Blade Runner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Fans expected a lot from this transfer, and they should feel exceedingly satisfied with the result.
Sharpness usually seemed immaculate. Despite the challenging, complicated nature of the image and all the wide shots, the movie appeared crisp and well-defined. The only signs of softness came from the source photography; the slightly vague shots were inevitable, as that’s how they were recorded. Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and no signs of edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws also were absent. The film looked devoid of specks, marks or other concerns; it was a splendidly clean image.
With its often bright neon palette, the colors of Blade Runner excelled. The hues really lit up the screen, as they provided dazzling tones throughout the film. More subdued sequences looked just as good as the bubbly street scenes; those sections may have lacked the same “dazzle factor”, but they demonstrated equally full, rich colors. Blacks were tight and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. The film came with quite a few dimly-lit scenes, and they all demonstrated excellent delineation.
Really, this transfer looked about as close to perfect as one could expect. It lived up to any potential hype and dazzled from start to finish. I hate to say that a nearly 25-year-old flick looks like it could’ve been filmed yesterday, but it’s often true in this case. Blade Runner leapt off the screen with a vivacity never seen.
While not quite as stunning as the visuals, the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Blade Runner also worked very well. The soundfield favored environmental elements, which made sense given the nature of the story. Though the film offered a smattering of action beats, it usually went with a more “subliminal” feel. The movie’s ever-present rain filled the room in a satisfying way, and the thunder added oomph to those scenes. Vehicles zipped from spot to spot well, and the whole package created a smooth, immersive impression.
The Vangelis score got the biggest bump via this 5.1 track. The music poured from all five speakers in a warm, inviting manner. The score’s presentation never felt gimmicky or awkward, as the music helped involve us in the movie. Though the soundfield rarely dazzled, it served to accentuate the film in a very pleasing manner.
While the audio quality occasionally showed its age, the material still sounded quite good. Speech probably demonstrated the weakest link, as some of the lines appeared a little edgy. However, dialogue stayed perfectly intelligible and was usually more than acceptable in terms of natural qualities.
Effects also sometimes minor weaknesses, mostly due to a smidgen of distortion for some bits. Those occurred infrequently, though, and the effects sounded pretty good for the most part. I suspect that some of them were re-recorded for this new release, though I don’t know that for certain. In any case, despite those occasional examples of distortion, the effects came across well. They usually seemed full and dynamic, with really good impact in the louder sequences.
Speaking of nice range, the score benefited most of all from this new track. The music consistently sounded rich and warm, with crisp highs and firm lows. I felt the score added immeasurably to the movie, especially when it sounded so good. Wrap up all of that and you find a very positive soundtrack. The mild edginess and distortion almost knocked my audio grade down to a “B+”, but I thought too much of the film sounded too good too often to rate below an “A-“.
How did the picture and audio of this Blade Runner Blu-Ray compare to those of the standard-definition DVD? Both soundtracks appeared fairly similar. The lossless version here might’ve been a little more dynamic, but not a lot; there was only so much room for growth within the 30-year-old stems.
Visuals demonstrated the expected step up in quality, though. While the DVD looked excellent for its format, it couldn’t compete with the higher resolution of the Blu-ray. Perversely, this meant some parts of the film looked “worse”, as the instances of soft photography were more noticeable. Nonetheless, those remained unavoidable and weren’t a problem. Overall, the presentation was glorious.
On SD-DVD, Blade Runner came in three flavors: a a two-disc set, a a four-disc Collector’s Edition, and a five-disc “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” (linked above). The Blu-Ray duplicates all the disc-based supplements of the UCE; it only omits some physical components. Check out the UCE review for the specifics. (Note that Discs Two and Four of this set are DVDs; only Discs One, Three and Five – those that include versions of the movie – are Blu-Ray Discs.)
On Disc One, we begin with an introduction from director Ridley Scott. In this 34-second clip, Scott tells us a little about the restoration. It seems painless but it doesn’t really add anything.
We also find three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ridley Scott, as he gives us a running, screen-specific look at his film. He discusses the film’s opening sequence and its various cuts, the score and audio, different effects and other visual elements, storyboards, costumes, set design and locations, themes, interpretation, cast and performances, and a few other subjects.
