PLOT: It is 2019, and society we has dissolved into an overpopulated and bleak world. With technology, the future has grown vast and out of control. When a rich and powerful man creates Replicants, androids with a short shelf life designed to make things easier on those with the money to purchase. Trouble is, the replicants do something they were not meant to do, develop human emotions. They became violent and dangerous, so they are outlawed, while a group of police officers called Blade Runners are assigned to retire them. But a particularly vicious group, return to earth to meet their maker, and demand a longer life. Upon their return, a jaded runner is hired to make sure they have a quick retirement. In other words, death.
Back in 1982 came the release of a film based on a novel by Philip K. Dick called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. The film, BLADE RUNNER was bound to be successful, after all, it was directed by Ridley Scott, the man behind ALIEN, and it starred Harrison Ford who was fresh off two successful franchises. Yet, when it was released, it was greeted with mixed reviews and a disappointing box office. It arrived in theatres a couple of weeks after E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, and the same weekend as THE THING. One, a family film that was earning major box office dollars, and the other, a horror film from John Carpenter that boosted some amazing special effects. But either way, BLADE RUNNER couldn’t compete.
Since then, there have been (depending on who you ask) seven different versions of the film. From the theatrical version, a work print version, the director’s cut and a few others. Finally, we are getting what promises to be the final offering. And since I am lucky enough to be living in Los Angeles, I was able to see BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT at The Landmark Theatre in L.A. It was a Wednesday night, 10:30 showing and it was a good size audience considering the night and time. Before I got in, I spoke to James, he was taking tickets outside and told me to wait while they cleaned up the theatre. He talked about the film and his views. He also reminded me why, 25 years later, people are still going to the theatre to see this film. A film which was older than he was.
When Ridley Scott first worked on the original, he was asked by the studio to add a “happy ending” and narration to make it more accessible. Later, in 1992, director Scott released his version which happily took out what made it “accessible” the first time. Although it was a rather quick release and his full input had not made it into the “Director’s Cut”. And now, 25 years later, he has released a more exact version that adds a few layers to the previously seen. Including small scenes, such as some of the more violent images from the International Cut which had been removed from the U.S. Theatrical and the Director’s Cut. The full-length unicorn dream has been restored which had not been seen before. A few other words and short lines have been changed. But most importantly, the special effects have been cleaned up and sharpened. Because this time, Ridley was able to supervise. And never has this apocalyptic world ever looked so hauntingly beautiful. Especially, watching from a digital projector. This was the first time I had been able to see the film in a theatre and what a wonderful way to spend some quality time with such an important piece of cinema.
What makes BLADE RUNNER special is the genre splicing that goes on. It is a cross between film noir and science fiction. It also evokes sympathy for Deckard (Harrison Ford) and also the “villain”, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) who is a Replicant attempting to make life longer for himself and others like him. You see, Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) is a powerful and rich man, who made a fortune off creating androids. They were created to make life easier for all those with the money to buy them. It was a simple way to make life better, yet something happened. Replicants were designed to have a four year life span, and the more these humanoids progress, they develop human emotions, which include anger. Soon, the artificial intelligence are outlawed, and a group of police assigned to “retire” them by way of killing them are formed and given the title Blade Runners.
Of course the final battle between Deckard and Batty is phenomenal. It is surprising and fresh which helps to award Batty brownie points for humanity with his wonderful final speech. This is a strong moment with two actors doing some of their best work. It is a mixture of violence and humanity, that really offers up what the film is truly about. The need for existence, and the need to live beyond what others expect of us. Our own fears and frustrations are given a future, an apocalyptic view of what is now, only a few years away, when we have seen what loosing our freedom may be like. An important film with images that are unforgettable.
For any of you who haven’t seen it, it comes highly recommend. It won several awards for production design and costume design and best cinematography. None of which were Academy Awards, but since the films initial release, it has truly become a cult classic. It’s moody score by Vangelis, the frightening design of what 2019 may look like, and a somber yet fantastic performance by both Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer. It holds up considerably well when you look at it now. And as mentioned, the social relevance also seems to be very important as we are living in a time when humanity takes back seat to business and power. This is the kind of film that has proven it’s relevance and no matter how many times it is retouched, it still retains it’s vision and importance in cinema. Whether you prefer the original, or the International Cut, the Director’s Cut, version that some guy made on his Mac, or whatever version you prefer, you will soon have the opportunity to own them all on one set. Another case of double and sometimes triple dipping, but personally, a pretty worthy addition to your DVD collection will be available on December 18th. My personal favorite as of now, is the final cut. It looks amazing and feels much more tragic, it also answers, in it’s own vague way, who Deckard really is. I’ll be honest, I’ll be making this purchase.
My rating 10/10 -- JimmyO