Blade Runner

It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.

Blade Runner(1982) has undergone a ludicrous amount of substantial revisions.  And yet, it is to sci-fi what Chinatown (1974) is to film noir in terms of history and critical prestige.  This is true despite a tonal change in the end of film.  That says something either about the standards of sci-fi fans or the quality of the film.  The Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition–for $50 egad–includes all of these revisions all on BluRay (and one also on DVD) along with more special features than a normal person could ever hope to enjoy.

In 2019, the Tyrell Corporation-built replicants have been outlawed on Earth after a bloody rebellion.  Replicants are androids in the form of humans so well created that it is almost impossible to distinguish them.  Six replicants have come to Earth and the officials need Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a blade runner.  Blade runners are special policeman who track down and kill replicants and Deckard is the best.  The replicants are led by a Nexus-6, a military-grade replicant, named Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer).

From the very first moments of the film, it’s clear that this is something special.  What science fiction can provide is a timeless story either by blatantly ripping off older tales or creating something new.  Where they typically fall down is by going too far in creating their world.  Too much jargon, technology that is outstripped by reality, and making stupid clothing choices are so easy to fall into.  Blade Runner, however, keeps jargon very limited, though I still don’t know what blades are being run.  It does drop into the other two pitfalls.  The clothes became the style of the 80’s and the computers are rather laughable.

The story, though, is timeless (from our time onward, at least).  The question is “what is human?”  Can it be artificially created and what duties do natural humans have to these beings?  In Blade Runner, the premise is that they can be created but it’s dealings with duty are arms-length.  Blade Runner is the primer.  Watch the issue play out on screen, but do not expect anyone to give you an answer.  Really, the only thing approaching an answer is to reaffirm the premise—these replicants are exactly like humans.  The rest is up to post-film conversation.

Blade Runner is also part film noir – complete with saucy dames, trench coats, wha-wha music, and vague investigation, though not so much with the plot twists (but one), witty repartee, or understated violence.  In the original theatrical release, there was even a monotonous narration which may have been the worst put to a serious film.  The narration was abandoned for all other releases.

Performances are all above average, especially considering that it’s the 80’s.  Rutger Hauer steals the show.  Ford plays the part we know so well.  All other are unobtrusively functional.  This is an accomplishment considering how weird everything is.  But this isn’t a character study.  Ridley Scott rarely makes films that give the time and focus to such a quiet study.  He tells stories.

The Vangelis soundtrack is great.  Vangelis, as you may know, also composed the score of Chariots of Fire (1981).  Like Chariots of Fire, the mature composition is undermined by the over-synthesized sound.  But, unlike Chariots of Fire, this is set in the future and, therefore, the electronic noise is more appropriate.  Using real instruments is always preferable to a synthesizer.  The sounds of actual instruments are timeless because they can be recreated in any era.  That said, there are two soundtracks that use the electronic sound without ruination, Drive (2011) and Hanna (2011), which shows that it is possible.  But I digress.

This is very much a cult classic.  While it has many unquestionably great points to it in the plot, it’s a very strange film and told strangely.  Not unlike another Ridley Scott movie, Prometheus (2012), much is assumed and less is fully established.  But for those who have watched the film a dozen times, everything is clear and fantastic.  Prometheus will be seen in the same way, in time.  But that’s what makes a cult classic—only the acolytes know all and it is theirs.  But for the mainstream viewer, however, this must ultimately be considered a weakly told story.  It is simply too interesting a premise which wastes its time on running through the rain rather than digging into life in that world.  It’s all there, but in the background.

One thing that does stand out over earlier viewings is that the BluRay version of The Final Cut is gorgeous.  With the Final Cut (2007), there have been a number of alterations.  For one, when Deckard is working his magic on the photograph (you’ll understand when you see it), things are actually discernible.  The cityscapes are dramatic and brilliant with the high definition.  Very much worth it.  The pack also includes a ludicrous amount of special features.

Special Features: Includes five different versions of the film.  Original theatrical (1982). International Theatrical (1982), and Director’s Cut (1991). All unenhanced with slightly bored introductions by Ridley Scott.  In these, Scott says that the Director’s Cut was included for “completion’s sake.”

 The Final Cut (2007) has the most related special features. Introduction by Ridley Scott, commentary by Scott, commentary by the producers and screenwriters, and commentary by designers.  Along with the BluRay, there is a DVD copy and an UltraViolet digital version included in the set.

A Workprint Feature version, was used for test screenings with alternative narration and sound.  It has been enhanced from its deteriorated state (for some reason) but it’s still rough.

Documentaries “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner”, “All our Variant Futures: From Workprint to Final Cut,” “Access” (about Philip K. Dick) and a lot of pictures finish up the special features.  Along with the media comes a book of pictures on set and pre-production sketches, a holographic photo, and a model “spinner” (flying car).

If you love Blade Runner, then even you will be satiated with the amount of features in this set.

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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