Finishing Moves: The Final Cut of Blade Runner
By Nate Klein. Edited by Gary Carden
I’m sitting here, listening to music from Blade Runner. I put it on thinking that it’d help inspire me while writing this article. Sort of a musical muse, you know?
It occurs to me, though, that I don’t really need to listen to the music to gain inspiration, for Blade Runner is so permanently ingrained into the cracks and crevices of my mind that I need only think about it and it all comes flooding back to me; the Hades landscape, the flying Spinners, the desolation and the damp, the pyramids and the darkness, the tears and the rain. None of these moments will ever be lost for me. The history of the Final Cut of Blade Runner goes back to the days before the fads of alternate-extended-unrated-special-director’s cuts, back to a time when a different version of a movie was something so special that it was an event. Such was the case with Blade Runner. In the early 90’s, with the accidental public release of the Workprint version of the film, a new interest was gained in the movie that had previously been relegated to the small following the film had garnered during its original run. Eventually, Warner Bros. asked Ridley Scott if he wanted to make a new Director’s Cut, which, although released, was a rushed property. This genesis eventually led to the Final Cut, which, due to legal delays, ended up taking about seven years to get released. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Ridley Scott, Charles de Lauzirika and his team, as well as Joanna Cassidy, Ben Ford, and all the others responsible for this new cut, the definitive version of American cinema’s darkest vision of the future has finally been realized. And it was worth the wait.
Great care and detail was given to each scene, like this end scene with the spinner wires removed
Now, with a limited theatrical run and a five-disc DVD set out, the film has finally earned the recognition it has deserved (from a wider audience) for the past twenty-five years. But how does one patient fan feel? My original exposure to Blade Runner came about when watching the Sci-Fi Channel one day with my dad, the original Blade Runner fan. He had seen it in the theater in 1982, and had loved it ever since. We started watching it around the Abdul Ben-Hassan scene; it was being shown in widescreen, but still retained broadcast censorship and commercial breaks, so we decided to watch the VHS of it. Yes, it was fullscreen pan-and-scan, but it had no edits and no breaks. As you may have guessed, it was the extra-violent International Cut.
Nice first version for a kid.
I remember reading the graphic violence warning on the cover of the VHS. How cool was that? I remember dad telling me that the part with Roy and Deckard running around the Bradbury was the best part of the movie, and I found myself agreeing; “Tears in rain”, of course, was the best part of all of that.
And it did little, if anything, for me.
It took me years to become a bona fide Blade Runner fan; after borrowing my grandpa’s copy of the Director’s Cut DVD (which I forgot to return) I soon realized that this movie, above all others, was my favorite film. I had seen the DVD in stores, and how the back of it described the lack of voiceover or happy ending, and I wondered why they had cut those. Now, years later, after having seen the movie both with and without voiceover, I can safely say that it was the right move not to put it back into the Final Cut.
To have been a rather young, inexperienced Blade Runner fan just coming into the fold certainly put me in an interesting position. Here we had rumors on barely-updated websites about special editions that were (seemingly) likely to never happen, information that was, even then, going out of date, and message boards populated only by the hardest (and most frustrated) of the hardcore, rehashing old topics about issues such as mistakes in the film and if Deckard was a Replicant or not.
I quickly found myself getting interested in all of this, starting my own digital Blade Runner collection, from screenshots, to video, to music and more. I recall watching On The Edge Of Blade Runner, wishing that they had had an interview with Harrison Ford; that would, of course, eventually happen on the mythical definitive DVDs, or so I assumed. Ironic how this documentary was eventually replaced by one that made what I was watching seem like nothing more than a glorified TV special (which, it in fact, was).
Official news of the Final Cut hit like hammer to the head. It was on a popular DVD website that I learned that a multi-DVD set was to be released, and that it would contain every version of the film! The deleted scenes (which in and of itself blew my mind just reading it) would no doubt be the highlight of the release. I ran upstairs, and by some miracle, dad was still awake. I could barely contain my excitement (and breath) as I told him this amazing news.
