It's funny to think about the impact these movies eventually ended up having on audiences, critics, and future filmmakers. When they were both released 38 years ago today, very few folks thought they would eventually become the science fiction touchstones they are today.
The Harrison Ford vehicle BLADE RUNNER came after his back-to-back smashes THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (with RETURN OF THE JEDI on deck). Director Ridley Scott was coming off of his haunted-house-in-space blockbuster ALIEN. On paper, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
But when it came out, audiences and critics were hardly blown away. A subdued Ford in this bleak, wet, futuristic city with a story that was anything but straightforward wasn't the audience catnip that the new collaborators' previous films was. I remembered being excited as hell to watch it as a 10-year-old ("It's Han AND Indy from the guy who did ALIEN!") but not getting it. At all.
Fortunately, I revisited it years later and realized what I was missing: one of the best sci-fi flicks ever made. Scott's stunning visuals, moody atmosphere, and creepy android themes that would become a genre staple combined to give us something we'd never seen or experienced before. And Ford's performance became more appreciated when people realized he was essentially a victim of his own success (even if he hates his VO work). We'd gotten used to him as a cocksure adventurer who gets the girl and this performance was anything but that. Also, I'd take the 2019 of BLADE RUNNER over the 2020 of today.
If BLADE RUNNER was considered a bit of a misfire at the time, then THE THING was closer to a dud even if it grinded out a small profit. Director John Carpenter was on a bit of a roll after putting out HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK b2b2b. Yet this frozen, paranoid remake (replete with creepy new special effects) about a changing alien form took awhile to find its audience. I don't remember the first time I saw it but like BLADE, I was just too young when I did. Its timing certainly couldn't have been any worse as the tonally opposite, crowd-pleasing Steven Spielberg 'lost alien' masterpiece E.T. was released just a month prior and gobbling up seemingly every box office dollar.
But like BLADE RUNNER, THE THING just needed time to get its proper due. It was most certainly never meant to be a crowd-pleaser. Like any great piece of art, it's ripe with metaphors that people can translate in any number of ways. After starring in ESCAPE and THING back to back, Kurt Russell solidified his Carpenter cult character status even before he started dating Goldie. Multiple viewings on cable and home video breathed new life and fresh perspective into arguably Carpenter's best film. It's also a treat for folks who don't need their movies wrapped up in a neat little bow. Not to mention, it makes for a hell of a Q'tine watch in the summer.
Making a mint doesn't mean a movie is good. I mean fucking ARMAGEDDON is cheese-covered tripe and still made half a bill globally in the late '90s. The lesson here, once again, is that movies can sometimes get misread at the cinema by an increasingly dumber movie-going public but still have plenty to offer and say. Right, Chip?