded off of HBO or something and maybe watched it twice. One day, when I was about ten, I was browsing the video section of Wal-mart and came across Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut. My parents bought it for me. While I liked it enough to watch it numerous times over the years (rewatching movies for me is somewhat rare, so that’s already high praise) it never really clicked the way 2001 did. I think, at the time, I just liked the visuals, but found the rest a little too odd, a little too alien, to win me over at that age.

So sometime during the DVD days, I saw The Final Cut at Target. By then I was old enough to purchase things with my own money (this was less than ten years ago, mind you) and it was on sale for $15. I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. To this day I don’t know what the differences between The Director’s Cut and The Final Cut are, exactly, but I’ve rarely enjoyed a movie so much before or since I saw The Final Cut the first time. It was a revelation.

The film looks fucking amazing. The dialogue isn’t once painful to listen to. The characters—even the “bad” guys—are completely sympathetic. There’s a level of cool that harkens back to the Humphrey Bogart days. As William Gibson pointed out we’ve never seen a futuristic city such as that one:

“But the simplest and most radical thing that Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner was to put urban archaeology in every frame. It hadn’t been obvious to mainstream American science fiction that cities are like compost heaps—just layers and layers of stuff. In cities, the past and the present and the future can all be totally adjacent. In Europe, that’s just life—it’s not science fiction, it’s not fantasy. But in American science fiction, the city in the future was always brand-new, every square inch of it.”

In other word the city is the most prominent character of all, not to mention the only, if vague, explanation of what happened in the time between present and future.

Whatever the changes were which warranted a new edition aren’t important. I think the real catalyst has little to do with the changes in the film itself and the person I became. By the time I watched The Final Cut I had read the Philip K. Dick novel the film is based on, but as much as I love PKD, I think that had little to do with my enjoyment of the film. Only every other chapter of the book is similar to the film and Ridley Scott, the director, confessed he never even read the book. Blade Runner is a living thing, something which ages like wine. The closer we get to going to Mars, the better we get at narrowing the uncanny valley in android technology, the better the film gets. It doesn’t just grow on you, it grows with you.

I fear that Blade Runner can only ever be enjoyed by the most serious of moviegoers. In my younger years I just hadn’t seen enough movies to realize how special the film was. I don’t mean that as a criticism of casual moviegoers, I just mean that if you try to “watch” the film while babysitting or in a setting where people are free to talk, you’re not going to get it. It’s a film that requires the utmost attention to appreciate, a film that needs to be treated as an event rather than something to pass the time.

It is, hands down, the best science fiction film I will ever see.

My Blade Runner-inspired blaster

For those of you who don’t know, I decided to go as a generic blade runner for Halloween. Since I didn’t have $500+ to drop on a decent replica, I decided to build my own. The result was… well, you be the judge.

This is what the gun should look like:

Adam Savage’s ultra-accurate buildsee it here

So here’s the gun I started with:

And here’s the gun I ended up with:

Obviously I’m no model maker, but for a first prop-building project it ain’t all bad. The first thing I did was grind off the raised-lettering and paint it. The problem with that “build” wasn’t just the fact it was lazy, it wasn’t very custom. So I decided to take it apart, remove all the innards (save the trigger and the cylinder), and start sawing and grinding away:

Here’s how I made room for the additional trigger:

And here are the two halves, which were flimsy as hell. It felt like they could snap at any minute:

Here I used a Dremel to cut in some details:

I robbed extra parts (the slide) from the Airsoft pistol on the left:
You can see how I carved it below:

Fitting it all together… still very flimsy at this point:

Time to bulk it up with some plumber’s putty. By the time I had it stuffed down into the handle, the gun not only felt solid, it felt about as heavy as a real magnum. No joke.

I needed a barrel that fit through the slide and helped hold the cylinder in place. Turns out Cover Girl offers a perfect solution:

The cylinder pin was a shelf peg, cut to length:

I had planned to use fiberglass resin to fill in the holes and such, but this Bondo putty was cheaper. I put a glob on the handle and squeezed it with my fist to make the perfect grip. I also super glued a second trigger into the assembly:

Here it is drying. After this it was sanded and painted:

So yeah, it doesn’t look quite as good as most any of the other blasters floating around out there on the web, but damn it, this one is mine. I hope someone else gets some useful ideas for a project. This is what I’ll be taking to the costume ball I’m going to, but I’m possibly in the market for a better one.

