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Warner Home Video presents

Blade Runner: Five-Disc Complete Collector's Edition HD-DVD (1982/1992/2007)

"Replicants are like any other machine. They're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem."- Deckard (Harrison Ford)

Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
Other Stars: Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy
Director: Ridley Scott

MPAA Rating: R for violence and brief nudity
Run Time: 01h:57m:52s
Release Date: 2007-12-18
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B-A+A- A+


DVD Review

While Blade Runner has been a cult favorite for years, few pictures have a history as complicated and as tortured as this sci-fi noir epic. It has been cut and recut, revised and rewritten, revisioned and rereleased several times, with voiceover and without, with and without different sequences that change the effect substantially. This presentation is billed as the Director's Final Cut, though director Ridley Scott will only go so far in his introduction as to say that it's his favorite version right now. Take that as you will, the wait for an upgrade from the fairly dismal disc that was one of the first releases on DVD has been more than worth it.

In the grim Los Angeles of the year 2019, a series of highly realistic robots or androids known as replicants have been created by the Tyrell Corporation to do various distasteful tasks. But the replicants have demonstrated a sense of independence and revolted in some locations, leading to a ban against their presence on Earth. Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a blade runner, a special police officer authorized to use deadly force against such replicants. When four replicants return to Earth, Deckard is brought back into service against them: Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), a combat model; Pris (Daryl Hannah), a pleasure model; Leon (Brion James), an ammo loader; and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), intended for a murder squad. Since replicants are tougher and stronger than humans, this is a formidable task, but they seem to be focused on Tyrell in particular. Complicating matters is a new breed of replicant, exemplified by Rachael (Sean Young), whom Deckard is himself falling in love with, putting his career if not his life in further jeopardy.

The dark vision of a dystopian Los Angeles belching smoke and constantly raining thanks to a climate gone haywire has been hugely influential on any number of pictures since. Unrelentingly grim in its mise-en-scéne, Blade Runner also takes an almost unrelentingly bleak attitude towards life as well. The cynicism and exploitation visible on every front is nearly unrelieved except by the darkest of humor occasionally on display (most notably the classic moment in which Leon tells a test administrator "I'll tell you about my mother," as he opens fire). Wreathed in smoke and fog, and sheathed in constant darkness, only a hopeless love offers a moment of optimism; Deckard's dreams of a brightly-lit unicorn are both symbolic of the impossibility of hope and a key plot point in this cut.

Ford is painfully world-weary, and his uneasy relationship with fixer Gaff (Edward James Olmos at his creepiest) only underlines the bleakness of his situation. Unwilling to continue, he finds he has no choice thanks to police corruption and extortion. Young is well cast as an unemotional robot, and Hauer is at his best when he gets to play homicidal mania. Cassidy is particularly memorable as the snake dancing Zhora, though she gets a great setup that has no payoff since she only runs away instead of actually getting to be murderous.

The texture of the world is incredibly well realized, and it's this that makes Blade Runner a classic. There are still some oddities (such as Young's Barbara Stanwyck hairdo and costume), but they're part of the charm of the picture. Although the Final Director's Cut tightens up much of the picture and clears up some logical lapses, inconsistencies and continuity errors (not to mention cleaning up visible wires on effects shots and the like), the last half hour is still fairly incoherent, and the action is entirely at the service of visual impact and utterly lacking in sensible behavior. One of the more notorious additions is new footage of Cassidy being digitally placed in to replace the stunt person who didn't resemble her in the least, and it's quite seamless. The issue of whether Deckard is himself a replicant is dealt with definitively here, and just in case you didn't get the message, Scott spells it all out at the end of his commentary.

There are two principal philosophical obsessions at the center of Blade Runner, based on existential and epistemological concerns. On the existential level, there are questions derived from the source material regarding what it means to be human, with the replicants striving to discover the meaning behind their lives, and rise above the tasks that have been assigned to them. At the same time the humans often display inhumanity to each other and especially the replicants. Whether Deckard is a replicant or not will color your view of the issue, but it works either way. At the same time, the replicants have been implanted with false memories in an effort to make them more tractable, as seen in Rachael's lack of awareness of her own nature. Personal memory is wholly unreliable in this picture, subject to whims of faceless manipulators, and only edgy insecurity can be the result, if not outright paranoia.

Just in case you preferred one of the earlier versions of the film, however, you're in luck. Disc 3 of this five-disc set offers a seamless branching alternative of the original 1982 U.S. theatrical cut (which I believe has never been released on home video), the 1982 international cut, and the 1992 "director's cut" that has since been rejected by Scott. The US theatrical cut reduces the level of the disturbing violence substantially. Both it and the international cut include the notorious (and in retrospect, exceedingly lame) voiceover by Deckard that Ford disliked, and which Scott now seems to have rejected definitively. Disc 5 offers a preview print, called the "work print," which gives a previously unseen on video (at least legitimately) version of the film that is substantially different from all of the others. This work print includes alternate footage, a different opening and ending, and a different temporary music track. There's literally a version here for you no matter which one you favor. All that's missing is the option to re-edit the picture yourself. Scott provides short (about 30s) introductions to each cut.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen 2.20:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicno no

Image Transfer Review: The Final Director's Cut is hands down one of the best looking HD transfers yet. It's rock solid throughout, without any sign of pixelation or artifacting. The shot of the flying car near the beginning as it passes near the giant animated billboards is picture perfect and breathtakingly stunning in its 3-D quality. Obviously, a great deal of care was taken in making this HD DVD represent the film well, and the effort shows. While there's visible grain in the many dark scenes, it always looks natural and filmlike and is never sparkly or obtrusive. At the same time detail frequently is eye-popping and there's no indication of digital noise reduction afflicting the source. The film is full of smoke, fog and vapor, and it all looks terrific. This is a model of HD presentation, and it proves that you don't need to have a new CG extravaganza to make for a very attractive viewing experience.

