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I went to see BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT at the last night of its Ziegfield run here in NYC. Yes, we lucky bastards in NYC and LA got to see the final restored version on the big screen and the rest of you didn’t. I’m sorry.

I purposely didn’t read about what had been tinkered with for this actual Ridley Scott endorsed version (the previous Director’s Cut was mostly put together by Warners). So I came to it fresh. I could tell a few scenes and dialog had been changed — notably they finally explain that TWO replicants were killed already, accounting for all six — but it was mostly the sound editing that stood out. There just seemed to be a lot more ambient noise and background electro-noodling. It seemed distracting in places.

But otherwise, it was perfect. While the in-depth comparisons will await the home dvd release in December, two other notable fixes were that Zhora’s death scene has been reshot — God bless Joanna Cassidy — and the actual take of the unicorn scene was used. (There’s also much more blood when Roy kills Tyrell.) The final shot of the dove has also been improved. In this version, it’s much clearer that Deckard is a replicant, but I couldn’t say exactly how or why I got that impression. It was very subtle, but it worked.

3414251 Roy Dies

This was actually the FOURTH time I’ve seen BLADE RUNNER in the theater. The first time was in LA at the NuArt when they first released the Director’s Cut. (Not, alas, the famed “NuArt screening” of the workprint); the second was in a double bill with ALIEN that celebrated the opening of a new theater in Century City. (I also saw all three original Star Wars movies in a one day screening.) The third time was during the one and only Dynamic Forces con about a decade ago. This screening included a Q&A with Rutger Hauer afterwards, so this has to be my favorite viewing.
Br Deckard Scan 1
This version is by far the clearest, cleanest and most breathtaking. (One friend of mine went to see it four times at the Ziegfield.) As I left the theater (which was sold out) the plaza outside the Ziegfield was filled with pockets of happy nerds and cineastes lingering and talking it over — it was clear that they had never seen it in a movie theater, and he experience had galvanized them. Suddenly I felt old.

Another friend of mine saw it during this run for the FIRST TIME EVER and I haven’t been able to hear her thoughts. In truth, I can’t imagine what that would be like, since, although the film has aged beautifully, so many things that were stunningly innovative when it first came out are now so much a part of the movie making language that it doesn’t have the power to shock any more. It’s hard to see now how groundbreaking BLADE RUNNER was when it first came out. The pioneering brilliance of the imagined world — the floating ads, the towering flames, the city-buildings — it was all new. Nothing like it had been imagined before.

Mead S

Much credit must go to the concept artist, the great Syd Mead, who also worked on TRON, as did Moebius, who also contributed some designs for BLADE RUNNER. (A piece of Mead concept art, but not from BR, above.) On the other hand, sometimes its hard to know what to make of Ridley Scott. He’s directed so many seminal films — ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, THELMA AND LOUISE, GLADIATOR, BLACK HAWK DOWN — but also so many that just make you scratch your head — say, anybody want to watch MATCHSTICK MEN? — it’s hard to call him a visionary. He comes from a background as an art director, and seeing BLADE RUNNER on the big screen it’s clear that the look is first, the story was just something that had to be there.

But oh, what a look. The shock when it came out wasn’t that it was so different, it was that it was rooted in the real world. (Deckard even has a bin full of paper chopsticks on his kitchen counter, a detail I had never noted before.) This is how it could be, the neon rain and crowded noodle shops, the flying cars and menageries of living toys. This is where it is going if we follow this path. There’s still a lot of truth to this future — except for the fact that no one was blabbing on a cell phone, it could still be the future. BLADE RUNNER is a movie that looked so cool that people are still trying to make the world look like that.

Aw Blade

BTW: there was also a comics adaptation of BLADE RUNNER by Archie Goodwin with art by Al Williamson, Carlos Garzon, Dan Green and Ralph Reese. It was published as a “Super Special,” Marvel’s early foray into magazine sized, process colored comics. (I say early, but no one uses that format any more but Heavy Metal, so it was a bit of a dead end.) The cover was by Steranko.

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MORE: A good post by Jim Emerson at the Sun Times, with much linkage to contemporary accounts.

1 COMMENT

  1. POSSIBLE SPOILER

    I’ve only seen it once, and I was underwhelmed. Of course it looked really cool. That part of The Beat’s assessment is 100% accurate. But to me the story has to lead everything, story is king. There are so many interesting philosophical questions that could have been at least posed here, if not even resolved, but the story is so bland, so boring. “Guy chases. The end.”

    I would like to see all the different versions and compare them, because whatever version I watched years back did NOT make it clear to me that Harrison Ford is a clone too. I talked to my friend about it last summer and he mentioned that and I had no clue what he was talking about.

    The movie looks cool, but that’s not enough to make a good movie. It was a good step toward what something like The Fifth Element could become in later years.