My generic Blade Runner-inspired costume idea

Today I have new appreciation for prop builders, costume designers, and the fine men and women who cosplay at conventions. As I said in my last post I decided to build a Blade Runner costume for Halloween. I’ve looked at a lot of people’s costumes online and I can already tell you: because of limited funds, my costume will be shittiest of all. I’m going to hate the way I look—I guarantee it. I can excuse myself by saying the other people who chose this costume probably spent a shit-load of money and months (even years) piecing together their costumes, and that’d be true, but the reality is money and time are limited for me.

I remember a making-of featurette which reported the makers of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, to save money, had their propmakers, costume designers, and SFX people approximate the concept designs they had on paper rather than make the details accurate. Since I should have planned my Blade Runner costume a little sooner, this is the route I’ve chosen as well. I’m not necessarily broke, I’m just extremely frugal.

If you ever played the Blade Runner video game you know that you don’t even assume the role of Rick because he’s just one Blade Runner of many. That’s kind of the way I think of my costume: maybe I’m a different Blade Runner with a really shitty-looking, spray painted gun and a coat even older-looking than the noir-ish trenches worn in the official media. Maybe I’m not even in the same universe. Maybe it’s just a “generic cyberpunk costume.”

Yesterday I hit a ton of different stores looking for a trench coat, at both new and used outlets. What I found is trench coats have gone out of fashion for men. If you search popular clothes stores online, you’ll likely find more trench coats in the women’s departments than the men’s. I mentioned this to my best friend who’s my go-to guy for all things hard-to-find and he suggested an army surplus. As usual, he was right, and here’s what I purchased for $25:

Close, but no cigar. I chose a light color in case I got inspired enough to dye the thing, but I probably won’t do that unless I get a more accurate collar. Don’t get me wrong: I can sew. I just don’t like doing it.

Now. Here’s what a Blade Runner blaster is supposed to look like:

And in my haste, here’s what I purchased after getting bored of visiting five different toy departments:
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought it. Rick’s blaster doesn’t have a hammer, the gun is way, way smaller, and the cylinder is closer to the butt. I should just remind you this is the first time I’ve ever tried anything like this, but I’ve already gotten off to a poor start. I sanded off the raised lettering and in the process broke two Dremel attachments, masked off some of the details, and hit it with a layer of spray paint.

Kind of looks like the Millennium Falcon, yes? No? Whatever. I next hit it with some chrome paint, which I later sprayed over with about 90% black, which I hoped would give it a gradient look. I followed this with a couple layers of lacquer hoping it would keep the paint from scratching.
The ventilation holes have been darkened with a Sharpie and I masked off the cylinder to keep it shiny. I then took a step back to admire what I’d done and decided it was all shit. I’ve since taken the gun completely apart and there’s no telling whether or not I’ll be able to piece it back together. This is why I don’t choose many hobbies outside of writing and Counter-Strike. I like the challenge of working with my hands for a change, but it’s just not something I have the desire to pursue. I’m pretty hardcore about the hobbies I already have and any free time I lose doing something else tends to make me grumpy.
In case you’re wondering just how detailed you could get if you really wanted, check out this video about BR blasters:
I fucking love his guns. I’d kill to have almost any of those.
I’m still on the fence on whether I want to call my current blaster a practice-run or if it’ll be what I actually wear on Halloween. I’m hoping it won’t look too bad in a holster, but as of right now, I’m just not happy with it. Next I’ll be looking for a tie, a shirt, shoes, and a watch. I know the watch isn’t important, but it’s been a long time since I bought a watch. If I manage to find a similar Microma, I’ll probably get it. The tie I might actually order from a prop shop because it’s way cheaper than a gun and I freakin’ love that tie.
In the meantime, here’s the best looking Rick Deckard costume I’ve seen yet.