The original Ridley Scott

Issue 

Blade Runner, The Director's Cut
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick
Starring Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah
Reviewed by Francisco de Caneiro

The "director's cut" phenomenon can be traced back to Steven Spielberg's special edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It is probably rooted in Francis Coppola's The Godfather Saga which was a specially edited combined version of the first two Godfather films shown on television in the late '70s.

The obvious question about these versions is whether the motives behind them are strictly artistic, or more to do with commercial considerations. This question becomes particularly pertinent when you learn, for example, that James Cameron, director of both The Abyss and Aliens, has disowned the "director's cuts" of these films. One also wonders whether a film the length of Dances With Wolves really needed any extra footage!

Blade Runner: The Director's Cut is a different proposition. Prior to its original release, Blade Runner was tested, as all Hollywood's big studio films are tested, on preview audiences. A voice-over narration by Harrison Ford and a happy ending were added in response to audience reaction. The director, Ridley Scott, objected to both these additions.

The film, as released, was not a big hit but it did become somewhat of a cult classic. The story goes that in 1991 Warner Brothers accidentally screened, in Los Angeles, a version of Blade Runner which Scott had edited in 1982. Audience reaction to this version, without either the narration or the tacked on ending, was very positive. After the studio showed Scott this cut, the idea of a re-release was born.

The plot of the film remains the same. Blade Runner is set in a US city, probably Los Angeles, in the year 2020. Acid rain falls continuously and the air is thick and dark with pollution. Due to the inability of the Earth to continue to sustain its population, many people have moved to "off-world" colonies.

When most of the Earth's fauna became extinct, artificial animals were developed to take their place. Soon, super-sophisticated androids, called "replicants", were developed for slave labour off-world and for military use in deep space. Replicants have been banned from earth because of some trouble keeping them in their place. Special police officers, known as "blade runners", are assigned to tracking down and terminating wayward replicants.

The Tyrell Corporation has recently introduced Nexus 6, the ultimate replicant. It is virtually indistinguishable from a human being but has several times human intelligence and physical strength. Its only problem is its built-in obsolescence, which gives it a four-year lifespan. A group of Nexus 6s have escaped to Earth in search of their short lives.

The police force recalls their best-but-retired blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to search for and eliminate the escapees. During his investigations he becomes "involved" with an experimental replicant, Rachael (Sean Young) he meets at the Tyrell Corporation. From this point on the story is a detective/thriller.

Apart from the absence of the narration and the happy ending, the only other significant change I spotted was the inclusion of a five-second dream sequence of a galloping unicorn. The sequence, in combination with other material in the film, may imply that Deckard, himself, is an android. This is a return to the complexity of Phillip K. Dick's original story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a complexity that test audiences apparently found disorienting and confusing.

Blade Runner, unlike many films set in the future, has not dated. This is probably due to Ridley Scott's creation of a future that was not merely a place of shiny labour saving gadgets and unrecognisable cities. In his city of the year 2020, as in 1993, the new co-exists with the old, flying cars hover over pot-holed streets and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 masquerades as Deckard's apartment on the 96th floor of a mega apartment tower.

Blade Runner: The Director's Cut is certainly an improvement on the original release. It is also truly Ridley Scott's preferred cut. I suppose Warner Brothers smelt a buck when serendipity struck in LA, but however it came about, the new release gives us a chance to see this groundbreaking film on the big screen again. I recommend it.

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