It's been 25 years since Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" hit theaters. Scott's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" had Harrison Ford's hard-boiled robot killer chasing down a renegade crew of "replicants" (including an icy Rutger Hauer and an acrobatic Daryl Hannah) while falling in love with another (Sean Young -- remember her?).
And while it may have crashed and burned when it was released in 1982, it eventually rose from the ashes as a cult phenomenon, an underrated, unfairly maligned and discarded mind-bender adored by die-hard fans.
As a newly re-edited version (dubbed "The Final Cut") comes to Durham for a one-week engagement at the Carolina Theatre, let's break down five main reasons "Runner" still matters after all these years.
1. It brought about the "director's cut" craze.
When Scott went back and re-cut "Runner" the first time, in 1992 (a work-print version claiming to be Scott's original cut began circulating in 1990), no one ever thought of going back and altering a movie to fit their original vision. But Scott's cut led the way, for better or for worse, in filmmakers righting their wrongs.
"Up until 1992, if I read correctly, there wasn't the idea of a director's cut," says Jim Carl, senior director of the Carolina Theatre. "It had happened before, but it was rare. Nowadays, it's commonplace. But he was one of the first, definitely."
2. It unleashed the genre now known as "sci-fi noir."
By fusing the future with the past, using old school special effects (mostly provided by the legendary Douglas Trumbull), Scott made ultramodern pulp that many sci-fi flicks have been ripping off to this very day.
"In terms of predicting the future, I think people overrate it," says Los Angeles CityBEAT film critic Andy Klein. "But in terms of sort of aesthetically influencing science-fiction films, boy, everybody has tried to emulate that look since. And the funny thing is, I don't think you can get that look currently with CGI."
3. It gave Harrison Ford the third protagonist in his iconic action hero trifecta.
Although no one knew it back then, Rick Deckard would be just as synonymous with Ford as those other characters he made famous, Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
Says Klein, "I think Harrison Ford was real smart to do this because he had come off of Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and this is a more -- look, I love those movies -- but this is a more sophisticated kind of film."
Which leads us into this question...
4. Is he or isn't he a replicant?
Ever since the release of the director's cut, where Scott inserted the infamous "unicorn" dream sequence, the question of whether Deckard is just as artificial as the replicants he's chasing down has come up. (Scott says he is, by the way.)
While some, like Klein, prefer the movie without this twist, Brooks Webb, an employee at the North American Video at Cameron Village, is intrigued by this plot development. "That made the movie 10 times better, I thought, with that thought in the background," says Webb, who hasn't yet decided which side of the fence he's on. "I would have to watch the movie, I don't know, two or three more times."
5. It's still a mind-blowing movie to watch -- especially on the big screen.
Whatever version you prefer, you can't beat watching "Runner" in glorious 35 mm form (even though it recently dropped on DVD, along with all the other versions, last month). If you're a real fan of the movie, catch it in its natural, wide-screen environment.