Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BLADE RUNNER: FINAL CUT


1982, Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah

If you've never seen Blade Runner before this is probably not a good review to start with. It has long been one of my favorite films and I’m not really here to dispute its worth or rehash the plot. Instead, I'd like to take a look at the different versions of the film. There are, perhaps appallingly, seven different versions of Blade Runner, and I have absolutely no idea why.

The versions are as follows:
1. The original work-print, which does not include the voice-over or unicorn dream, as well as other minor plot differences.
2. A limited theatrical release shown only in San Diego, slightly different than the domestic cut.
3. The domestic cut aka the U.S. theatrical version.
4. The international cut, which is the full, uncut version of the film.
5. The U.S. broadcast version, which was edited for television.
6. The director’s cut, which is the version most people own and have seen.
7. The new final cut.

I have no idea why there have to be so many different versions of one film, great though it may be. Most of the differences have to do with a few key things: the happy ending, the voice-overs, the unicorn dream, extended or cut violence, Roy saying “father” vs. “fucker,” and so on. Apparently Ridley Scott’s control was usurped by the studio, and in revenge (I guess?) he has just kept on releasing different versions of the film over the years. Though the director’s cut was supposed to be the final version, it was released before Scott could finish everything he had in mind. So, in theory, the final cut is the film Ridley Scott intended everyone to see back in 1982. What really boggles my mind is that directors have their films fucked with by studios all the time. So why did Ridley Scott feel the need to keep getting it right and then pursue a new theatrical release? I hate to always be the skeptical one (OK, I actually take great pleasure in it), but it just kind of seems like a cash cow to me.

Finally, you ask, how the hell is the final cut different? Chances are if you’ve seen the film a few times, maybe half a dozen, and then you go out and see the final cut version, you won’t notice too many differences. The one glaring difference, the one that made me want to kill myself or maybe Ridley Scott, is when Roy confronts Tyrell and says “I want more life, father,” instead of “I want more life, fucker.” I'm not sure why he thought something that cheesy was a worthy improvement.

The only thing about that scene that is actually improved is the restored violence -- actually all the uncut violence has been restored in the Final Cut, as it is in the uncut international release. A lot of general cleaning up has been done: special effects cables are removed, certain bloopers (like someone cooking with no smoke) have been touched up, and the voice recordings were cleaned up a little bit to make them sound more natural and match mouth movement. The unicorn dream is full length and restored. Zhora’s final scene has been re-shot and digitally remastered, so that the actress is visible instead of her stunt double. The fight between Pris and Deckard is slightly different and, finally, at the end of the film when Roy releases the dove, the sky is dark and rainy instead of blue.

While it is all well and good that Ridley Scott got a chance to clean up his film, I generally have nothing but disdain for this practice. I firmly believe that part of what makes a film what it is, whether it is great, terrible, or just mediocre, are all the little inconsistencies. They show that it is an organic creation coming together with time and with the work of a large group of people -- not a single auteur. To go back and fix it, change around some dialogue or add scenes a la George Lucas, is cheating, plain and simple. Some how it takes away from the magical experience of seeing a film. I’m glad I got to see Blade Runner in a theater, but I wholeheartedly disapprove of Ridley Scott constantly fiddling about with the film.

If, for some reason, you didn't get to see the final cut in theaters, it is available in the five disc “ultimate edition,” which also includes several other versions of the film and a slew of extras.

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