Unused scene (on the DVD), of Leon picking up Gaff's Matchstick man.
The only thing that could excite me more than the fact that the movie was getting a theatrical release was that it was getting released close enough for me to see. After missing out on the tickets to see it at the New York Film Festival, we eventually saw it at the Zeigfield in New York, which I now consider to be the best theater in the world. I had heard that they were showing it as a 4K projection: “They're also trying to work out a 4K projection system for the Zeigfeld in New York, which would be cool.” (Lauzirika 1) Dear readers, unless you were there, you have no idea how cool it was.
Prior to having seen the film, I got to see the other Blade Runner-centric event at the Festival, that being the 25th anniversary panel of academics to discuss the movie. I recall the fan desperately asking the audience if he could buy extra tickets for him and his son, the tension when the one academic stated she didn't like the film (and the subsequent relief when the moderator called her a replicant), the questions between the audience and the Blade Runner people that attended the event, and finally meeting the man behind the restoration, Charles de Lauzirika.
Definitely my ultimate BR-geek overload moment. But onto the film itself. A few weeks later, dad and I went back to New York to see the film, finally.
Dammit! I had forgotten the Zeigfield Bladezone coupon; it was still in the car. Oh well, too late to go back for it now. We entered the theater, my dad and I, and what a place it was! Truly a gem of its kind. Our seats were good, center of the row and a bit back from the middle. The previews, including an ad for Dianetics, finished, the room darkened, and the Ladd Company logo popped up. I couldn't help clapping a bit, but soon stopped. Immersion was critical. The opening credits ran, the Vangelis score subtle and booming, and then there was light, the light of the Hades landscape.
Tyrell Corporation never looked so good, their is now added depth and clarity.
I had heard about how it had been restored, how shots had been fixed, how it was being shown here at 4K, how the iris now…oh, God…it was magnificent. I think my mouth was open a little bit. We got to Holden, and I then realized that I was living one of the best moments of my life, and that I needed to savor every second of it. I started mouthing the dialogue with the film as best I could, but it was hard to not stop and stare at the devastating beauty that lay before me; I say beauty in describing a film that depicts the skies of the darkened burning glade, its waves of grasses and flora erupting in slow-motion drips of hellish envy, the populace of a city likened to a maggot-ridden corpse, never ceasing to provide its succulent flesh to the grotesque bastards that lay within its cavities, the pollution reaching across everything like an immortal victim of starvation, never dying, always groaning, never fulfilled, the decadent ethics of a society desperate to be rid of itself, flung far into the reaches of space that would soon mirror its decrepit mother, the pathetic ignorance of its lowest of the colony, ants to be crushed beneath the muddied and bloodied steel-tipped boots of progress, the bliss obtained from this lack of imminent removal, the old gods roasting their souls away in the temples and ziggurats of their own selfish ambition, and the world-weary form of a man who has seen all that has been described and shrugged it off as normal human existence. I was now in the right mindset to experience life as Rick Deckard saw it, and he felt no pity.
The Love scene actually contains no love at all, more of a rushed lust filled act. However, the DVD contains an extended version that sees the scene slower paced and an equal feeling is seen between the two.
