I didn’t think it would be so possible to be moved by a film that I’ve seen on countless occasions as if I’d just watched it for the first time. But as the Ladd Company tree appeared on the screen and the first boom of Vangelis’ score echoed throughout the theatre, I felt myself sink back into my chair as my eyes watered over and it felt like the first time I had watched Blade Runner on the floor of my Grandparents living room two feet from the television monitor And I sat speechless until the credits were done with their scroll.
Perhaps it would be cheap for me to say that my favorite movie of all, the film that made me look at movies as an art form, one that could both entertain, make you think and created a world that existed unto itself, would be the best movie of this year, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it is. Blade Runner: The Final Cut recreated itself for me. Maybe it’s because when I first saw the film there were concepts my underdeveloped brain couldn’t quite put together, though I felt there was much more to it, a mystery that seemed much larger than myself, I thought of it merely as a really cool and stylized sci-fi crime story. That was the original cut, with the voice over, it was the cut I originally fell in love with. It wasn’t until a few years later that I saw the Director’s Cut. And after living on the D.C. for a few years, I decided to go back and watch the original, which I have on VHS. There were elements about each cut that I appreciated. The voice over, while terrible, allowed certain peeks into the way the world worked that the D.C. didn’t. The original held on Tyrell’s death a few moments longer, allowing for the blood to gush forth. The D.C. seemed to get impatient with itself during the rooftop sequence and trimmed Deckard’s finding the shaft that Batty springs up through, so that it was an awkwardly rushed moment. The D.C. included the Unicorn sequence that hinted at Deckard also being a replicant. The D.C. scene in which he finds the snake maker was left with a mouth moving and something else being said over the top of it. In the Final Cut the rooftop sequence has been restored, the dialogue with the snake seller fixed, the Unicorn sequence touched up, Tyrell’s death made more violent, some dancers added to the strip club, but many of these particular choices of editing are all tonal. Ridley Scott had something far greater in mind when he sat down to represerve his original vision. In the Final Cut never have I seen editing, and sometimes the most minor editing choices, help elevate the themes in a movie more so than I have here, and in the process making it that much more powerful.
Over the years Ridley Scott seems to have fallen out of love with his own sci-fi chicness and felt that perhaps remaining on the actors faces says more about the story than on a nice bit of technical work. Here the more human elements of the film would help. It was a smart decision.
“More human than human”, Tyrrell proudly tells Deckard. In Blade Runner the allegory runs deep but never heavy handed. There is the first tier including the Creator Tyrrell and the Police head Bryant – these characters could be considered immortal through the eyes if the Nexus 6 Replicants whose lifespans run 4-years long. “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people,” Bryant reminds Deckard. Then the minions, those that build the Replicants and hunt the Replicants. If Tyrrell can be considered a God then these are his angels. You have Chu and Sebastian who are allowed to reach into the heavens to be one with these Gods, the angels of life, and Holden who is a Blade Runner, an angel of death, and finally Deckard who appears to be a Blade Runner, but who lacks the cold calculations of the other “humans” and reacts more as the audience might when faced with such life and death dilemmas. He’s affected by his actions. He’s more human than human. And in Scott’s eyes and what comes to full fruition in this new cut is his connection to the Replicant’s, chiefly that he is one himself. And we should understand that it is so terribly important that Deckard be a Replicant. As an audience member we connect with Roy Batty and the other prodigal children. We understand their emotions, their fear is palpable. If Deckard were one of the immortals, looking down from above, we would not connect with him, but because he is, we’re allowed to. And Scott’s newest vision of the film has swung in the direction of allowing Deckard to be even more human than he has been in the past, which makes him that much more fallible. That much closer to death. That much closer to the audience’s empathy. This theme is discovered anyway when Deckard is hanging from the building by two fingers, but if left with this, it would have merely been understanding on Deckard’s part and for me being and understanding are two different things. One can understand the right thing to do and one can do the right thing.
Scott achieves his desired effect by scaling back on his visualized technicalities. When Deckard shoots Pris, her body flails about as if trying to hold onto those last threads of life. In the older cuts Deckard seems a little taken aback but shoots again quickly sending her body flying into the air in slow motion, then another shot sends her a second time slow-mo into the air. Now Deckard watches on in horror for a long time, trying to process what he’s done. The look on his face almost says he wished there would have been another way, and when he raises the gun he turns his head slightly away so he doesn’t have to watch. There were other moments like this that have been expounded upon. But then there are those other moments that played differently only because I as a person have matured.
Take for instance when Bryant is showing Deckard the images of the Nexus 6 Replicants for the first time. Bryant watches Deckard with a strange expression. I was never quite certain what or why he was doing so, but this time I had the strange feeling that Bryant was studying him, perhaps even a bit worried. Why would Bryant be worried unless he was still uncertain that a Replicant could be controlled by memories? Then later after Deckard has proven himself by killing Zora he seems almost paternally proud calling Deckard “a one man killing machine”. That’s one thing about seeing it on the big screen. Nuances in performances I hadn’t noticed before became more clear.
I also feel that the film has been color corrected in some places, taking away the darker palette and giving some of the street scenes a more dim glow of colors. Maybe it was just the fact that everything about this new print was incredibly vibrant and all the more splendid to watch.
The performances also remain captivating to this day. Harrison Ford, although he wanted to back out of the film, captures Deckard’s resilience to the powers that be. The eternally underrated Rutger Hauger lives that fear and anger so well that it’s bordering on the profound. When he approaches Tyrrell and threatens him with these words, “I want more life Father,” it encapsulated the human condition for me. The fear of death and the willingness to try and do anything to live forever. If we were faced with our maker would we wish to be remade “perfect” as The Final Cut has.
Update: Oct. 24th, 2007
Another thing I noticed about the film as it is also one of my favorite edited films of all time, begins in the first few moments as the credits begin to roll. From the very beginning the credits lull you into the pace of the film to come, slowly scrolling by. It allows the viewer to sit back and soak up the music – to let everything sink in. It’s a dream of the future, with unicorns and doves and humans that create and destroy with complete disregard for what they have destroyed. Even Spielberg with his ambitious A.I. couldn’t separate himself from this wonderful work. Nothing is arbitrary in Scott’s vision. Even the moments in between the action and story draw you further into this world. As an edited piece it stands as a companion to his other brilliant film, Alien. Both films draw you completely into the world with establishing shots. In Alien we spend several moments at a time outside the ship as the storm whips. In Blade Runner one of the moments that I always enjoy watching is when Deckard steps outside on his balcony, a blanket draped over his shoulders and a mug of something warm in his hand. We’re aloud to experience the city for a moment. We’re aloud to let its essence drift into the movie creating a sharper world that these characters live and die in. It’s this sort of attention to detail and atmosphere that has affected my editing and writing more so than most other things.