In other words, Scott tells us at least a little about almost everything involved in the flick. That doesn’t mean that the commentary proves exhaustive and complete, but it sure does offer a nice overview of the different areas. At times I think Scott waxes a little too philosophical, as I’d prefer a bit more focus on the actual filmmaking processes, but that’s a minor complaint. Overall, he presents a very informative and compelling chat.
For the second track, we hear from executive producer/co-writer Hampton Fancher, co-writer David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and executive producer Katherine Haber. The writers sat together as one pair and the producers chatted together as a second pair; the two running, screen-specific pieces were then edited together into this result. The track looks at budgetary issues and problems during the shoot, adapting the original work and script/story-related subjects, altered/dropped segments, sets and locations, the movie’s reception and legacy, cast and performances, and a few other production topics.
To my surprise, the producers’ side of things works better. Usually producers tend to play it safe while writers provide more insight, but that doesn’t occur here. For the most part, Fancher and Peoples do little more than bicker about who wrote what as well as praise various elements. They do provide a smattering of good insights, but they don’t add much to the proceedings.
Haber and Deeley don’t excel either, but their remarks prove more informative. They throw out some nice details and help make the commentary decent. Unfortunately, it remains a lackluster chat. It only sporadically engages and sheds less light than I’d hoped it would. It merits a listen, but keep your expectations low.
The final commentary features visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder, and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. They sit in various screen-specific groups for another edited track. We learn about locations and set design, various effects, visual choices, props, and other technical topics.
Although the material could become dry, the participants keep things pretty lively. They cover the different topics in a thorough manner and let us learn a lot about the creation of the various elements. The situation rebounds after the disappointing writers/producers track to provide a nice look at the technical side of the production.
Over on Disc Two, the main attraction comes from a new documentary called Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. This program runs a whopping three hours, 33 minutes and 56 seconds as it combines movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Scott, Deeley, Trumbull, Fancher, Mead, Peoples, Snyder, Haber, Paull, Dryer, Yuricich, Future Noir: The Making of “Blade Runner” author Paul M. Sammon, author Philip K. Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett, The Anubis Gates author Tim Powers, Ridley Scott’s sons Jake and Luke Scott and daughter Jordan Scott, associate producer Ivor Powell, Ladd Company president Alan Ladd, Jr., financiers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio, Heavy Metal publisher Kevin Eastman, casting director Mike Fenton, production illustrator Tom Southwell, vehicle fabricator Gene Winfield, assistant art director Stephen Dane, key grip Cary Griffith, director’s brother Tony Scott, script supervisor Ana Maria Quintana, lighting gaffer Dick Hart, cinematographer’s son Jeff Cronenweth, makeup artist Marvin G. Westmore, marketing consultant Jeff Walker, stunt coordinator Gary Combs, first assistant cameraman Mike Genne, supervising editor Terry Rawlings, matte painters Michelle Moen and Rocco Gioffre, chief model maker Mark Stetson, model maker Bill George, lead model painter Ron Gress, EEG still lab Virgil Mirano, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Joseph Kahn, Mark Romanek and Frank Darabont, film critic Kenneth Turan, restoration producer Charles de Lauzirika, veteran visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and actors Daryl Hannah, Harrison Ford, Joanna Cassidy, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Morgan Paull, Stacey Nelkin, Joe Turkel, James Hong, and M. Emmet Walsh.
With more than three and a half hours at its disposal, one might expect “Days” to offer a thorough examination of the production of Blade Runner. And one would expect correctly, as it leaves few stones unturned. The show looks at the adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story and script issues/rewrites, the project’s development and path to the screen, how Scott came onto the project, visual influences, abandoned concepts, and various forms of production preparation.
From there it digs into casting and performances, conceptual art, sets and locations, prop and visual design, Scott’s behavior on the set and connected conflicts, various problems and issues during the shoot, and stunt work. Once production finally ends, “Days” gets into visual effects, editing and cut scenes, reshoots, the voiceover and the 1982 theatrical edition of the flick, the score, the film’s initial reception and subsequent opinions, and its legacy.
Most documentaries of this sort ladle out lots of praise and happy talk. “Days” isn’t one of those programs. Of course, it does present positive reflections on the film at times, but it also hands out lots and lots of honest appraisal of all the production’s difficulties. This makes it a pretty objective piece, right down to pro-voiceover remarks from del Toro and anti-voiceover comments from Darabont.
