As Blade Runner 2049 swiftly approaches, we delve back into the world of Rick Deckard in the definitive version of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi milestone, Blade Runner: The Final Cut.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” – Los Angeles, November 2019 – A polluted flame-spewing dystopian chokes a blackened sky. Over-population met with an oversaturated sea of neon advertisements creates the world ex-detective Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) lives in. Having belonged to a special division of the police force infamously known ‘Blade Runners’, their purpose is to seek out and ‘retire’ artificial synthetic beings, or ‘Replicants’. Pulled out of retirement for one last assignment, Deckard must hunt down and destroy four rogue Replicants. Led by the NEXUS-6 combat model Roy Batty whose infectious portrayal by Rutger Hauer is nothing short of stunning, retiring these androids prove to be trickier than simply switching your computer off and on again. As the line between human and machine becomes distorted, we begin to question what it truly means to be more human than human.
Fans and audiences have been plagued by this concept ever since the release of the original Blade Runner back in 1982. Though the film critically and commercially flopped upon its first release, BR was more than a simple future-cop versus bad-guys shoot ‘em up that people came to expect. Over time, the film found its audience and with it came a truer version of director Ridley Scott’s neo-noir vision with the release of the Director’s Cut in 1991. The borderline patronising (and half-arsed) voice-over by Ford was scrapped; the unicorn dream sequence was re-inserted; and the super lame happy ending where Deckard and cyber-love interest Rachael (Sean Young) drive off through the mountains where they live out their lives together was trashed (Fun Fact: The aerial footage of this scene were leftovers of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Bet you didn’t know that?).
More importantly, this version leaned heavily on the idea that Deckard (spoiler alert!) is in fact a Replicant himself. Not to get too technical, but the original does subtly hint at this, but not enough to truly question his humanity. A blink and you’ll miss it moment where a reflective orange flare glimmers in Deckard’s eyes – a characteristic all Replicants share – points to this conclusion. Scott not being a huge fan of this idea, felt it may have been too on the nose in contrast to the ‘Voight-Kampff’ test conducted by Blade Runners to detect Replicants from their human counterparts. This does in fairness take the suspense and mystery out of these sequences.
Scott’s 2007 re-release, The Final Cut, according to the director, is his: “preferred version of the film.” Adding that, “Out of all the versions of Blade Runner this is my favourite.” But why, we ask? Just over a minute longer than the Director’s Cut (116 minutes), what seems to be the point apart from tweaking a few bits and bobs here and there? Having only added on a mere fraction to the film, it still manages to make a difference. The scene in question is where Batty confronts his maker and head of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) to help the android cheat death. Faced with the realisation of death, the result is a bloodier end than the original as no detail of Tyrell’s murder is left to the imagination. Audiences may not have been prepared for such an uncomfortable display of condensed rage and violence back then, but it serves as some added grit that holds up today. Since this film is centred around the symbolic theme of eyes, as Batty plunges his thumbs into Tyrells sockets it only drives home this point further in the most brutal way.
Cosmetically, the film is stunning. Transferred from the original negative and put through a 4K digital intermediate process by Scott himself, the sound is buffed up to perfection as Vangelis’ score remains an unqualified work of art unto itself. All the creative control was handed over to him. In contrast to all the other franchise-milkers out there, this is a work of passion – not greed – and by god does it show.
The Final Cut’s greatest achievement is not only its less is more feel, because let’s face it, BR was never really broken in the first place, so why fix it? It’s because the film remains as relevant now as it did back then. Though cherry picking the obviously dated technology is an easy target, it stands up so well it almost becomes an invalid observation at this point. The fact that Scott deliberately kept all those details in tact solidifies the continuity and makes us belief in this world all over again. Though all technology becomes obsolete, great ideas and concepts never die – The Final Cut is a testament to that.
Overall, BR remains a sci-fi masterpiece that is both challenging and provocative. The deeper you dig, the more you realise that uncovering one answer only raises more questions. You are left to interpret the evidence for yourself as there might not be a simple outcome of either right or wrong. No matter how many times you watch it, these are moments in time that won’t be lost in the rain.
Director: Ridley Scott
Scr: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull
Prd: Michael Deeley
DOP: Jordan Cronenweth
Run Time: 117 mins
Blade Runner 2049 will be released 6th October 2017.