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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ridley Scott
Cast:
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James
Writing Credits:
Philip K. Dick (novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"), Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples, Roland Kibbee (voiceovers)

Tagline:
Man Has Made His Match ... Now It's His Problem.

Synopsis:
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) prowls the steel-and-microchip jungle of 21st-century Los Angeles. He's a "blade runner" stalking genetically made criminal replicants. His assignment: kill them. Their crime: wanting to be human. The story of Blade Runner is familiar to countless fans. But few have seen it like this. Because this is director Ridley Scott's own vision of his sci-fi classic. This new version omits Deckard's voiceover narration, develops in slightly greater detail the romance between Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young) and removes the "uplifting" finale. The result is a heightened emotional impact: a great film made greater. Most intriguing of all is a newly included unicorn vision that suggests Deckard may be a humanoid. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Is Deckard a replicant? As with all things in the future, you must discover the answer for yourself.

Box Office:
Budget
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.150 million on 1295 screens.
Domestic Gross
$27.580 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $20.97
Release Date: 12/18/2007

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Introduction from Director Ridley Scott
• Audio Commentary with Director Ridley Scott
• Audio Commentary with Executive Producer/Co-Writer Hampton Fancher, Co-Writer David Peoples, Producer Michael Deeley and Executive Producer Katherine Haber
• Audio Commentary with 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
DVD Two:
• “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner” Documentary
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2-Disc Special Edition) (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 17, 2007)

Over the last 25 years, many trees - both organic and electronic - have perished due to the never-ending discussions of Blade Runner’s meaning and merit. While it meets the criteria to be called a "cult film", that designation seems too insignificant to describe its continued impact upon movies as a whole. A fairly inane flick like The Rocky Horror Picture Show - with its relatively small but terribly devoted band of rabid fans - is a cult film, whereas Blade Runner is an innovative cinematic classic.

All this prior discussion creates a dilemma for me as a reviewer. Where do I go from here? What's left to say? Well, probably not much, but that never stopped me before and it sure won't stop me now.

The most obvious continuing influence from Blade Runner involves its production values. I won't say that this was the first film to present a dark, dilapidated future because it's not, but none had ever done so quite as vividly or elegantly. Bar none, Blade Runner offers an absolutely stunning visual experience from start to finish. The care and detail exerted in creating this environment remain stunning and virtually unsurpassed.

Because of the overwhelming quality of the visual imagery, much criticism portrayed Blade Runner as a tasty but empty meal; as I recall, reviews at the time of its June 1982 release were largely negative. Boy, did the critics get this one wrong! Blade Runner offers a feast of philosophical issues to ponder and discuss. Probably foremost among these stands the importance of memory in our lives, and how little we can trust them. To humans, memories are reality, but they're an extremely faulty form of truth since they can be interpreted and distorted so many different ways.

Thankfully, Blade Runner explores this and other issues with a very deft touch. I think that's largely why so many critics missed the point that first time; this is a film that virtually requires repeated viewings if you really want to get anything out of it. Man, I hate saying things like that, because it sounds so pseudo-intellectual and pretentious, but in the case of Blade Runner - as with 2001: A Space Odyssey and a few other seminal flicks - it's the truth.

Blade Runner offers an experience of uncommon depth and subtlety. The viewer needs to attend closely to it to pick up all the small touches and various levels of meaning. I've seen it perhaps a dozen times but each viewing reveals new details, both from the story and from the acting. Take, for example, one scene in which Rutger Hauer's character Roy reacts to the abundance of robot toys J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson, better known as "Larry" on Newhart) has created to keep himself company. Simultaneously, Hauer displays an adult's sarcasm combined with a child's envy and wonder; he mocks and honestly compliments Sebastian all at the same time.

One area that also received negative criticism upon the film's initial release concerned its acting. Ford, as the titular blade runner Deckard, took much of the heat for his fairly aloof, emotionless performance, and technically they were correct; Ford does seem rather alienated from the role. Once the film has been viewed a few times, however, his acting makes much more sense. (Beware: potential spoilers lie ahead!)

A lot of that issue relates to one of the eternal questions of Blade Runner: Is Deckard human or a replicant? At this point, it seems likely that the latter is the case, but either side of that argument remains open to debate. Within that context, Ford's performance works perfectly. It offers subtle clues to the possibility that he, too, is not human. Thankfully, the film does not shove this issue down our throats.

Actually, the "Final Cut” of Blade Runner included on this DVD makes the replicant or human debate seem less vague. This occurs because of the inclusion of the "unicorn scene." At the end of the original theatrical version of the film, Edward James Olmos's character Gaff leaves a paper representation of a unicorn outside Deckard's apartment door; Gaff drops origami throughout the film kind of as a Greek chorus. Deckard finds this as he leaves with definite-replicant/love-interest Rachael (Sean Young) to escape the blade runners who will surely pursue them.

During the original version of the film, this unicorn clearly indicates that Gaff has been to Deckard's apartment but chose to let Rachael live; he grants the two of them a head start, apparently out of professional courtesy for Deckard's work. Any particular meaning attached to the unicorn itself seemed vague; I dunno - it represented the possibility that they'd live their lives happily ever after was a myth? Yeah, I'm really stretching here.

