Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Blu-ray Review

The rules of the 70mm Classics Series are simple: If it’s at least partially shot using 65mm film materials, then it’s fair game. This is different than movies that were blown up from 35mm sources or otherwise, and shown in 70mm theatrically.

Blade Runner is what I would call a game changer. The impact that it has had on science fiction filmmaking and storytelling is unmistakable, and the artistic vision that it brings to the table has so deeply permeated into modern filmmaking that just about every film that has followed it has stolen a little chunk and made it their own.  Ridley Scott and his crew of ambitious filmmakers created a work of tremendous passion, one that definitely holds up well today.

Blade Runner 1

Blade Runner, a very loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” tells the story of Rick Deckard, a retired, “Blade Runner.” His job is to chase down, and execute, or, “retire,” rogue androids created by the Tyrell Corporation. These androids have become slaves of labor, and their potentially unstable nature has led the government of Earth to declare their presence on the planet illegal. Rick is begrudgingly forced out of retirement in order to chase a band of four rogue androids from the newest and most advanced species, the Nexus 6 line, who have hijacked a spaceship and flown it back to Earth in an attempt to prolong their lives. Decker must use all of the tricks of the trade that he’s picked up from a lifetime of android hunting to chase these rogue machines through the streets, enlisting the help of a fellow Nexus 6 along the way. The film is part action thriller, part film noir, embracing all of the familiar qualities of both films, such as the femme fatale, and tense detective work, as well as gun fights and chase scenes, building up to one of the most brilliant climaxes in film history. For those who have seen it, they know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who’ve never seen Blade Runner, I dare not say anymore.

Blade Runner 2

Blade Runner: The Final Cut succeeds in almost every way. It builds on Philip K. Dick’s vision of the future, taking the idea of a, “used future,” even further than films like Star Wars and Ridley Scott’s own Alien did, creating a dark and rainy, yet sharp and intriguing vision of what Earth’s future is going to look like. The special effects used to create the world of Blade Runner are astounding, the techniques and artistry used to design and then shoot them so groundbreaking that they could easily stand toe to toe with the major effects blockbusters that Hollywood churns out today. The soundtrack, written by famed electronic music composer Vangelis, is dark, subtle, and matches the tone of the world shown on the screen in an expert manner. The film, shot by Jordan Cronenweth, is dark, cold, and sharp, a perfect transplant of the visual motifs present in so many film noir movies of the 40s and 50s.

Blade Runner 3

Blade Runner: The Final Cut features some excellent performances as well. The standouts of the bunch are of course Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young. Harrison Ford plays one of his few roles where he doesn’t walk around like a living, breathing one many army. He plays the role of Rick Decker as an incredibly human one, something we don’t often see from his famous roles, such as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, or even Jack Ryan. His success is one that’s never truly guaranteed throughout the film, and with Ford in front of the camera, you truly believe that he might not win the day. Rutger Hauer, who plays the leader of the band of the rogue Nexus 6 androids, is absolutely unbelievable. He plays the role with a quiet brutality, one that wreaks of desperation, and overflows with intelligence, leading his band in a quest to survive. Sean Young, who plays a conflicted Nexus 6 who eventually falls for Decker, is excellent on the screen, in that she fully embraces the strangeness of her role, and the uncomfortable existence of her character in the world of Blade Runner. If I had to come up with something to complain about, on occasion, the script gets a little hammy, but its easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

Blade Runner 4

Blade Runner, when it was released in 1982, was not an immediate success.  Its easy to see why it though.  It can be a dense and brutal movie at times, with one scene in particular during the film’s third act is sorta tough for me to swallow even today. It takes a few viewings before you really start to pick up on all of the little details of the world of the Blade Runner, but man, once you do, you’ll find it to be an experience that you’ll never forget. Its popularity has only increased over time, reaching a fever pitch in 1992 when a 70mm workprint was discovered and screened in Los Angeles. This version was named the “Director’s Cut,” was released to home video on Laserdisc, VHS, and DVD, and lacks the narration and features some extra footage. This director’s cut of the film serves as the basis for the 2007, “Final Cut,” with which Ridley Scott was given full freedom to go back and recut the movie to finally fulfill his creative vision for the 25th anniversary of the film, and all things considered, this is the best cut of the film, and the version of the film that is being reviewed. I’ve seen both this cut several times, as well as the “Director’s Cut,” several times, and differences are minor at best.

Blade Runner 5

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is a triumph, and a movie that stands up as a shining example of the power of science fiction films. It explores an incredible, fully fleshed out, dark vision of the future, in an entertaining and thought provoking manner. The visual effects, sound design, and cinematography are dark, and sharp, appropriately matching the tone of the film’s narratives. It is truly one of the greatest films ever made, without a doubt.

The Movie: 5/5

The Video:

Blade Runner, the next film in the 70mm Classics series, was not shot entirely on 65mm film materials, unlike our previous film, Tron. Blade Runner was shot using a combination of 35mm film with Panavision anamorphic lenses, and 65mm film with Super Panavision 70 spherical lenses. The majority of the film’s groundbreaking visual effects were shot exclusively in the 65mm Super Panavision 70 format, while the rest of the film was shot on 35mm anamorphic. For the digital restoration of the film, 35mm elements were scanned at 4K and 6K, while the 65mm effects work was scanned at 8K, for a final digital intermediate resolution of 4K. The film was released to theaters in both 35mm and 70mm film formats for a theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The film is presented here on Blu Ray in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1.