Plenty of great visuals help flesh out the comments. There’s surprisingly little repetition here after all the commentaries, and even some of the more commonly known issues like the problems with the dove get a boost from the outtakes. It’s one thing to hear that the bird wouldn’t fly, but it’s much more fun to actual see the little guy hop around after Hauer releases him. We also get great elements like unused voiceover recordings and other fine archival pieces. “Days” presents a truly terrific documentary that gives us a thorough and engaging view of the flick.
In addition, Disc Two includes some trailers. We find promos for I Am Legend, Fracture, Invasion and Superman: Doomsday.
Disc Three contains three different versions of Blade Runner. These include the original 1982 US Theatrical Cut (1:57:18), the 1982 International Theatrical Cut (1:57:34) and the 1992 Director’s Cut (1:56:31). The first two are essentially identical; the main difference comes from a little more graphic violence in the International Cut. Both feature the narration and happy ending that were part of the flick for its first decade.
1992’s “Director’s Cut” made substantial changes. Not only did it drop both the happy ending and the narration, but also it gave us a few other elements like Deckard’s infamous “unicorn dream”. Blade Runner becomes a moderately different movie in this form, though the current Final Cut largely resembles it. The biggest changes came between 1982 and 1992, while I see the 2007 Final Cut as being more of a refinement of the 1992 edition.
Earlier I indicated that the Final Cut is probably the best of the bunch, and that opinion hasn’t changed in the intervening period. Does that mean the others are nothing more than curiosities here? No, I think they’re worthwhile on their own, and I expect that I’ll occasionally watch one of the 1982 cuts in the future; that’s the Blade Runner I grew up on, and I’m happy I can still experience it. For me, the Director’s Cut becomes the odd man out, as I can’t imagine I’ll ever want to watch it again, but I’m still pleased that it’s here. I really like that this set allows us to choose which version of the flick we prefer and doesn’t force us to stick with only one.
In terms of picture and audio quality, I didn’t think these versions looked and sounded quite as good as the Final Cut, but they came close enough to make me happy. It’s clear that the Final Cut got the bulk of the restoration attention. That said, the quality of the other versions seems more than satisfactory. They offered very strong picture and audio, so they should please fans who prefer one – or all – of them to the Final Cut.
That finishes Disc Three, so let’s go to the copious extras on Disc Four. Most of these come from a slew of featurettes. The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick goes for 14 minutes, 22 seconds and includes notes from Sammon, Isa Dick Hackett, Fortress of Solitude author Jonathan Lethem, Supertoys Last All Summer Long author Brian Aldiss, The Anubis Gates author Tim Powers, The Life and Work of Jean-Leon Gerome author Gerald Ackerman, Homunculus author James Blaylock, Dick’s step-sister Lynne Aalan, biographer Greg Rickman, and author’s son Christopher Dick. It also provides some archival footage of Philip Dick himself.
“Dreamer” offers biographical info about Dick along with some notes about his work and film adaptations. The show provides a decent overview of Dick’s life and career. Don’t expect a particularly detailed program, but the featurette creates a good recap of essential details and facets of Dick’s personality.
For adaptation information, we head to the 15-minute and seven-second Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel Vs. The Film. It features Sammon, Lethem, Deeley, Fancher, Aldiss, Peoples, Powers, Rickman, and Scott. As implied by the title, “Sheep” compares the movie to the book. We learn about the change from “android” to “replicant” as well as other differences and similarities. “Sheep” provides a tight little recap of the alterations.
Audio-only elements arrives with Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews. This collection of audio clips runs a total of about 22 minutes. Dick chats about inspirations for some aspects of his work, his attitude toward collaborating with Hollywood, and elements of the Blade Runner experience. Dick proves forthright throughout the piece, as he makes his feelings clear in no uncertain terms. That attitude makes this a short but very interesting extra.
We go back to the featurettes with Signs of the Times: Graphic Design. It lasts 13 minutes, 40 seconds and gives us remarks from production illustrator Southwell. He looks at many of the movie’s visual elements with an emphasis on details instead of a broader scope. This results in many fun details about different tidbits that make the grand visual feast of Blade Runner.
Fashion Forward: Wardrobe and Styling runs 20 minutes, 40 seconds and provides info from Scott, Ford, Westmore, Young, Turkel, Hauer, Hong, Olmos, Cassidy, Hannah, and costume designer Michael Kaplan. “Forward” digs into clothes, hair and makeup. The perspectives flesh out the material well, especially since we hear a lot from the actors; they add nice thoughts about working with the different visual elements. This is another solid featurette.
