The blade runner is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a semi-retired policeman assigned to “terminate” (read: execute) illegal replicants, undetectable androids of the Tyrell Corporation. Under pursuit, the four escaped replicants—the leader Roy (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Leon (Brion James), and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy)—are directed to designer J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), Tyrell’s closest links. Their goal—an interesting concept—isn’t to kill their creator, but find the secret to a longer, human-like lifespan.
And this might be—futuristic production aside—the only element that categorizes Blade Runner as true Science Fiction. Like Alien (Ridley Scott’s previous film), or worse, Star Wars, the few questions of humanity and existence (Are we playing God?) are ditched for action and chases, allowing us more to hoot-and-holler than challenging us to think. The faults of genetic engineering are inevitably underlined, but Scott dangles his picture by its fingertips as more of an action-adventure than an explorative, precautionary Sci-Fi.
The 1940s noir elements of Blade Runner—a narration (since erased in recent editions), the hammy romance subplot (between Deckard and replicant Rachael, played by Sean Young)—are excusable, if just for complementing the stark visuals and design. The effects team of Douglas Trumbell, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer (the former two “graduates of the class of 2001”) are Blade Runner, moreso than Scott, Dick, or Deckard.
I’m spitting out this critique as if it were 1982, when moviegoers couldn’t fully “accept” the fairly conventional Blade Runner. Give me ten years, servants, to fully appreciate it and another 15 to call it “Great.”
The Final Cut from 2007, which contains a new digital print, updated special effects, and remastered sound.
Commentary by Director Ridley Scott: Scott covers a lot of ground here, commenting on the score by Vangelis, some technical points, the infamous narration, the cinematography, and much much more. A must-listen.
Commentary by Executive Producer/Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Screenwriter David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley, and Production Executive Katherine Haber: Mostly, this commentary puts its focus on the script. A solid follow-up to Scott’s deeper insights.
Commentary by Visual Futurist Syd Mead, Production Designer Lawrence G. Paull, Art Director David Snyder, and Special Photographic Effects Supervisors Douglas Trumbell, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer: The real heroes of Blade Runner gather here to offer a closer look at the effects, as well as a fair amount of silence.
Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (3:33:56): This comprehensive documentary (compiled of cast and crew interviews and production footage) is divided into eight parts, which can be viewed either as a whole or in separate chapters. Inception Date tracks the 1980 development of the story into script, attracting Ridley Scott, and how/why investors came onboard. Blush Response shifts the focus to the casting, from early Deckard choices (Robert Mitchum, Dustin Hoffman) to Sean Young and Daryl Hannah. A Good Star is the final piece devoted to pre-production, with the production design put under the spotlight, where the writer’s strike allowed the crew to work much longer than usual, which quite obviously paid off. Eye of the Storm shows the beginning of production and the start of the famous Scott-Ford feuds—they are also some pleasant stories shared. Living in Fear is more on-set woes, but puts more focus on budget and schedule problems the producers were upset over. Beyond the Window takes us to post-production, where the effects team sits down to discuss their methods to illustrate the importance of the visuals. In Need of Magic shifts its focus to one of the more interesting aspects of Blade Runner: the different cuts, with the narration and unicorn scene vs. the “happy ending” given attention. To Hades and Back is the final piece here, and is a perfect way to end this lengthy documentary: an appreciation and look at Blade Runner’s impact.
Included are the U.S. Theatrical Cut, the International Theatrical Cut (a few scenes and extra violence), and the Director’s Cut from 1992 (no narration, exclusion of “happy ending,” and the inclusion of the unicorn scene).
The Electric Dreamer: Author Philip K. Dick (14:21): This is a dedication piece to Dick, with comparisons between his earlier and later works, as well as the themes found in his work.
Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film (15:08), as you gather from the title, covers the difference between Dick’s novel and Scott’s film, including scenes left out of the adaptation.
Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews is a collection of 14 audio-only interviews on topics such as inspiration, adapting, and Harrison Ford.
Signs of the Time: Graphic Design (13:38) is an interesting piece on the look of Blade Runner.
Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling (20:39) is a bit lengthy, but notes the influence the costumes took from and have had in film history.
Screen Tests: Rachael and Pris (8:51): If you find screen tests to be a fun piece added to DVDs, then you’ll dig these.
The Light That Burns: Remember Jordan Cronenweth (20:01) is a nice dedication piece to the late cinematographer, who was one of the essential elements to Blade Runner.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (47:39): This collection should be enough to keep the hardcore fans busy for awhile.
Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard (9:30) is one of the more interesting segments included, with the focus put on the Deckard: Human or Replicant? debate and the hints throughout the feature.
Nexus Generation: Fans & Filmmakers (21:50) has a slew of fans (Guillermo del Toro & Frank Darabont amongst them) sit down to chat Blade Runner, which changed every one of their lives. I don’t quite “get” the phenomena, but this featurette helps to “understand” the fans more.
Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art (9:36) looks at the design of the popular posters.
1982 Promotional Featurettes and Trailers and TV Spots round out this thick set.