Blade Runner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Fans expected a lot from this transfer, and they should feel exceedingly satisfied with the virtually flawless result.
Sharpness seemed immaculate. Despite the challenging, complicated nature of the image and all the wide shots, the movie always appeared crisp and well-defined. Not a hint of softness marred the proceedings, as the flick consistently presented tight visuals. 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 25-year-old flick looks like it could’ve been filmed yesterday, but it’s 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 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 2007 Blade Runner DVD compare to those of the original 1997 release? The 2007 set totally blew away the old version. The new disc looked and sounded so much better than its predecessor that I can truly regard it as a “night and day” difference. The original DVD was mediocre at best, so this one’s excellent picture and audio marked a tremendous step up in quality.
While the old 1997 Blade Runner DVD came with almost no extras, Warner Bros. has rolled out the goodies for 2007. In fact, fans can find three flavors of Blade Runner on DVD: this two-disc set, a four-disc Collector’s Edition, and a five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Subsequent reviews will examine the other versions, but for now we’ll stick with the supplements on the two-disc package.
On DVD 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 DVD 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, DVD Two includes some trailers. We find promos for I Am Legend, Fracture, Invasion and Superman: Doomsday. No trailer for Blade Runner appears here.
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 DVD looks absolutely stunning, and it adds very good audio and a strong roster of interesting extras.
Without question, Blade Runner is a movie that belongs in your collection, and if you already own the vastly inferior 1997 DVD, you should chuck it out the window and upgrade to this “Final Cut” set immediately. The only question becomes which 2007 Blade Runner package is for you. In addition to this 2-disc release, you can find both four-disc and five-disc editions.
I’ll examine those in subsequent reviews, but I can say this right now: the 5-DVD package is just for the movie’s biggest fans. With a retail cost of $78.92, it’s vastly more expensive than the other two, so it’s not going to appeal to less obsessive viewers.
That leaves the debate between the two-disc and four-disc releases. Again, I won’t be able to make a full recommendation until I actually see the four-disc set, but I expect it’ll be my preferred release. With a list price of only $34.99, it’s not too costly, and it adds some intriguing elements.
However, don’t let that make this two-disc set look like a waste of time. Indeed, it may be the bargain of the year. It retails for only $20.97 and includes some very satisfying extras. I think many folks will overlook this edition in favor of the more deluxe ones, but it stands up well on its own merits.