  2. The movie looks cool, but that’s not enough to make a good movie. It was a good step toward what something like The Fifth Element could become in later years.

    Did you just suggest that Blade Runner compares unfavorably with The Fifth Element? That’s just wrong.

  3. Remember that Criterion boxed set of Brazil that had all the various versions of the film? Blade Runner needs the same multi-disc deluxe treatment. Everybody’s happy that way. Well, everybody with $100+, I guess.

  4. THE FIFTH ELEMENT is a piece of pointless drivel. Give me a break. It is not fit to be mentioned in the same sentence as BLADE RUNNER.

    BTW they aren’t clones, they’re “replicants” — genetically engineered humans.

  5. I think Jonathan just needs another viewing. The movie is multi-leveled, and while on the surface there is a chase, underneith is much much more.
    There are subtle critiques on everthing from advertising to environmental conservation to corporate excess. You just have to look deeper. I saw it when it came out, and every version of it since, and I still see new stuff in there.

  6. Us lucky Portlanders are getting a theatrical run too. It will be playing at our Cinema 21 at the end of the month. It’s going to be an Oni staff field trip.

  7. Blade Runner is the film that first made me aware of cinematic ‘style’ everything in it: the lighting, the cutting, the effects (less flashy than Star Wars) even the constant rain all combined to produce a vision of the future so real you could taste it.

    I can remember when I first saw it, even shrunk down, edited for TV and with a half hour break in the middle for the news it had an amazing effect on me (although I did find the closing scenes confusing).

    With no video recorder at the time it was years before I saw it again. In the meantime I read articles about how it had been changed after the test screening and how there was another version closer to Scott’s original vison.

    When I got to see it again I was able to follow it better, I saw how the terrible voiceover and the ludicrous ending (where’d all those trees come from?) dragged it down and hoped that one day we’d get the original cut. Despite those flaws I still considered it a stunning piece of work.

    In 1992 they released the ‘Directors Cut’ which ‘corrected the errors of the voiceover and the ending. But it was the chance to experience it for the first time on a large screen that was the main draw for me and I wasn’t disappointed. They say nothing dates like the future but a decade on this still felt like a credible vision of a grim future.

    Then it came out that this wasn’t really a ‘Director’s Cut’ just a version put together from Scott’s notes and he wasn’t too impressed with what he saw and that he wanted to do a ‘true’ directors cut.

    So here we are, it only took 25 years to finally get a version that the director is happy with, and truly considers his own. Over the years I’ve seen too many directors return to earlier movies to mess around with them and invariably produce something inferior (I’m looking at you, Lucas) but in this case I think it’s going to be worth the wait.

  8. I’ll have to see this. On the surface, I certainly do NOT like the idea of Deckard being a replicant.
    I actually broke up with a girl once who hated Blade Runner (not the only reason, it just happened to be the proverbial straw).
    Thankfully she didn’t compare it unfavorably with The Fifth Element.
    Then I’d have had to “retire” her. ;)

  9. By any chance, does the Final Cut have voiceover? please?

    I know everyone hates it, but I love the pulpy cheesy feel of it contrasted to the harsh visuals and story. IMHO, the voiceover makes it sci-fi crime noir rather than just straight sci-fi.

  10. It was a friend of mine who tracked down the original “director’s” cut and got Warners to let him show it as part of a UCLA student run festival in ’91, I believe. Syd Mead came to the screening at the DGA and spoke afterwards. It was pretty amazing, less from an pure artistic sense, and more as a sociological experience. This was before the riots, but right after Mike Davis’ City of Quartz was published, and there was such a palpable sense of fantasy and reality merging in people’s conception of LA. Really an amazing night.

  11. Just BTW, I own the original art to the page after the one you have posted of the Blade Runner adaptation.
    And I will never, never, never sell it.
    Dave Miller

  12. I, too, saw Blade Runner: The Final Cut at the Ziegfield. I briefly fell asleep part way through and was real drowsy for much of it. I blame the ambient electronic music that inundated the theater.

    I wonder if I can get the soundtrack for my iPod to help me sleep at nights.

  13. No one uses a cell phone in the future Los Angeles of BLADE RUNNER because the end of the Mayan calendar in Dec 2012 actually fortells the date when it is proven that cell phones give you cancer.

  14. Dave Hudson says: “So here we are, it only took 25 years to finally get a version that the director is happy with, and truly considers his own.”

    I remember when the BR director’s cut hit the screens in 1993, and a pretty big fuss was made at the time that it was a first where somebody was able to go back and re-do a movie the way it was meant to be. People would talk about “director’s cuts” of movies before then (most notably for Brazil and assorted Orson Welles movies that got butchered by studios), but BR was the first one to actually do it and get it on screens, I think.

