Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Dark, wet, grim; yet the cityscape teems with life and movement. The sky above is awash with the harsh light of neon tubes and the air drones with the repetitive recorded voices of advertisers who dominate this dirty space. The city is Los Angeles and the year 2019 but you could be forgiven for thinking that these streets exist somewhere now – maybe in the back alleys of a Chinese mega-city. In this mess of human and technical flotsam we find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) an ex ‘Blade Runner’ (police specialist who deals with rogue ‘replicants’) coerced back into active service for one more job. As he reluctantly forges his way through the movie his non-human quarry (eventually) help restore both his sense of humanity and joie de vivre.
The story revolves around the case Deckard is assigned: tracking down and ‘retiring’ (killing) four replicants (humanlike androids created as a slave workforce in humanity’s bid to expand life to other planets) who have escaped back to earth to find and question their makers. The struggle of this group of replicants – led by military model Roy Batty (a note perfect Rutger Hauer) – to escape from their genetically and socially predetermined fate leads them into brutal confrontations with both Deckard and their makers, providing the film with sporadic bursts of action amidst the atmosphere of tension and confusion.
Obscure and bleak, Blade Runner had a poor critical reception and box office showing upon its release in 1982. 25 years and several versions later, the pop-cultural landscape is littered with Blade Runner references – both visual and aural – proving that this was indeed a sci-fi movie out of the ordinary. Examples can be seen in the visual environment in Luc Besson’s 90s film The Fifth Element, the Chinese dominated cultural hotchpotch in Joss Wedon’s Firefly TV series, the music of Joe Satriani (Tears in the Rain) and White Zombie (More Human Than Human), and the reuse of the derogative term “skin job” to describe the humanoid Cylons of the recently updated version of Battlestar Galactica. Initially the film received some plaudits for its immaculate production design and artistic shot setups – helped by the realistic ‘retrofitted’ cityscape designs of visual futurist Sydney Mead – but Ridley Scott was accused by critics of style-over-substance filmmaking. As the years have turned this opinion has been heartily challenged. Not only is the film beautifully designed and realised, it also supplies a rich thematic depth exploring issues of freedom, memory, identity, and ultimately what it is that makes us human. Based upon Philip K Dick’s novel Do androids dream of electric sheep? it is unsurprising to find the film possessing many thematic layers and also not being easily decipherable. Blade Runner was the first cinematic adaptation of his writings which has subsequently been followed by the likes of Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990), Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002), and A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006).
Basically, Blade Runner is a cinema classic skilfully blending the sci-fi and film noir genres in a way that set the tone and opened the gates for the development of the sci-fi genre. And that the filmmakers achieved this just prior to the age of digital visual effects is no mean feat. Its artistic tendencies might not make it everyone’s cup of tea but the movie possesses enough action, intelligence, drama, and tension to satisfy a broad audience. I would say this is one of those films that anyone who likes movies should watch at least once – and the ‘Final Cut’ version is the one preferred by the director. If you’re like me then you may be inclined to watch the original theatrical release and this release back to back!
Compared to many releases the special features on this double disc edition seem fairly sparse. All we seem to get are an intro piece from Ridley Scott, a few commentary tracks, and a ‘making of’ feature. But despite the lack of flashy gimmick features this is the kind of DVD release that cinema geeks and Blade Runner enthusiasts (ie – the most likely target market for this DVD pack) will really love.
Ridely Scott explains in a brief introduction to the feature presentation that this is his preferred version of the film. The original theatrical release had bits and pieces that he wasn’t that thrilled about or hadn’t initially intended to include whilst other parts he wanted to keep were cut. The ‘Directors Cut’ released in the 90s was a hastily reedited version of the original which had very little input from the director himself. Scott must be pleased to have finally had the chance to revisit one of his most personal and cherished works and tweak it into the film he originally wanted to be seen.
The ‘making of’ feature is over three and a half hours long and can be viewed in one go or as eight separate segments. This feature includes both vintage footage from the time of production as well as retrospective interviews with all (surviving) major members of the cast and crew regarding their role and experience in seeing the film come into existence. The interviews are informative and interesting and paint a picture of a production fraught with difficulties and tension. Topics covered include:
– How was the cityscape design arrived at?
– Did Harrison Ford really hate being on the film?
– Did the studio really change Ridley’s ending before the film got released?
– Where did the language and terminology come from?
– What were the “t-shirt wars” about?
– What is Blade Runner really about anyway?
– Did Philip K *** like the film?
Hearing the differing perspectives of the director, various crew members, and the ‘money men’ makes for fascinating viewing and explains much of the tension present during the making of the film. Seeing how their perspectives have changed 25 years on is the icing on the cake.
The commentary tracks also make for an interesting supplement. In the first commentary Ridley Scott outlines the way he achieved his overall vision as well as explaining the visual motifs used. He does come across as somewhat of an opinionated narcissist at times, and if you didn’t already know that he had experience directing over 2000 commercials you soon will! Whatever the case, he actually has many things of worth to say about the production and is a great artistic director.
The second and third commentary tracks are done with several recordings spliced together into the same track. For instance the second commentary has the two American screenwriters interacting in one recording studio and then two British producers in another recording session intermixed. This comical track includes the two writers verbally sparring: one second big upping the other, the next taking a pot-shot; the producers talk a lot about what challenges they faced getting the movie Ridley wanted made. The third commentary track is all about the specifics of the film’s visual design with a range of artistic, production design, and visual effects crew members. This commentary gives a good idea of what an achievement this film was in the pre-digital era of filmmaking.
Is Blade Runner: the Final Cut a money spinner for the studio? Sure! But it is also a great supplementary package for any lover of the film, or of film generally. It would be interesting to view the cinematic release and this one back to back to see what changes have occurred through the various permutations in the last 25 years. I would pick this edition over the single disc director’s cut any day – and at $20 it is hardly troubling the bank account!
DVD Info + Special Features
» Region 4 PAL
» Widescreen 16:9 Enhanced
» Dolby Digital 5.1
» Languages: English 5.1, German 5.1, Spanish 5.1, or Polish 5.1
» Optional subtitles: English, German, Czech, Croatian, Hebrew, Slovenian, Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Greek, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Turkish, English & German for the hearing impaired
» 2-disc ‘Final Cut’ Special Edition
» Intro to ‘Final Cut’ by Ridley Scott
» Commentary tracks:
– Director Ridley Scott
– Executive Producer / Co-Screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Co-Screenwriter David Peoples; Producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber
– Visual futurist Syd Mead; production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer
» Dangerous Days: making Blade Runner
– Incorporating outtakes, deleted scenes, and all new interviews
Reviewed by: Jacob Powell
Rating: M – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 117 mins
Genre: Science Fiction – ‘Future Noir’
Director: Ridley Scott (1983)
Actors: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, & William Sanderson.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Available Now.