Last month marked twenty-five years since the release of the original “Blade Runner,” and in recognition “The Final Cut” was released theatrically and on DVD. I picked up my copy last week, and compared it with my memories of the original.
Now I’ve always had a weakness for sci-fi in general, but Blade Runner set a new standard — a new way of looking at quote-unquote “the future.” Set in a dystopian Los Angeles of (at that time) almost 40 years in the future, it presented a crowded, dark, damaged and dangerous world. Advertising and mass media are ubiquitous, everything is either hard-lit neon or dark and crumbling. We’re dropped into this made-to-be-noir world with Harrison Ford as Deckard, a hard boiled semi-retired hunter of “replicants,” androids who are virtually indistinguishable from humans, which are illegal on Earth and are to be killed on sight. Deckard is hunting a crew of four violent replicants who have snuck in from off-world.
Along the way he meets a fifth — an assistant to the manufacturer of the original replicants, and one who is so advanced that she doesn’t even realize what she is. As Deckard works his way through the four rogues, he gets closer and closer to this fifth one (played by Sean Young) and even has questions about his own nature.
But the primary appeal of this movie has always been the visionary set design. Its projection of future trends has become the gold standard for almost all sci-fi since. One could almost say that there are two styles of futuristic movie making — pre and post-Blade Runner.
Now unfortunately the original release and re-releases were badly marred by frightened studio executives trying to make it more marketable. The most notorious examples were the dreadful voice overs (Harrison Ford has frequently complained about being obligated to do them), and the obviously tacked-on final scene — a scene that makes absolutely no sense in the context of everything before. A previous “director’s cut” eliminated these, but despite the name Ridley Scott had nothing to do with it.
Now in this final-final version the movie comes to life. Los Angeles in 2019 has never looked more repellent — or more attractive. The painstakingly detailed long shots and interiors are crisply rendered with brilliant lighting effects. The sheer detail of the world they’ve created is breathtaking. The soundtrack is also crystal clear, and the subtle music by Vangelis really starts to work. It was always a movie you could hardly take your eyes off of, and now even more so.
But best of all is losing the voice-overs. I know, there wasn’t really that much of them; but they insulted one’s intelligence. It’s not that hard to figure out what’s going on without somebody telling you; there certainly are movies that are more confusing than this one that don’t spoonfeed intelligence to you. And the one at the end was especially galling. Those were the kinds of questions you were supposed to be asking each other back in the dorm room or around the water cooler — not have them shoved at you and answered even before you left the theater.
The two-disk set includes two commentary tracks to go over the video, as well as a three-hour-plus documentary on the making of the movie. Even a moderately interested DVD collector should have this edition. It’s the best edition you’re going to get of one of the best movies of its genre.