Blade Runner 6

The digital restoration of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, is, for the most part, astounding. Detail abounds, even in the widest of the shots. It goes without saying that the film’s many visual effects are sharp, detailed, and have an incredible level of quality to them. Close ups are fantastic, and look as detailed as the best modern film productions of today. The movie’s dark cinematography holds up incredibly well on HDTV screens for the most part, and has been reproduced in a faithful manner to the filmmakers’ original intents. The entire film is awash with film grain, as is typical of early 80s productions, but it never becomes obnoxious, or incredibly intrusive.

Blade Runner 7

That being said, all of the different cuts of Blade Runner, the Final Cut included, were prepared for a day one HD-DVD and Blu-Ray release by Warner Brothers Home Video back in 2007, and the limitations of the HD video master are starting to show their age. The film is unreasonably compressed onto a 25gb Blu Ray disc, and doesn’t even take up the entire space of the disc, clocking in at a puny 16gb. For reference, the HD-DVD release of the Final Cut takes up 19gb of its disc, meaning that they actually compressed the film even further on Blu-Ray. As a result, I feel that some of the shots are kind of blocky and messy. The compression results in the film’s grain structure not resolving quite as nicely as it could, especially since I’ve seen other films from this era look way sharper in 1080p. This HD master is almost ten years old, and could desperately use a re-examining from the guys at Warner.

Blade Runner 8

Overall, most of Blade Runner: The Final Cut is phenomenal, but some parts, especially darker interior shots, could look a little sharper than they do currently. I’m only a little disappointed, as I know that it could be that much better than what we’ve currently got.

4/5

The Sound:

Blade Runner was originally released to theaters in 1982 with a 70mm 6-track magnetic Dolby Stereo soundtrack. However, this cut is not one, but two generations away from that sound mix, so I cannot confirm if Blade Runner: The Final Cut features anything that resembles the original sound mix that played in prestige venues of the era.

Blade Runner 9

What I can confirm however, is that Blade Runner: The Final Cut sounds wonderful when played back in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD surround sound. The movie takes place in a busy world, full of atmospheric effects and sound panning that is frequent, and very effective, as futuristic spacecraft zoom in and out of frame. The action packs quite the punch, with Decker’s exploding with quite the wallop. Vangelis’s wonderful score drifts around the soundstage, in a subtle, yet engaging manner.

Blade Runner 10

One thing to note, when playing Blade Runner: The Final Cut, at least using the Japanese release from which I am reviewing, the audio defaults to the basic Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. Because the film plays without a menu, I was forced to pause the movie, enter the pop-up menu, and manually switch the soundtrack to Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Other than that, Blade Runner: The Final Cut sounds incredible on Blu Ray.

5/5

Special Features and Packaging:

For this review, I went to my only Blu-Ray copy of the film, the Japanese standalone release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. The art work, while completely different from any of the American releases of the film on Blu Ray, is fairly standard. It features a very minimal black and white picture of Rick Deckard holding his trusted pistol against a white background. The back cover features again a shot of Deckard, standing alone in the background, next to some Japanese text that of course, being American, I cannot read. Overall, this release’s packaging is fairly unimpressive, and I, for the most part, prefer the classic poster art of Blade Runner, as seen below featured on the HD DVD 5-disc set as a comparison.

Blade Runner Front

As for special features, the disc features a very minimal selection, which includes a brief introduction to The Final Cut, provided by Ridley Scott, and an audio commentary performed by a few different members of the crew, including Ridley Scott himself. The commentary is rather informative, and is worth at least one listen if you’ve ever desired to learn a bit more about the making of Blade Runner.

Blade Runner Disc

Also included on disc two, in DVD format, is the incredibly comprehensive documentary, Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner. The feature runs at full documentary length, and features and absolutely exhaustive amount of detail and background info on the production of the movie. The commentary was good, but if you’re a true fan, this is what you really want to sink your teeth into.

Blade Runner Dual

Just to note, all of these features are available through the various American deluxe editions of the film as well. There is nothing exclusive to the Japanese release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut

3.5/5

Overall:

Blade Runner 11

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is a triumph. Much like the last film I reviewed in the series, Tron, it brings a serious amount of artistic vision to the table, one whose influence is widespread and still rippling to this day. Harrison Ford, along with Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and the rest of the cast of characters bring an immense level of confidence in the material to the table, and the production values, especially the special effect shots, are of the highest quality. The Blu-Ray, although I reviewed a Japanese import which is equivalent to the other available counterparts, is of mostly excellent quality. With a fantastic 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that complements a mostly excellent video transfer, even though its age is starting to show, it still stacks up to new, less compressed Blu-Ray video transfers of the era. The extras included in this release are decent, if not a little light, and the packaging really isn’t all that special. Would I recommend this import? Probably not. Would I recommend buying one of the many excellent releases of Blade Runner: The Final Cut that have been released stateside? Absolutely. This is an incredible film, and it deserves to be viewed using the highest quality materials possible.

4/5

[paypal_donation_button]