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Blade Runner Marathon: 1st and 2nd Rounds

I picked up Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Blu-Ray the day after it released. That's Wednesday, December 19 for anyone who has been counting minutes and days (dangerous days that is) around this release. Opted out of the "Ultimate" version with the briefcase, origami unicorn, mini-spinner and other flashy trinkets. The hi-def versions without the collector's case have all 5 versions of the film, and all the bonus materials - i.e. everything the Ultimate version has on the discs, so that was good enough for me, especially at less than half the price of the briefcase version.

On Wednesday night I watched the actual 'Final Cut' version, then on Thursday I watched the enormously long documentary Dangerous Days, which in of itself rivals in length and content the materials LFL has been putting out with various Star Wars DVD releases, and there's still more documentary material in the Blade Runner set. I'll be staggering the documentaries with watching different versions of the film in the coming days, of which I can't wait to see the "Enhancement Archives", which includes a little blooper by Edward James Olmos who refers to replicants as Cylons. I heard an interview with Ridley Scott on NPR's Fresh Air, which I also found available on their website. If you scroll down the page, you'll see a link to a video clip from the Enhancement Archives discussing whether or not Deckard is a replicant, and you'll be able to see EJO's blooper:

'Blade Runner' Director Ridley Scott on Fresh Air

Blade Runner: The Final Cut
It's still sinking in for me. I saw the original theatrical release when I was pretty young, and the Blade Runner I've always known and loved included the voice-overs and an ending with a drive to the country. Thinking back, I don't think I ever payed a whole lot of attention to the plot. Again, I was pretty young and was much more enamored by the visual quality of the film than anything else (and of course Harrison Ford). To me, the story was about a loner cop who lived in a grim and semi-apocalyptic future, who fell in love with a replicant of whom he was supposed to destroy. Deckard was always unquestionably human to me. In fact, the question never crossed my mind until very recently where I had read discussions on the matter as Blade Runner began to get chocked up again in anticipation of the 2007 DVD release.

It's been well over a year or so since I've watched my old 'Director's Cut' on VHS. I think my parents also have the original theatrical on VHS, which is what I had been rewatching over the years for the most part. When I sat down to watch the 'Final Cut' I was watching the film with much more attention to detail and the story than ever before. I was trying to see where the differences were from how I remembered the film. As a result, I saw more and more flaws in the story, and really picked up on the continuity and technical errors - like when Leon threw Deckard onto a ground-mobile and the windshield was already smashed before Deckard hit it. It's kind of funny, since I thought they were aiming to fix a lot of these mistakes in the new cut.

In general, Final Cut seemed very stripped down, almost empty. The dialogue just didn't seem to flow, even though speaking parts were very sparse in the first place. I think the voice-overs helped mask that, or perhaps the audio track needs to be recovered a little more without the VO. I'm learning to appreciate the lack of voice-over, I really am. They gave the film a graphic novel feel for me when I was younger, and generally just kept me in the story. There are certainly some voice-over parts I could live without, but as visually stunning as Blade Runner always has been, I don't think it was ever visually efficient enough to keep the story coherent. Not that I ever cared about that before... before now.

Even though I didn't get to see the Final Cut on the big screen, getting to see this remastered and cleaned up version on Blu-Ray almost made up for that. It's just gorgeous, continuity-warts and all. So what if I saw all the flaws? I wasn't really watching it like I would normally watch a movie. It's so visually powerful, I still cared less about the technical stuff. I'll still jump at any chance to see this in a theater if it comes my way, since they have been extending theater showings (see listings at the official site).

My one and only big qualm is the ending. Maybe I'll feel differently about it at some point, as it seems any version of Blade Runner takes some getting used to. I'm well aware of how Scott felt about what he was made to do with both the sugar-coated ending, and the voice-overs - which was basically very unhappy. Still, the way the Final Cut ends is almost as though he just lopped off the parts he didn't like and left it at that. It could have been just slightly more polished and worked, but to me, the end looks like a mistake as it stands. Again, maybe I was looking too closely, and I'll certainly stand back and compare the end of all the cuts.

Cool factoid - The Millenium Falcon is a stand in as a building in one of the city-scapes!

If anyone happens by one of those prop house yard sales they've been having to keep from going bankrupt during the writer's strike, pick me up a spinner. I'll send you a check... I swear.


RJ said...

I've seen Blade Runner maybe twice in my life and the last time was probably 15 years ago. It's got such a following that I feel like I need to check it out again some time. But now that there are so many versions, it's almost a little overwhelming to the non-fanatic, you know?

starthunder said...

I hear ya RJ, and frankly the differences between all the different versions of the film are VERY subtle. the main difference between the new final cut and the original theatrical is that the final cut removed the voice-overs and chopped the ending off (id I remember correctly, the director's cut also without voice-over and the extended "happy" ending - but now I forget, and I haven't watched that part of my collection yet).

If you're thinking about picking it up, and you're only going with standard-def, get the four disc "Collector's Edition". It's rather inexpensive and all it's missing from the 5 disc set is the workprint version (almost exactly the same as the final cut), and a shorter documentary called "All Our Variant Futures" which basically talks about how they cleaned up the workprint for the final cut.

Otherwise, the 4 disc set has the with voice-overs and happy ending, and without. The Final Cut is really just nicely cleaned up - something like the SW special editions, except really not changed very much at all.