Audition material pops up with the eight-minute and 54-second Screen Tests: Rachael and Pris. We hear from casting director Mike Fenton before we see tests for Nina Axelrod (for Rachael) and Stacey Nelkin (for Pris). Those actors also chat about their experiences. I like this look at alternative casting choices.
For thoughts about the late cinematographer, we find the 20-minute The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth. It includes notes from Sammon, Scott, Jeff Cronenweth, Hart, Griffith, Genne, Paull, additional photography Steven Poster, and cinematographer Ernest Holzman. As you’d expect, “Burns” looks at the life and career of Jordan Cronenweth along with his work in Blade Runner. I’m surprised we don’t learn more about Cronenweth’s other films, but we get a good examination of the styles featured on Blade Runner and it becomes a quality show.
Possibly Disc Four’s most intriguing element, we get a collection of Deleted and Alternate Scenes. The disc includes 24 of these in all, and they fill a total of 47 minutes, 40 seconds of material. We find “Tears in the Rain (Alternate Opening Titles)”, “I’m Deckard”, “A Real Dandy”, “Bryant’s Point of View”, “Visiting Holden”, “Rep Detect File”, “Zero-Zero-Zero”, “1187 Hunterwasser”, “Chew’s Specialty”, “Heading Home”, “An Oddball Genius”, “Memories”, “Food for Thought”, “The Street of Bad Dreams”, “Backstage Pass”, “Looks Like Blood”, “Washing Up”, “I Want You”, “Metaphysics”, “Tyrell Security Protocol”, “Closing In”, “Every Second Of It”, “Old Richter Route” (Alternate Ending), and “Made for Each Other (Alternate Ending)”.
That’s a lot of footage, but not much of it stands out as memorable or even particularly intriguing. Much of the new material comes from narration. We get tons of Deckard voiceover here, most of which we never heard, even back in the 1982 cut. Maybe I’ve just gotten too accustomed to a narration-free Blade Runner, or maybe the deleted voiceover stinks, but the vast majority of that stuff doesn’t work well.
We do learn a little more about Deckard’s ex-wife, though – that’s one of the intriguing threads developed here, at least in a marginal way. There’s also a removed tagline from Gaff that further opens up the question of Deckard’s humanity; I’m glad it got cut, since it’s pretty on the nose.
Speaking of “glad it got cut” footage, the shots of Holden in the hospital fell into “gotta go” territory. These are hammy and not particularly helpful for the plot. In addition, Holden’s hospital gown looks like something a nine-year-old cut out of tissue paper. In a flick that’s barely dated, that costume doesn’t hold up well.
As a fan, I’m very happy to see this collection of deleted/alternate footage, but I must admit it’s a disappointment. The material simply isn’t very interesting for the most part, and there’s nothing here I could call hidden gold. However, it’s still cool to see it; even the crummy stuff like the Holden shots are nonetheless fun to finally inspect for myself.
Next come three 1982 Promotional Featurettes. This area includes “On the Set” (14:19), “Convention Reel” (13:12) and “Behind-the-Scenes Outtakes” (8:43). The first two include some remarks; across them, we hear from Ford, Hauer, Scott, Young, Mead, and Trumbull. “Set” is little more than a recap of story and characters; some decent shots from the set do emerge, but we don’t get much hard data. “Reel” works better. It comes with unique opening and closing comments from Scott and also presents some nice information. It’s much more satisfying despite its terrible 70s-style music.
As for “Outtakes”, it provides a silent reel of footage from the shoot. In addition to images of the cast and crew on the set, we see close-ups of models and miniatures. While it’s too bad this material lacks audio, it includes a lot of fine pieces.
We also find five Trailers and one TV Spot. In terms of the former, we get a “1981 Teaser Trailer”, a “1982 Theatrical Trailer”, a “1992 Director’s Cut Trailer”, a “2007 ‘Dangerous Days’ Teaser Trailer” and a “2007 Final Cut Trailer”. The TV spot comes from 1982. The older material is the most interesting, especially the 1981 teaser.
With that we shift back to the featurettes and Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art. The nine-minute and 35-second show offers notes from poster artists John Alvin and Drew Struzan. They talk about the original Blade Runner theatrical release poster as well as the art for the new home video sets. The information is good, and we also find a nice look at international ads.
Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard runs nine minutes, 30 and presents remarks from Sammon, Scott, Romanek, Olmos, Rawlings, Darabont, Fancher, Luke Scott, Peoples, Del Toro, Jake Scott, Ford, Cassidy, Powell, Hauer, Hannah, Rue Morgue Magazine editor-in-chief Jovanka Vuckovic, and filmmaker Joe Carnahan. It examines the movie’s big question: is Deckard a replicant? Some say “hell yeah”, others say “no way”, and we get some “definitely maybe” replies as well. I won’t reveal who takes which sides – it’s more fun to hear the arguments as you watch – but we get a lively discussion here.
Finally, Disc Four concludes with Nexus Generation: Fans and Filmmakers. It goes for 21 minutes, 49 seconds and includes statements from Del Toro, Muren, Romanek, Vuckovic, Eastman, Kahn, Carnahan, Rickman, Jeff Cronenweth, Darabont, Turan, Moore, Jordan Scott, Lethem, Luke Scott, motion picture archivist Bryan Ebenhoch, director Steve Loter, CHUD.com editor Devin Faraci and Bladezone.com editor Gary Willoughby. The participants reflect on their love for the film and what makes them fans of Blade Runner. Inevitably, some gushing praise emerges, but we find decent insights into the film’s positives, so it’s not just a collection of puffery.
On Disc Five, the main attraction comes from the Workprint Version (1:49:50) of Blade Runner. This version was used for pre-release test screenings and eventually mutated into the 1992 Director’s Cut, though many differences exist when compared with that edition – and all the others, for that matter. None of these boast significant story alterations, but you’ll find plenty of alternate shots and different elements along with a temp score, some alternate lines, and a variety of bits you’ll see nowhere else.
Do these make the Workprint anything more than a historical curiosity? Not really. As a fan, I’m very happy to have this alternate version of the film, but I can’t imagine I’d ever want to watch it again. It was indeed a work in progress, and at this point, the Final Cut betters it in most ways. It’s an extra for the fan who wants it all but not something that boasts a great deal of appeal on its own.
When I prepared to watch the Workprint, I expected it to look and sound worse than the other versions of Blade Runner. And look/sound worse it did, but not to nearly the degree I anticipated. I thought I’d get something rough and sloppy, but in truth, the Workprint offered pretty good visuals and audio. Don’t anticipate the same amazing quality as the Final Cut, but I think you’ll feel pleased with the result nonetheless.
Like every other version of the film, the Workprint comes with an Introduction from Ridley Scott. In this 45-second clip, the director discusses some aspects of the Workprint and its history. This is another painless but not particularly valuable piece.
We can watch the Workprint with an audio commentary from film historian Paul M. Sammon. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the differences between the workprint and the other versions of the flick as well as a mix of production details and stories.
Sammon proves to be a terrific commentator. He speaks very quickly and rarely comes up for air, so he packs in a lot of information here. Inevitably some of it repeats from elsewhere – I think this is the 57th time we’ve heard about challenges shooting at the Bradbury – but plenty of fresh details emerge in this solid discussion.
Disc Five concludes with a 28-minute and 30-second featurette called All Our Variant Futures. This show includes notes from Sammon, de Lauzirika, Scott, Turan, Cassidy, restoration consultant Kurt P. Galvao, Preferred Media operations manager Brian Towle, restoration VFX supervisor John Scheele, and actor Ben Ford. “Futures” looks at all the work that went into the creation of the Final Cut. We see how the elements were restored and altered to create the new version of the film. It avoids too much self-congratulation as it provides a nice look at the various processes.
A 16-page booklet provides photos and a listing of the package’s extras. The pictures are the most interesting element, as they offer some good shots of the characters.
Blade Runner remains a seminal science fiction piece that only seems to improve with additional viewings; its place within the annals of film appears secure. This set includes the director’s “Final Cut”, which indeed probably offers the most satisfying rendition of the film. The Blu-Ray looks absolutely stunning, and it adds very good audio and a long, involving roster of extras.
Without question, Blade Runner is a movie that belongs in your collection, and this Blu-ray stands as the best version currently on the market.
To rate this film visit the Final Cut (2 Disc Special Edition) review of BLADE RUNNER