Original Theatrical Cut and 1992 Director's Cut run 116 mins.
International Theatrical Cut and Final Cut run 117 mins.
Workprint runs 113 mins.
Here is a film which many people love and many people hate. Some people say it's one of the most brilliant films of all time, while others say it's a pointless collection of random stuff that muddles through to an overblown/confusing finale. Judging from my review, I lean more toward the "loving" category. However, I do have some issues with the film which keep me from giving it five stars. Basically, I see the arguments for the "haters" and do take them into account. For example: Roy Batty's final speech. Yes, it's a classic cinematic final moment. Does it make any sense? Only a little. I mean, "attack ships off the shoulder of Orion"? What is he talking about? And what is with him running around half naked, randomly having a dove? Artistic? Symbolism? In my opinion, it's just an overly ambitious finale that gets a bit carried away.
With that set aside, though, the rest of the film is completely brilliant, and gets more and more so with each repeated viewing. Of course, there's the never ending question of "Is Deckard a Replicant?" Each version of the film has its points which confirm and deny this question. No version of the film comes right out and says he is or he isn't, and that's one thing about the film that I love. It's open for interpretation and investigation. The story is very intricate and detailed, and it takes multiple viewings to get it all. It is truly a film that gets better and better with every viewing.
The basic storyline is this: Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an ex-blade runner brought back to track down and kill four replicants who are on Earth illegally. Replicants are artificial life forms who were created for off-world labor. These particular replicants are the most highly advanced models, and they came back to Earth in an attempt to reach their creator and get their four-year life span extended. A "blade runner" is a cop that specializes in "retiring", or killing, replicants. Meanwhile, a romance develops between Deckard and a replicant who is, initially, not one of the ones he is supposed to retire. All set in a dismal future, this film is the pioneer of seeing the future in a non-prosperous light. A truly brilliant brainchild from Ridley Scott, loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
Now, how about the question that every Blade Runner fan wants to know? What's my favorite version of the film? First off, let me explain the differences among the five versions of the film. Well, there are actually six versions, if you count the television version, which has never been released on home video. The film was first released in two versions in 1982. The international version of the film has a few seconds of added violence, most notably when Batty kills a certain character (I'm not going for spoilers). In the international version, there is more blood and detail in what he does. Both original theatrical versions contain a voice-over narration by Deckard and a studio-imposed ending. The original theatrical versions also do not contain the unicorn vision which was added to each director's cut. The 1992 Director's Cut removes the narration and studio ending and adds the unicorn vision. It does not have the added violence from the international version. The 2007 Final Cut cleans up the film and touches up special effects. It also does not have the narration or studio ending and does have the unicorn vision. It does have the extra violence and a couple of other new shots. All in all, the four main versions have few differences outside of the narration and the ending. Only true fans like myself, who have seen each version numerous times, notice all the differences. The fifth version is the Workprint Version, which was a rough, early cut of the film, and resurfaced in the early '90s. It has numerous alternate takes, is in the 2.20:1 of the original camera negative, a new opening title card, different music during the climax, as the Vangelis score hadn't been written at the time of the editing of the workprint, and no narration except for different narration from Deckard at the ending. The workprint is the most different of the five main versions of the film. As I said previously, if you count the television version, then there are six versions of the film. The television version is, of course, edited for time and content. Aside from that, the main difference is that the opening story scrawl is read to you. Why? Possibly due to the text being harder to read on 1980s broadcast television, on old tube televisions.
Now, what is my favorite version? Well, surprise, surprise, I prefer the original U.S. Theatrical Version the most. I've always thought of Blade Runner as a futuristic/old-fashioned film noir, and the narration supports that look at the film wonderfully. As for the studio ending, I think it's very beautifully shot, and I've always thought the Director's Cut and Final Cut ending is too abrupt. I love how the credits start over the beautiful imagery (which was actually archival footage not used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining). When it comes to the lack of the extra violence, I think it's better to leave it to the imagination. We still know what's going on, do we really have to see it? Remember, I'm only talking about maybe ten seconds of footage, anyway. Also, I've always hated the unicorn vision. I just think it looks bad and sticks out as being out of place. What about the origami unicorn at the ending? Well, like I said before, in each version, different things can be looked at in different ways. All you have to do is think outside the box and be willing to look at things in different lights. The unicorn still supports and/or denies Deckard's human/replicant status.
On August 22, 2008, I got to see the Final Cut in a theatre. It was an awesome theatrical experience. After all, while I do prefer the original theatrical version, I do recognize that the Final Cut is the most polished and beautiful version. It is my second favourite version of the film. Whenever I show the film to someone, I usually show the Original U.S. Theatrical Version. Then, I show the differences in the Final Cut, and everyone says it looks like a brand new film. The Final Cut is a very well-done director's restoration that is truly commendable. I'm not crazy about some of the color timing in the Final Cut, and I feel there is too much reverberation added to the Deckard/Tyrell post-interviewing Rachael scene.
So, wrapping it all up, I present Blade Runner. It may be a bit confusing at times, but there is no denying its power and beauty, not to mention its importance in the world of film.
Original theatrical aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Panavision)
Rated R for Violence and Brief Nudity.
Hampton Fancher and David Peoples
Based on the Novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by
Philip K. Dick