From the first image of future Los Angeles, punctuated by the music of Vangelis, the setting of the overpopulated and mechanical city opens. Behold Blade Runner, the dark and twisted tale of one man (?) in his journey to define himself, his desires and his place in humanity. Blade Runner follows Rick Deckard, a cop put back into active duty to retire four off-world humanoid robots. The problem for Deckard is that these robots (called “replicants”) are, as the good Dr. Tyrell says, “More Human Than Human”.
Wrapped in his suit and trench coat, Deckard is to future Los Angeles what Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was to L.A. in the 1950’s. He’s a detective working on the outskirts of the law to put away the toughest criminals around. His world is the underbelly of the dark metropolis. Drinking and smoking are commonplace. In Deckard’s case, there is no trial and no arrests. Retiring a replicant means killing it.
As Deckard chases down the infamous quartet, he falls for another replicant, Rachel (Young). Meanwhile, he comes face to face with the underlying questions about his own humanity, with time on the line. Each of the replicants is placed perfectly by the chess master, Roy (Hauer). Leon (Brion James) is used to infiltrate Tyrell Corporation at the lowest level. Zhora (the delicious and deadly Joanna Cassidy) is sent to the entertainment district to spy on the high-rollers. When the time comes to gain the trust of lonely J.F. Sebastian, Roy sends Pris (the very young Darryl Hannah), the pleasure model, to abuse his compassion.
There are decades of reviews and commentary, official and unofficial sites and blogs about what is arguably the best sci-fi movie of all time. Scott, through his focus and drive, managed to squeeze value out of every penny and second of his cast and crew. For incredible insight into what it took to make the movie, watch Dangerous Days (Disc Two of the set) or read Phil M. Sammon’s book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.
For years, the debate has raged about Deckard. Is he a replicant provided memories of a past he never truly lived, or is he just a burnt-out cop so out of touch with his own emotions that he doubts his own humanity? The lack of a concrete answer is one of the things that has fed into Blade Runner’s unending cult status.
So why this cut? Director Scott has made his stand that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant, but not until more than a decade after the film’s release. The final cut extends a few scenes to build the mood of the overcrowded city and Deckard’s unicorn dreams. The first-person voiceover and happy Hollywood ending are gone, as in the 1992 Director’s Cut. There are a few other important changes, like the substitution of the word “father” to more closely reflect the creator-creation relationship.
Despite all the arguments over humanity, in the end, Blade Runner is about exactly that…the value of being human.
Most of Blade Runner defies description. The external city shots are brilliant depictions of an L.A. where it has all gone wrong. The interior shots, most notably Chu’s eye shop (the always entertaining James Hong) and J.F. Sebastian’s doll house (the soft-spoken William Sandersen). Deckard’s apartment is the personification of a lonely old gumshoe drinking himself to oblivion. The film’s climax is set in the hollowed-out Bradbury Apartments, in the eternal rain and darkness that is core to the movie. Given the inhuman nature of the characters, the humanity captured within is so essential that the film does not work without it.
The film is certainly quotable. “Memories…you’re talkin’ about memories”, “I just do eyes”, “I want more life, fucker” and “Wake up, time to die” are a few highlights. There are few speeches as moving as Roy’s words in the film’s climax.
Despite its age, Blade Runner is still as convincing as it is dreary. The story’s reliance on technology ages well, thanks to Scott’s creative use of dark sets mixing tight shots and splashes of neon among the crowds. Deckard consistently spirals downward as he realizes that not only his own confidence grossly overestimated, but his chances for survival might be as well.
Part of Blade Runner’s success lies in the supporting cast making the most of their screen time. James is a walking bulldozer as Leon. M. Emmet Walsh is great as the pig-headed police lieutenant Bryant. Joe Turkel is the consummate genius as Dr. Elden Tyrell. Of course, it’s Ford, Young and Hauer who really make the film tick. Given the directions of their careers, it can be argued that Blade Runner was the perfect crossroads for all three.
There are collector’s editions and then there’s this behemoth. There are five DVD’s included. Disc One is the new cut of the film, with an introduction by Director Ridley Scott. The second disc contains Dangerous Days; an insightful look into the troubled creation of the film, from budget issues, creativity arguments and the famous pains of shooting.
Disc Three contains the original U.S. and International cuts from 1982, complete with Hollywood ending and voiceover track. The 1992 Director’s Cut is included as well. Disc Four is an Enhancement Archive with incredible depth. Included are three segments surrounding Philip K. Dick, who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book on which the film is very loosely based. There are also features on the graphic design and fashion of the film, along with Young and Hannah’s screen tests. Deleted and Alternate Scenes are also included. Trailers and Features are on there, as well. Finally, a look at filmmakers and fans rounds out the disc. Disc Five includes the rarely-seen pre-release workprint of the film. Commentary is included from Phil M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.
A booklet featuring stills of the cast acts as a table of contents for all of the discs. The fun doesn’t stop there. A replica of the origami unicorn and scale model police spinner are also included. A film cell and storyboard cards wrap up the included swag, all of which fits in a replica briefcase for easy carrying (or showing off).