Thanks to Netflix, I'm now an authority on Mallrats. I strongly recommend the DVD version, because the commentary is funnier than the movie itself. It's Kevin Smith and his friends sitting around ragging on their own movie, and it's hilarious. They make no apology for the film, but they don't shy away from the fact that it totally tanked at the box office.
Plus, during their conversation, someone refers to Mallrats as "the Blade Runner of comedies," i.e., a work of genius ahead of its time. This is only interesting to me because I happened to receive both Mallrats and Blade Runner from Netflix on the same day. So it turns out to be true that they were ahead of their time, because before this weekend I'd never seen either of them, and now I'm a fan of both.
Blade Runner is a much harder movie to warm up to, so dark and cold and distant, with unlikable and unknowable characters. The most unlikable characters in Mallrats are the ones played by Shannen Doherty and Ben Affleck, and I figure if they wanted you to like those characters they would have cast somebody else.
But Harrison Ford is so remote in Blade Runner that it's almost a chore to keep watching him. And there aren't any other characters that really come to life in the movie. William Sanderson is on the screen so briefly that he barely has a chance to draw you in before the story goes in a completely different direction. I do think this is my favorite Darryl Hannah performance, except maybe for Steel Magnolias.
I'll give Blade Runner another chance, but not because the story has any more depth than Mallrats. It's definitely as visually arresting as I'd heard. I only watched it once, because there's no commentary track, but I'd like to see the original theatrical release. The director's cut that I saw doesn't have the voice-over by Harrison Ford, and the ending is different (or lopped off, I guess, to keep the movie from going soft; that Ridley Scott is apparently one harsh guy).
The low-budget, vulgar teen comedy was a lot more fun than the expensive, futuristic thriller. Still, there was something hypnotic about Blade Runner that wouldn't let me turn away. And I think it has something to say about identity and what it means to be human, although it says it in the facile and superficial manner of popular entertainment. But what, after all, can we expect? This isn't a philosophical treatise; it's a movie.
Blade Runner presents the argument that humans are not unique and worthy because of our intelligence, or our ability to reason, or even our emotions, because (in theory, anyway), these values can be replicated and programmed into a machine. It's the sum of our experience and the way we use it that separates us from other beings. We make our own memories, and no mathematical model can predict how we'll process those memories into character and temperament, or what new actions and therefore new memories will arise from that complex and ongoing process.
Anyway, that's what it says to me. It might say something completely different to you. It might say nothing at all. If so, it only proves that I'm right in my conclusions, so I win either way.