Some Thoughts on Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Blade RunnerThe 5-disc HD-DVD version of Blade Runner includes…

The original Workprint Cut
The 1982 Theatrical Cut
The 1982 International Cut
The 1992 Director’s Cut
The 2007 Final Cut

That’s a lottta cuts.

Last night, I watched the new “Final Cut” version of the film. This is an absolutely gorgeous transfer, so good it’s almost like seeing the film for the first time, really. Ridley Scott has gone back and cleaned up some of the old FX with digital FX–not “Star Wars” drastic, more like the DVD of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where the changes are inperceptible.

One of Scott’s intentions with the new cut was to settle the argument of whether or not Harrison Ford’s Deckard was a replicant himself. While this may have been Scott’s intention, there is no definite answer given within the film itself. Deckard dreams of a unicorn, and according to Scott, that’s supposed to indicate that Deckard is a replicant. How do we as an audience come to that conclusion without Scott specifically telling us so in the disc’s special features? Scott maintains that the unicorn origami that Gaff (Edward James Olmos) leaves behind on the floor of Deckard’s apartment, shows that Gaff has looked at Deckard’s file and knows that Deckard has implanted unicorn dreams. That’s a pretty big jump to make, and I think an audience’s natural response to that origami is to chalk it up to a nice little piece of artsy coincidence, not some grand reveal as to Deckard’s true nature.

On the one hand, if Scott says it is so, it is so. But if Scott thinks he’s made it blatantly obvious, well, it’s just simply not so. It doesn’t change things for me when I view it. It doesn’t really matter if Deckard is a replicant or not, because the film is mainly about how human these things are anyways. Deckard’s story is his struggle trying to make some kind of sense of the morality of killing manufactured people. Whether he’s a human or a replicant, his character’s arc remains exactly the same. The only question I would pose to Scott would be why all the replicants have super-human strength except for Deckard, if Deckard is indeed one himself?

As evidenced by a mountain of re-edits, this is not a wholly satisfying film. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I find the film’s plot simplistic and deadly slow. Deckard has to dispose of four renegade replicants, and takes care of them one by one, until the film reaches its conclusion. Along the way we are treated to some fantastic visuals; amazing production design that has influenced countless films. But we are also treated to way too many scenes with synthesized saxophone music while people walk around in the rain. Anytime Deckard interacts with Sean Young the movie goes from slow to a dead stop. There’s no amount of chemistry between the two actors, and Young’s performance is so oddly mannered that in any scenes they have together it’s as if they were delivering all of their lines in slow motion at the bottom of a water tank. Add the “dreamy” Vangelis score and you have a pretty decent sleeping pill of a movie.

I think Scott keeps returning to Blade Runner to try and reconcile the genius of the look of the film with the overall weak script. It’s evident now, after so many versions, that he just can’t squeeze water from a stone. Blade Runner is what it is–an influential visual landmark in science fiction, that is also a fairly boring movie.

 –John

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4 Comments

  1. I thought I was the only one that felt BLADE RUNNER to be a challenging watch. That’s actually the reason I’ve yet to pop it in the player even though I’m anxious to see the different cuts of the film. Seeing as how drastic the differences were between his KINGDOM OF HEAVEN cut and the theatrical cut I thought there would be some semblance of that kind of change between his final cut and his last director’s cut of this film. I also preferred his cut of LEGEND over the theatrical cut, minus his score because I prefer the Tangerine Dream one. I didn’t intend to go on this long.

  2. I think that all those edits show that even Ridley finds it a challenging watch.

  3. I agree completely. I haven’t seen this re-edit, mind you, but I find the film to be extremely boring, and I want to love it, because that’s what we’re all supposed to do. Love Blade Runner.

    The truth is, as much as Scott hates the narration, I think it’s necessary to move the film along. Because without that particular noir aspect thrown it, everything is just sleeptyime nappies for me.

    Paul, however, probably loves every sleepy minute. Malick makes him splooge :p

  4. I just watched the Final Cut. Something I never noticed before that may also be an indication of Deckard being a replicant is when Sean Young goes to his apt. after killing the Brion James replicant, there’s a moment where Deckard is out of focus and you can kinda make out a red sheen in his pupils. It’s the same type of red color that the other replicants’ pupils get. I can’t tell, going back, if it’s just the light reflecting off of his eyes that gives them that coloring mixed with his character being out of focus, but it’s definitely noticeable.
    After experiencing the film again it was much more enjoyable this time around from the first time I saw it. It could’ve been because of the gorgeous transfer, though. This was certainly the most impressive looking HD title that I’ve seen so far.


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