Blade Runner
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (1st December 2006).
The Film

A few decades on now, from its original release, Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?") is still a science-fiction/noir masterpiece. A film that still remains fresh and innovative after all this time while not spoon-feeding you the story. The film leaves you with more than one unanswered question and you can come up with your own answers to those, as many have debated about over the years.
The story picks up 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 played by 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.
Visually it is still a marvellous piece of work. The effects may not hold up under today's scrutiny, but you can see the level of detail used throughout, and it still holds up better than I expected. It's dark and dystopian outlook for humanity is one that has resonated with me since childhood. Unfortunately, raining, noodles and Darryl Hannah's thighs were the only other strong memories of this film that I still retained. It is interesting watching the Director's Cut here. Subtle differences (Deckard dreaming) and major ones (Deckard's voice over is removed entirely) change the overall feel and some major plot-points. I think both films stand on their own merits but The Director's Cut has to get the nod due to being more like what Scott intended. And what we get here is a film that is more artistic and subtle. In addition, one major question (that I won't reference here, for those who may not have seen it yet-even though the back of the DVD case completely ruins the whole plot) that has plagued fan boys since the original is potentially answered here. Of course that has lead to people disagreeing which of the films is the 'real' one, as the two films appear to contradict each other on this part of the plot. Even Ford and Scott did not agree on the matter, which will probably continue to leave nobody with any strong resolution.
The story is one that examines the nature of what it's like to be human. I found that the human story got lost amongst the intricate sets and designs. It just seemed like it only went as far as to pose a few thought-provoking questions, but leave nothing strong for the audience to grasp onto at the end. Although the ending of the Director's Cut beats out the theatrical release, which was tacked on using an outtake from "The Shining" (1980). Still, while Ford, Hauer and Young always do well with what they work with, other characters don't get to be as fully realised. This is a shame in the case of Tyrell (Joe Turkel), the creator of the replicants, whose character barely gets time to breathe.
Despite a storied past and a few quibbles holding it back from being truly excellent, it has rightfully ascended its way into major cult movie status. Most blockbuster type science-fiction movies of the last 20 years usually come down to 'good guy vs. bad guys', with a plethora of special effects and explosions. "Blade Runner" is an artistic thriller which, while it has its flaws, is still unmatched by many of its peers.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio this new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a vast improvement over the previous release. The image is much sharper and fine detail can be made out with better clarity than before. The colors are accurately drab and considering this film is in constant darkness the black levels are nice and rich, displaying a depth that is most welcomed. While some film artefacts are still present on this print usually at the start of the film as well as with wide special effects heavy shots I'm pleased that this film has been a touch up. So far this is the best this film has looked and I look forward to what Warner Brother have in store with the eventual Special Edition planned for next year.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack for this review. For a 24 year old film the audio is quite good, although could be a lot better, obviously lack of depth is the real issue although this track does do an ok job at presenting the dark futuristic world in which these characters are based. The dialogue is clear and distortion free with the music and ambient sounds nicely mixed into the 5.1 space. Until we get a newly created EX encoded track (or uncompressed 5.1 with HD versions of the film) this will have to do for standard DVD viewers, let's hope for something special when the Special Edition is released!
Optional subtitles include English, English for the hearing impaired, Polish, Norwegian, Turkish, German, German for the hearing impaired, Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian and Finnish.

Extras

Warner Brothers have released this film completely bare of any extras not even a theatrical trailer is included on this disc.

Packaging

Although the DVD packaging states this is Region 4 release it is in fact encoded for Region 2/4/5.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: F Overall: C+

 


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