9 October 2012

Reception Studies: BLADE RUNNER (1982, Ridley Scott, US)

The following is the first piece of research I have completed for the MA Screen Studies. It is a study of the way Blade Runner was received by film critics and reviewers in 1982. The reception study was carried out by focusing primarily on the Film Review Annual which gathers together the major reviews of prominent films released each year.
Reception Studies - Blade Runner


  1. It's a little weird reading this Omar. I watched Bladerunner on release, at the Wimbledon ABC I think, in 1982. I didn't like it, basically because it wasn't the Phil K. Dick adaptation I wanted to see – so, I'm one of the group you describe. I haven't changed my mind since, though I do acknowledge that the set design is very good.

    Two points that I think you need to take into consideration: (1) at the time of its release, the film was being touted – by Alan Ladd Jr – as producer, as a Star Wars type film and b) there was at least one reviewer who understood science fiction and that was the late Philip Strick who often reviewed for Monthly Film Bulletin and Sight and Sound. If you google him, I'm sure that you will find the references.

    For what it's worth, I still consider films like The Truman Show and even the recent Adjustment Bureau to be far better 'Dickian' films than Bladerunner. Dick was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and I still think that it is unfortunate that his work is represented for most film scholars by Ridley Scott's film – which has many interesting and worthwhile features, but isn't particularly 'Dickian'. Missing out the 'empathy box' and Mercerism was a major mistake by the writers.

  2. This is fascinating Roy since interviewing audience members from 1982 would have given a different spin on the research. Audience response is an area I may have overlooked but is a crucial one in many respects. It's interesting to hear how your response to the film since 1982 has remained the same regardless of the changes introduced. I have yet to see The Adjustment Bureau and the issue of adapting much of his work continues to be a contentious one. I wasn't aware of Philip Strick's review but for some reason it wasn't included in the film review annual I used as part of the research. Additionally, having to rely solely on the reviews in the annual meant restrictions were imposed but researching more widely would have likely offered greater insight. I probably need to read the book also and by relying on the judgment of reviewers is somewhat flawed since comparing the film to the book would have brought more clarity to the differences that exist and also perhaps highlighting why fans like yourself rejected the film. Thanks for the feedback as I am likely to continue expanding and refining this piece of research so it is much more compressive and inclusive of audience sentiments. I'm not surprised by the way the marketing would have pitched this along the lines of a escapist science fiction film like Star Wars - this seems to add weight to the argument that Hollywood can end up simplifying science fiction literature.