Blade Runner
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak/ Stevie McCleary (4th February 2008).
The Film

"Blade Runner: The Final Cut" (for now). After seemingly 86,000 other versions of this film, this here is the cut that Ridley Scott prefers the most. Featuring extended scenes and extensive retouching of the print and special effects, this is the version that the creator (after fighting with everyone over the original theatrical version, including star Harrison Ford) fits his vision the closest. We know this, because (spoiler~!) he appears before the film in order to tell us this.
The film's story picks up in the future after humanity has begun creating 'replicants', genetically engineered people, to do slave work on off-world colonies. Predictably, there was an uprising. Now all replicants are to be terminated (called 'retirement') by special officers called 'Blade Runners'. Down on his luck Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) is pulled from the gutter to track down and retire some replicants that have crashed on earth. Along the way Deckard falls for a replicant named Rachel (Sean Young) and also walks around in the rain a lot. Meanwhile, replicants Roy and Pris (Rutger Hauer and Darryl Hannah) are attempting to track down their creator because replicants are programmed to only have four years of life, and they want more.
Until now the previous 1992 'Director's Cut' version of this dystopian classic was the ultimate version, the closest to how it was intended; no pointless narration, no tacked on 'happy' ending that featured un-used footage from "The Shining" (1980). Removing those things leaves a great science fiction noir film featuring funky unicorn goodness. I previously reviewed the 'Director's Cut' (to read that review go here) and found it much superior to the original versions that were floating around. The original, while still great, smacked of studio interference and you could tell that with that many fingers in the pie that the vision was altered and diluted. Heck, even the cast couldn't agree with the director on certain famous story points...
Fast forward to today and we have a 'Final Cut'. Well, it sure is damn pretty. Influencing so many films the cyberpunk style of "Blade Runner" looks glorious with all the work that's been done on the negative. It's never looked better. The effects have been spruced up too. The original used no CGI (in the 80's people used something called 'miniatures') but here computers have been used to clean up several effects. The main change is to the scene where Joanna Cassidy's replicant stripper character falls through a glass window. Even though it never really bothered me, the scene originally used a stunt double in a bad wig. Now they took new (~!) footage of Cassidy and digitized it on the stunt double's face. And it looks pretty good.
On top of this some lip-synching has been improved, same with backgrounds, minor scenes re-cut, pieces of dialogue altered...this truly is how to update a classic. There is an auteur or two that should take note. Cough*George*Lucas*cough.
While not as big a jump story-wise as the 'Director's Cut' was from the 'Theatrical' and 'International' versions, the 'Final Cut' is THE definitive version of the film to own. It can't be put any simpler; if you wish to own a copy of "Blade Runner" then this is the one to get. And if you haven't seen a version of the film since the early 80's...you are in for a very pleasant surprise. Now, I've got to go and make an origami unicorn...

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this all new anamorphic widescreen transfer is breathtaking. Completely restored from the original negatives with cleaned up effects also taken from their original elements this transfer is cleaner, sharper, more detailed than any previous version. The image is crisp and features very little in terms of grain (some effects shots retain their grain due to the process of layering the film stocks to composite the final image), colors are appropriately drab matching the overall tone and mood of the film. For a film that's heavy on the optical effects I was surprised that softness was not an issue, there were no edge-enhancement found on the print or any major compression related issues. As far as a catalogue film goes this is reference quality stuff, and you'd expect nothing less considering the long wait fans have had to endure for a decent edition of this film.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included, English, German, Polish and Spanish all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film in its English soundtrack. While not the original soundtrack, this new 5.1 mix is a solid effort showing off the best in an ambient and active surround mix. Not just an up-mix this track expands the sound field and creates an immersive experience for audiences taking right into the film's world. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, while environmental and ambient sounds are present almost all the time from the near-constant rain to the business of the streets. The film's more aggressive sound moments are presented well including the stunning soundtrack that soars through the sound space in all its synthesized glory.

Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, German, German for the hearing impaired, Czech, Croatian, Hebrew, Slovenian, Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Greek, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Turkish.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this film as a 2-disc 'Special Edition' set with an introduction, three audio commentaries and a feature-length documentary on the making of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up is an introduction by the film's director Ridley Scott which runs for 36 seconds welcoming viewers to this new cut of the film and informs is that this is in fact the director's preferred version of the film.

Next is the first of three feature-length audio commentaries by the film's director Ridley Scott. The track is largely screen-specific as the filmmaker provides a fairly decent overview of the making of the film covering various aspects of the production from the script to the various edits of the film that exists. He shares some memories from the filming including working with the actors, designing and developing the film as well as the various challenges that he faced on this film. He basically glosses over a lot of stuff but does cover a lot of ground and for fans of the film this track is worth listening to.

The second feature-length audio commentary is by executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher, co-screenwriter David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and production executive Katherine Haber. Delving more into the producing side of things this track focuses mainly on the logistics of the production, the budget and the many obstacles that faced them in seeing this production through which included the film's director who had to be poked and prodded at times to turn over shots quicker. The film's script is also a point of conversation as are taken through the development of the project and the adaptation process as the participants engage in discussion about the film, it's overall result, their reaction and the audience reaction to it among other things.

The third and final feature-length audio commentary is by visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumball, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. I love technical commentaries, although they're certainly not for everyone. This track takes us through the intense and grueling special effects work that was done for the film, in a time when computer effects were non-existent the audience is given an insight into how optical effects, miniatures, matte paintings and other elements are merged together to create one shot. Also go in-depth into the film's production design and art direction including how this vision of a dark future was originally conceived and the implementation on sets, locations, sound stages and back lots using lighting and darkness to set the mood. There's a lot to digest in this track but it's well worth listening to.

DISC TWO:

The only extra on the second disc is the expansive "Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner" documentary which runs for a staggering 214 minutes 6 seconds and takes a look at the entire production history that includes:

- "Incept Date - 1980: Screenwriting and Dealmaking" which takes us through the adaptation process, the various versions of the script, the writers involved and getting Scott onboard as well as finally making the deal to produce the film.
- "Blush Response: Assembling the Cast" takes a closer look at the casting choices for the film and how the filmmaker's assembled the final cast as they share their memories and experiences from the production and on how they got their roles and what each actor brought to the production.
- "A Good Start: Designing the Future" takes a look at the immense art department and production design for the film, the design of the future, the sets locations used for the interiors and exteriors. The design of the futuristic buildings creating a 'tacked-on' look almost retro-fitted future and looks at selling those sets to make them look believable.
- "Eye of the Storm: Production Begins" This takes is through the start of production and the early challenges that faced the cast and crew.
- "Living in Fear: Tension on the Set" mounting costs, deadlines nearing and the schedules maxed out the production faces more challenges as Scott tries to complete his unique vision for the film.
- "Beyond the Window: Visual Effects" After the shooting is complete the film is nowhere near finished as there's an infinite amount of special effects to create for the film including photographing miniatures, creating matte paintings and adding optical elements among other things.
- "In Need of Magic: Post-Production Problems" Famously known for having alternate edits here we get a look at the mounting problems that faced the production long after filming wrapped and the various cuts of the film that were released to test audiences, who initially responded poorly, the use of a different ending and adding voiceover to make the story more clear among other things.
- "To Hades and Back: Release and Resurrection" finally the film is released and looks at the critical and audience reaction as well as the journey to resurrect the film years later.

Overall

The documentary on the second disc is worth the purchase alone, it's an amazing supplement that has virtually everything a fan could want in a making-of, the commentaries are also an excellent addition, fans take note that there is a much more expansive 5-disc set available which includes yet more extras as well as the four other cuts of the film.

The film has been reviewed by Stevie McCleary, technical specs and extras have been reviewed by Noor Razzak. Copyright 2008 Noor Razzak/ Stevie McCleary.

The Film: A- Video: A+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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