    So…you’re telling me that the movie which was the one that kicked off the whole “Director’s Cut” phenomenon wasn’t actually a real director’s cut? Bizarre.

    The BR soundtrack has also made it kind of hard to watch “Chariots of Fire” without expecting Harrison Ford to burst in and blow away a runner whose eyes are glowing red.

    I was contemplating seeing this again at the Ziegfeld, mostly because it’s at the Ziegfeld. The only thing that made Attack of the Clones fun for me was seeing it on that monstrous screen with about a thousand other like-minded people. Don’t think the missus would go for a visit to NY just for this, though.

  15. Well, everyone who favors any version of Blade Runner over another should be happy, as the DVD set coming out shortly will have the Theatrical version, the Director’s Cut, and the Final Cut.

  16. It may not be easy to find on DVD anymore, but I’ve always enjoyed the 1977 film, The Duellists, that Scott did. It’s a period piece and just beautiful to look at. Every shot is well framed. The colors pop off the screen. It’s a nice looking piece of work.

    I need to see BLADE RUNNER again. I saw it once on DVD a few years back and didn’t care for it all that much, honestly. It may have been the crappy TV I was watching it on, though, or just a bad mood day or something.

  17. I actually convinced my mom to take me to see BR when it 1st came out. I was in the 3rd grade and it completely warped my brain. In those pre-vcr days I laid my hands on as much BR merchandise as I could to retain the experience. I owned the comic in three different formats.The one shown above.(which,sorry Heidi, is comic sized) as a two issue mini & even chopped up in black & white published in a paperback novel format. I also scrimped & saved to buy the official magazine & two of the ertyl miniatures. I also took a han solo figure and put zukas’ trench coat on him to make a BR action figure.I recall being crushed at the time because for whatever reason, Vangelis refused to release the sound track as an album.

    Later in high school, No one could hang out with me for any period of time without me making them watch it. Whether they wanted to or not. I even made my future wife watch it on our 1st date after accidentally driving her car off the road. What’s the point of this post? Uh none really. I just love this movie so damn much I couldn’t help reminiscing. Sorry.

  18. Saw it last week @ Landmark in LA. I think it was a digital print, as it was so pristine. I loved all the little changes, especially the sound mix and a few apparently new cues (Middle Eastern Dub Music in the Taffy Lewis scene, IIRC).

    I can see how some people might not “get” the movie. So much of my enjoyment – and I saw the first run when I was thirteen or so – from this viewing was interpreting inner states of mind and philosophical-metaphysical bits-and-bobs relating to loneliness, humanity, etc. If you just look at Plot alone, it may seem rather diffuse.

    I came away once again wishing I could peep into an alternate universe and see a version of BLADE RUNNER that was mostly seen from Roy and Pris’ POV. What amazing characters! Also great to see Sanderson 25 year b4 DEADWOOD.

    FInally, I was struck by how much serendipty played in the movie’s thematic coherence and success: Roy’s final, famous speach was written off the cuff by Hauer right b4 the scene was to be shot; Gaff’s origami was Olmos’ improvisation, as was (I think) his polyglot speach. Imagine BR without the “I’ve seen things…” speach and sans unicorn origami: somehow it wouldn’t resonate so perfectly. Even the movie’s perfect title was “found” being a very minor (possibly small press publication) WS Burrough’s book.

  19. Mark Parsons Says: “Also great to see Sanderson 25 year b4 DEADWOOD.”

    Mark, you should checkout reruns of Newhart on ALN.

    “Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”

  20. ” … I saw how the terrible voiceover and the ludicrous ending (where’d all those trees come from?) dragged it down … ”

    I saw it in the theatres during its first run. I know someone will chalk it up to that, but I never had a problem with the voiceover … or the more upbeat ending. It was upbeat, but hardly a happy ending.

    As for the trees … obvious they fled from the city.

  21. Oh yeah … I’m now on record as saying the movie works with Deckard a human, and NOT a replicant. If Deckard is a replicant with a four-year life span, then how can he have a history with the police department? He’d be dead by the time he would be promoted to detective. Philip K. Dick’s novel poses that question — “What is human?” — but if Deckard is also a replicant, the question is moot.

  22. In addition to the mega dvd collection, there’s going to be a new version of the soundtrack.

    It features two CDs of previously unreleased music by Vangelis, including a full CD of tracks from the movie and another CD of new compositions by Vangelis.

    Here’s a link to the details:

    Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack

    I don’t know about sitting through 5 dvds, but I’ll definitely listen to 3cds of this.

  23. I guess I’m a little late on the discussion here, but I might add that the book should be read. While I like the characters in the movie more, the book gives some nice depth to the movie and fills in with a good background. The book takes on a more philosophical role than the movie.