Blade Runner: The Final Cut Review

Cover Country : USA
Year: 1982
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: DVD
Running Time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.

Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece is refurbished in a definitive edition, just in time for Christmas....

Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples; based on a work by Philip K. Dick. Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh and Daryl Hannah.

God, I feel OLD! It's been 25 years since the release of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's science fiction masterpiece, but only now has his original vision reached screen. Blade Runner: The Final Cut — as the definitive director’s cut is titled — started across the country in 20 theaters this weekend, and thankfully hit The Inwood in Dallas... (the film also comes out on December 18th in a five-disc set with tons of extra features). The new version is something different: darker, bleaker, more beautifully immersive.

Blade Runner

The film, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, takes place in Los Angeles in 2019. Deckard is a Blade Runner, a police man of the future who hunts down and terminates replicants, artificially created humans. He wants to get out of the force, but is drawn back in when 4 "skin jobs", (a slang term for replicants) hijack a ship back to Earth. The city that Deckard must search for his prey is a huge, sprawling, bleak vision of the future. This film questions what it is to be human, and why life is so precious.

When Blade Runner came out in June 1982 it received mixed reviews and lost money, much like John Carpenter's The Thing. The summer’s big hit was E. T., Steven Speilberg's tale of a cute alien phoning home from the tidy suburbs. Few wanted to watch a movie that implied the world was about to go drastically downhill.

Blade Runner

In the early 1990s, Warner noticed something of a resurgence in the film's popularity. To take advantage of this, a so-called Director's Cut version of the film was created and released into theaters in 1992. This version removed Deckard's much-maligned voice-over narration and the theatrical cut's happy ending, and restored the infamous unicorn scene. It was also one of the first titles that Warner released on the nascent DVD format back in early 1997. Unfortunately, though, this wasn't really a true director's cut, as Ridley himself had little involvement.

The special effects that produced this vision were amazing for their day. Created with miniature models, optics and double exposures, they seemed less artificial than many computer effects of a decade later. But like film stock, they faded with time. For the Final Cut, the special-effects footage was digitally scanned at 8,000 lines per frame, four times the resolution of most restorations, and then meticulously retouched. The results look almost 3-D. The film’s theme of dehumanization has also been sharpened.

Blade Runner

Also, completest will love the subtle changes. In the original shooting script, Leon and Deckard fought in the street before Zhora was retired, so the make-up reflected this on set. When the film was edited together, however, Leon and Deckard's fight was moved to after Zhora's retirement. But the bruise on Deckard's face from the fight was still there, before the fight actually happened on screen, so it's been erased digitally. In another instance, the first time you see Roy Batty on screen in the sidewalk Vidphone booth, the shots were actually stolen from later in the film. So the lighting and the backgrounds you saw in those shots didn't match the booth or the rain-soaked streets behind it. Now they do. There's also a scene where Deckard is talking to an old Asian woman about the snake scale he's found. She's reading a serial number from a microscope... but when you saw that serial number on the screen, it didn't match. Now it does. The vast majority of these digital effects tweaks are so subtle that only fans who are intimately familiar with the film will even notice them.

Of course, many of you by now know of the infamous reshoot (from earlier this year) featuring the character Zhora. When news of this leaked on the Net, it sparked an outcry from fans who feared that Ridley was pulling a George Lucas and drastically altering the film with all new scenes. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but the Zhora reshoot was what triggered the most controversy, so here's what it was about: Back in 1982, actress Joanna Cassidy wasn't allowed to do the stunt where Zhora crashes through the window panes. But if you watch the film closely, especially now in high-definition, it's painfully obvious that it's a stuntwoman in those shots. I mean, it's not even close. The woman has a bad wig on and it's bouncing around as she is going through the glass. So Cassidy was brought back in, dressed in her original costume and was given the same snake tattoo on her face. Then she was shot on a greenscreen stage, going through the same movements as the stuntwoman. Her face and body angles were matched to the original stuntwoman frame by frame, so they're identical. Cassidy's head was then digitally inserted over the stuntwoman's and it was blended together, color-corrected and matched seamlessly. So now, when you see Zhora crash through the glass, it's actually Zhora all the way through. The result is just amazing.

Blade Runner

And finally we get answers. What has been a matter of speculation and debate is now a certainty: Deckard, the replicant-hunting cop, is himself a replicant. And for you naysayers that don't agree, Ridley Scott confirmed this with the NY Times... and I quote - “Yes, he’s a replicant. He was always a replicant.” In the film, Deckard falls in love with Rachael (played by Sean Young), a secretary at the Tyrell Corporation, the conglomerate that makes replicants. She discovers that she’s a replicant too. Her memories of childhood were implanted by Tyrell to make her think she’s human. In the last scene of Mr. Scott’s version, Deckard leads Rachael out of his apartment. He notices an origami figure of a unicorn on the floor. A fellow cop has often left such figures outside replicants’ rooms. In an earlier scene, Deckard was thinking about a unicorn. Looking at the cut out now, he realizes that the authorities know what’s in his mind, that the unicorn is a planted memory, that he’s a replicant and that he and Rachael are both now on the run. They get into the elevator. The door slams. The end.

Neither this scene nor any unicorn appeared in the 1982 release. That version ended with Deckard and Rachael escaping, driving through green countryside, Deckard telling us in a voice-over that he had learned Rachael is a new type of replicant, built to live as long as humans. Gone is the Hollywood happy la la ending. In the theatrical version, you almost expect them to throw their fists in the air and freeze frame.

To put it midly, I LOVED the new film. Watching the Final Cut is like watching a brand new movie, and makes the original cut and the directors cut pale in comparison. Again, the DVD hits stores December 18th and consists of the following features/versions. I'll be getting the brief case edition:

Disc 1 - The Final Cut (2007):

Ridley Scott’s definitive new version of his science-fiction masterpiece includes added & extended scenes, added lines and new and cleaner special effects.

Disc 2 - 3 Complete Film Versions:

‘82 U.S. Theatrical version
‘82 International Theatrical version
‘92 Director’s Cut

Disc 3 - “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner” Documentary

Newly created documentary: Through interviews with the cast and crew, critics and colleagues, this feature-length documentary provides a mainstream-friendly yet meaningful in-depth look at Blade Runner’s literary genesis, its challenging production and controversial legacy. When all is said and done, this will be the definitive documentary on the film.

Disc 4 – Enhanced Content Bonus: (TBC)

INCEPTION - Featurettes and galleries devoted to Philip K. Dick, the birth of Cyberpunk and adapting the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
PRE-PRODUCTION - Featurettes and galleries devoted to script development, conceptual design and abandoned sequences.
PRODUCTION - Featurettes and galleries devoted to principal photography and locations.
POST-PRODUCTION - Featurettes and galleries devoted to deleted scenes, music and visual effects.
RELEASE - Featurettes and galleries devoted to marketing and reaction including Trailers, TV Spots and Promotional Featurettes
LEGACY - Featurettes and galleries devoted to the film’s resurrection and impact.

Disc 5 - Work Print Version & Enhanced Content:

Including the rarely seen Work Print version and potentially the 52 min. Channel Four (UK) documentary which was the first serious documentary created for the film.

Additionally, the set will come packaged in a limited Blade Runner briefcase holding the five-disc digipack with foil-enhanced and embossed slipcase. The goodies inside will include a lenticular motion image from the original feature, a collectible model spinner, an origami unicorn, a collection of photographs and a letter from Ridley Scott.

The perfect Christmas gift for the definitive Blade Runner fan!


Review by John Gray, for Pitofhorror.com

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