Why should I? Who is to be pitied? What is there to be felt for? Why bother, as we know that all within this citadel of acid raining truth and smoking stinking sewage had no hope to be felt, nor a future to be had, at least, one of any meaningful existence? The Blade Runner is a guard against false hope. It’s a police unit that must hunt down and kill replicants; I say kill, do I say it wrongly? The term “retired” is used in its stead, illustrating that we’re only dealing with machines. Breathing machines, speaking machines, bleeding machines, emoting machines, eating machines, living and fighting and dying machines. What does it matter? As Rick Deckard put it, “Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard; if they’re a benefit it’s not my problem.” Here is the apathy again, and the boot of progress raises its heel. As the film furthers in it many meanings and messages, not all of them obviously buried in the subconscious, the replicants go to the great retirement home in the sky, their life without meaning and any cause lost. One by one they fall, but perhaps one succeeds like no human ever could (providing a paradox to our own lives and times). The final hazard, for that is what Roy Batty is, meets his maker and demands more life. A purpose in this life worthy of living for, perhaps? It has been masked by murder and deception but bears the scent of truthful and noble yearning. A four-year lifespan doesn’t do much for ones moral complexion, but it can create a melting pot of emotions and cause needing to be fulfilled. Ironic how he hoped to help his friends, in fact acting as a benefit, but not for everyone else. The father’s life is soon ended as the truth of the matter is crushed out of him; nothing can be done. There are times when we want the pie, but we cannot have any. Yet our worthless bastard brother may have a piece, yet declines. Is it fair? Yes, because you are a replicant. Humanity no longer has any noble causes or desires to seek truth and fulfill a purpose in life, even though it could, with all its ingenuity and flying cars. But to those who truly desperately strive, they fall short of their goal, leaving the undying victim of starvation all that much closer to the pie. Roy and Deckard meet, greet, and attempt mutual annihilation. Deckard reflects defiance in Roy’s face, literally, spitting and being saved. Defiance got Roy this far; it is only fair he should reward a small portion of it in kind. In those final precious moments of life, Roy the replicant sees better than any human. He loves it all, from life, to pain, and even his dying moments.
I am convinced that Roy is weeping when he mentions tears in rain. I know I was.
The new rooftop scene completes perhaps Rutger Hauer's finest on screen acting.
His eternal last lines shake Deckard out of the business for good; again, ironic, considering how the business always gave him the shakes. So in the end, what is the meaning of all of this? It becomes a question of which meaning do you wish to explore, as there are many to be had. I walked out of that theater convinced I had seen the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life. Blade Runner is a multi-faceted work of art that asks many questions, and leaves us wondering the answers, which is perhaps why we have been coming back to it for 25 years. It is a superb piece of movie making, the best of its kind, and the most influential of its genre. How does the Final Cut reinforce this better than the other cuts? In addition to the 4k film print, the special effects also got the grand treatment: “For the visual effects we went back to the pristine 65mm elements and did 8K scans.” (Lauzirika 1) This allows us the clearest version of Scott’s incredible vision, showing us what dedication can get you. It certainly got this film more life. Instead of merely restoring the film, though, several mistakes were fixed, such as continuity errors and audio issues, and certain things were completely redone, such as the shots of Zhora running through the glass; the face now matches Joanna Cassidy, and the shot of the dove flying away from Roy’s dying hand into the skies. If that . ’t enough, then it is with glee I report that some deleted items have been restored, such as the full unicorn dream, a few extra shots, and lines of dialogue of varying importance. What Ridley Scott, Charles de Lauzirika, and all the others who lent themselves to this project have done is to take the best film ever made, and tweaked it to perfection; at least, as perfect as the film can be. There will always be the claims of inherent flaws in the story, or perhaps a lack of important elements in the body of the work, but for what it is and currently stands as, the film cannot be improved any further.
I fancy myself as someone who likes coming up with a good story. This movie has changed how I feel about that, and has permutated my personal creative process, from the rain, to the trench coats, to the dark atmosphere, to the characters, and even the music. It has changed how I view life in this world, and will continue to reflect itself upon how I see everything, from fictional characters to real people.
Deckard's Wife! Just one of a plethora of secrets revealed on DVD for the first time.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut receives my highest recommendation, and should be seen by anyone who can appreciate what a film like this really is: sheer unadulterated beauty, masked in celluloid.
There has been talk within the forums for years about a possible sequel to BR. Perhaps this unused scene that features on the DVD set would have left such a thing possible? (Rachael askes Deckard if they are lovers as they go off into the sunset to seek a new life together.