The disc 3 versions of the movie look quite good as well, though not quite as eye-popping in character. Grain is a bit more sparkly here as well. Color and textures still come across very well, however, and it's hardly unsatisfying. Edge enhancement is still nowhere to be seen. The work print on disc 5 has the poorest quality of the five versions, but it still looks reasonably good. Some of the effects are unfinished, and some shots look rather soft, but it may well be as good as this singular print can look without a good deal of work that would alter its essential character. The work print is presented in about a 2.20:1 aspect ratio.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both DD+ 5.1 and TrueHD tracks of the remixed soundtrack are provided, and they have nice impact. There's plenty of deep, low bass throughout. Vangelis' score comes across with excellent range and texture, though it's not quite as forward as one might expect; it remains solidly in the background for the most part and thus doesn't attract undue attention to itself. It's nevertheless a first-rate score and a music-only track certainly would have been welcome here. Given all the variants, it's a little surprising that the original audio wasn't also included, though.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 175 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner
2 TV Spots/Teasers
22 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
5 Documentaries
6 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) Ridley Scott; 2) executive producer/writer Hampton Fancher, writer David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley, production executive Katherine Haber; 3) visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David Snyder, special
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Booklet
  2. Audio interviews
Extras Review: Well, if you wanted a special package, you've got one here. There are no less than three full-length commentaries to the Final Director's Cut, with one from director Ridley Scott solo. The writers and producers contribute a second, and the third features those responsible for the visual design and effects. All three are nearly wall-to-wall comments, with very little dead air space. They're solidly informative (though don't believe Scott when he credits George Bernard Shaw for creating Esperanto) and worth listening to in order to give perspective to the troubled production and its updating over time. There's an additional commentary on the workprint by Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, who is obviously well qualified to discuss the variants.

Most of the extras are presented in standard definition. Disc 2 is devoted to the major documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (3h:33m:57s), a gigantic Charlie de Lauzirika creation covering the inception of the project, casting, designing, shooting, production of the effects and the post-production issues and release as well as the recurring influences of the picture from its subject matter to its endlessly quoted visuals. Virtually everyone with a major connection to the picture is heard from (including Ford), and few problems are smoothed over; the tangled history is laid bare as one seldom sees in such presentations. There are some fascinating details here, such as that Deckard was written for Robert Mitchum to play, and at one point Dustin Hoffman was the first choice for the role; what a different movie that would have been. The documentary includes English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Disc 4 collects a good deal of ephemera related to the picture (alas, again all in standard definition), starting with several looks at author Philip K. Dick and the source novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The Electric Dreamer (14m:23s) is a decent if brief overview of Dick's writing career, with special attention given to his hostile relationship with Hollywood. Sacrificial Sheep (15m:10s) is devoted to a comparison between the novel and the film, which gives a good impression of the complexities of the novel. There is also a collection of fifteen brief audio interviews with Dick (which sound as if they were recorded over the telephone), talking specifically about the book and the film. While Dick expresses disgust at the first drafts of the script, he also shares a good deal of enthusiasm for the parts of the finished film that he had seen. Unfortunately, the "Play All" button is not functional making this section a bit annoying.

The Fabrication section of the disc addresses the making of the picture. Signs of the Times (13m:41s) looks at the graphic design elements of the film, with often trivial details getting close attention, helping make the world of 2019 seem rich and complex. Fashion Forward (20m:41s) addresses the often shocking fashions and styles of wardrobe of the future, with plenty of costume designs in evidence. The Light that Burns (20m:03s) is an affectionate tribute to director of photography Jordan Cronenweth, whose health seriously failed during shooting, to the point that he spent the last month of filming in a wheelchair. He was certainly responsible for much of the highly successful look of the movie, and deserves to be better known. Casting director Mike Fenton hosts several screen tests for the roles of Rachael and Pris (though the audio is missing from some of them). A 47m:41s collection of 22 deleted and alternate scenes, including two different alternate endings, gives an even deeper look into the picture. While some are in iffy condition, they're all quite acceptable looking.

The Longevity section includes three 1982 featurettes, with one on the set and another featuring behind the scenes footage (without sound), totalling 36m:12s. A series of trailers from the 1982, 1992 and 2007 releases offer the differing ways that the feature has been marketed. Speaking of which, Promoting Dystopia (9m:38s) provides an unusual look specifically at the development of the poster art as well as the unused art for the DVD release. Deck-A-Rep (9m34s) examines the question of whether Deckard is in fact human or replicant, with participants and fans offering competing views and the clues that they rely upon. Fascinatingly, Ford and Scott differ on the question. Nexus Generation (21m:52s) examines the impact of the movie on both the fan community and filmmakers since 1982, with such luminaries as Guillermo Del Toro contributing. Oddly, disc 4 offers a "Language" section that has only one choice: English audio. Finally, disc 5 includes All Our Variant Futures (28m:31s), which tracks the history behind the many versions, as well as the process of assembling the "Final Cut." That was a very near thing, since it's revealed that the footage was slated to be junked, and it was only because no one ever got around to giving the final order that the material still exists.

This is a solid assemblage of bonus materials that will immediately leap into the ranks of legendary home video releases. The enclosed booklet serves as a useful guide to the multitude of contents.

Extras Grade: A+

Final Comments

The long-awaited "Final Director's Cut," and four other versions of the movie to boot, plus two discs full of extras and four commentaries? This is Blade Runner heaven, and the transfer is extraordinary. Fans should be very well pleased indeed.

Mark Zimmer 2007-12-19