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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Blade Runner - HD-DVD

AndyO review: * * * 1/2

I've had a long and strange relationship with Blade Runner that goes back to its beginning, 25 years ago. That was when my Dad brought me to see Blade Runner at the theater. My expectations were high. I thought I was seeing another Star Wars, but what I saw was nothing like my favorite film. I left the theater a little confused and let down.

A few years later on a family vacation, we rented a VHS player along with Blade Runner, which was the European version. This version didn't make the film any better for me, although it was more violent (which my brother and I thought was cool).

Fast forward to college. My roommate and friend, Brian, a filmmaker, would wax poetic about Blade Runner for hours. He'd show me the artistry in each frame, and, while I appreciated director Ridley Scott's work, the story was never quite exciting or satisfying enough for me.

Then, sometime in the mid-1990's, I heard about the "Director's Cut" of Blade Runner. I dragged my wife to the Cinerama theater in downtown Seattle, and we watched a version of the film that was closer to Ridley Scott's original vision. Without the voice overs from Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), the film took on a more existential, poetic quality. Just that one alteration changed the story from noirish gumshoe detective tale to a futuristic meditation on life and death.

A few months ago, Brian, the same roommate from college, sent me a link to Blade Runner - The Final Cut. I remember thinking, what else could they do to this film? What was the Director's Cut supposed to be? A few years back, Ridley Scott finally came out and said Deckard was a Replicant himself, sending a shockwave through the Sci-Fi community. Would the Final Cut include more about this?

A few days ago on New Years Eve, I watched the HD DVD Final Cut version of Blade Runner. On my Sony 40" Bravia LCD TV in high-definition, the film leaped off the screen. The soundtrack--effects and music--were flawless. I sat in awe of practically every frame, seeing it the way my friend Brian had probably always seen it.

Expecting to see all kinds of different scenes and changes, I was surprised to see that this version was actually pretty close to the Director's Cut. I would learn later that the reason Ridley Scott did this version of the film was that the Director's Cut was rushed, and he wasn't as involved (although he did approve it). This time, Ridley supervised the process of cleaning up the film, re-editing, adding scenes, etc. In the George Lucas universe of re-editing films, we've come to expect completely revised special effects and scenes. I actually had to go to this Wikipedia article to understand all the differences, and many of them are subtle.

What's great about this HD DVD package is that you get 5 versions of the film (there are actually 7 versions of this film), including:

  • The final cut
  • The director's cut
  • The international release
  • The original release
  • The workprint

There's also an in-depth, feature-length documentary about the making of Blade Runner called Dangerous Days (the original title of the film).

One might ask, is this really the final cut of Blade Runner? It's hard to tell in this world of recuts, mashups, alternate versions, and the like. But this definitive cut of Ridley Scott's groundbreaking film is the best I've seen yet. 


posted by AndyO @ 4:50 PM   0 comments