In the subsequent cuts, however, we see a dream that Deckard has midway through the film. At that time, he dreams of - bingo! - a unicorn. We already established that replicants have implanted memories, so the unicorn seemed to indicate that Gaff knew that Deckard has the image of the unicorn in his brain. As such, that seemed to more strongly indicate that Deckard was a replicant. This wasn't the only clue, but it certainly seemed to push the debate much closer to the "Deckard's a replicant" side of things.

In addition to the unicorn dream, the “Final Cut” of Blade Runner also dispenses with a narrative voice-over from Ford. This piece had been added to the theatrical cut essentially at the insistence of the studio, which felt that the film lacked clarity. Allegedly, Ford intentionally offered poor voice acting in the hope that it would be unusable, but use it they did.

Much criticism from serious Blade Runner fans has been leveled at this narration, and I can't say they're wrong. Frankly, I don't really have any strong feelings about it either way. I thought the film worked fine with it and it works fine without it. Really, it's hard for me to judge because so many of my viewings of the film featured the voice-over version. Even when I watch the “Final Cut”, I still "hear" the narration.

The final main difference between the original version and the “Final Cut” involves the film's ending. The theatrical release showed Deckard and Rachael as they almost literally drove off into the sunset, and a happy continuation to their relationship is strongly implied. For one, we learn that Rachael, unlike the other replicants, has no "expiration date", so we assume she and the presumably-human - in that version - Deckard will live a life of happy anonymity as they hide from the authorities.

The “Final Cut”, however, stops after Rachael and Deckard get on the elevator in his apartment building. The doors close, and that's that; the film halts right at the point where the shots of them driving away began. Obviously, this version offers a much more ambiguous conclusion to their saga. In this one, we assume that Rachael only has a few years of life in her, since replicants only get four years. Deckard probably has a rapidly ticking clock as well, since we now likely believe him to be a replicant.

Which ending's preferable? I vote for ambiguous. The artificially happy ending seemed like it was from a different film, and it literally was; the clips of snow-covered mountains came from Kubrick’s outtakes shot for The Shining, and they didn't fit the movie's overall tone. The truncated conclusion, however, matches the film's vague nature nicely. Nothing's clear or obvious in Blade Runner, starting with the hero and villains, so why would it end on such an obviously positive note? The uncertain nature of the future also adds resonance to the piece and makes it more thoughtful.

At this point, you may wonder if I'm ever going to shut up about all the imagery and meaning of Blade Runner. Yeah, I've had my fill. The amazing thing about the film, however, remains the fact that as much as I've rambled, I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg. Blade Runner stands as one of the most provocative and fully realized films of the last few decades.

I do have a few more notes about the version found here, Ridley Scott’s 2007 “Final Cut” of the film. This essentially consists of the 1992 “Director’s Cut” – the version found on the 1997 Blade Runner DVD – with a series of small alterations. A few shot differences exist, but these remain pretty minor.

Eagle-eyed fans will detect some visual “fixes” throughout the film. No, Scott didn’t go all George Lucas on us and make wholesale changes to “update” his film. You’ll still find the same somewhat dated looking technology from 1982; Scott doesn’t touch the spinner displays or anything else along those lines.

The changes act to correct some of the flick’s more distracting goofs. For instance, when Deckard shoots Zhora, the original flick made it frightfully obvious that a stuntwoman took over for Joanna Cassidy. Some new shots fix this. In addition, when Batty released the dove in the old photography, he did so in sunlight even though the rest of the scene took place in the rain. Fans know this is because they couldn’t get the bird to fly in that weather, but that didn’t make the shot any less incongruous. Some visual touch-ups correct this and put the bird in a more logical setting.

Normally I don’t care for this sort of “fixing”, but in this case I whole-heartedly agree with the changes. For one, unlike Lucas, Scott hasn’t done anything to suppress the old versions of the film. Via the four-disc and five-disc releases of Blade Runner, we can still get the unaltered cuts with the flawed shots.

In addition, the visual effects changes plain and simple work. When I watched the episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series with some altered effects, I thought they did more to distract than anything else. The new effects simply didn’t mesh with the old Trek; the high-tech world of 2007 didn’t connect neatly with the retro-future setting of The Original Series.

That problem doesn’t manifest itself in the “Final Cut” of Blade Runner. The changes blend so well that even though I’ve seen this movie umpteen times, I barely noticed them. While they could’ve stood out like a sore thumb, instead the fit the flick in a smooth manner. They work well and eliminate some distractions from the original.

Does this make the “Final Cut” the most satisfying of Scott’s 867 versions of Blade Runner? Probably, though I’ll always have a soft spot for the 1982 theatrical edition with the narration. I know the narration wasn’t originally intended to be there and it can be clumsy, but darn it, that’s the version I watched eight million times over the years, so the extra dialogue remains stuck in my head. Objectively, though, the flick probably works best without the narration, and the “Final Cut” likely becomes the strongest rendition of them all.


The DVD Grades: Picture A+/ Audio A-/ Bonus A

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7466 Stars Number of Votes: 75
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main