Saturday 2 May 2015

Film: Blade Runner (The Final Cut, 2007)

Blade Runner is one of the most famous SF movies ever made, but I had only seen the original 1982 cinema version, and that a long time ago. Several different versions have been made but in only one of them did director Ridley Scott have complete artistic freedom – The Final Cut, released in 2007 – so when it came up on TV I was keen to watch it.

I'm sure I needn't say much about the plot, concerning the efforts of a specialist police officer (Bladerunner) in a future Los Angeles to identify, track and "retire" (kill) four replicants; very tough and strong artificial humans made for work in outer space who have illegally returned to Earth in the hope of extending their artificially short lives. The four most important characters in the film are the Bladerunner Deckard (Harrison Ford), two of the replicants he is hunting (Rutger Hauer in a compelling performance, and Darryl Hannah) and a young woman who also turns out to be a replicant (Sean Young).

The setting is dystopian, with Los Angeles a grim, dark, dirty, violent and decidedly wet place (most of the scenes seem to be set at night, in the rain). The mood is enhanced by the soundtrack, with strange mechanical noises from the city frequently intruding into the futuristic background music from Vangelis. The most noticeable difference between The Final Cut and the original is the deletion of the explanatory voice-over from the protagonist Deckard; a big improvement in my view, as it adds to the bleak, mysterious atmosphere of the film. Little is explicit and the viewer has to focus to keep up with the often fast-moving action, but time is taken to give some depth to the major characters, and some of the minor ones too. The fact that the replicants are treated with some sympathy adds to an air of moral ambiguity; this is definitely a film for adults to appreciate, in a way that few SF films have been (Gattaca being another example).

The original release should certainly feature in anyone's list of best SF films; The Final Cut is vying for the top spot. Compared with another good SF film seen recently – Interstellar – it lacks the ambitious plot and spectacular visuals, but as a piece of filmic drama it is clearly superior. Any SF fan who has not seen this film should certainly do so, and try to see The Final Cut if you can.

A final thought: the film is set in 2019, which in 1982 was presumably felt to be far enough into the future for interstellar colonisation to be feasible. It is rather sad, but typical of SF, that this optimistic assumption was so far from reality that we are in fact further from achieving that now than we seemed to be in 1982. Yet the IT visible in the film was far less advanced than ours – which just emphasises how difficult it is to predict technological developments.


Fred said...

I have the Deluxe Package which includes all five versions of the film. And I agree, it is one of the best SF films ever made.

However, I must part company with you on the issue of the voice-over. I think Scott made a grievous error when he removed it. Without it, it becomes more impersonal--it lacks that link with Ric. Moreover, the "noir" flavor has been diminished, and that was one of its strengths.

In addition, information has been lost. Rachel, apparently, does not have a cutoff date, a significant bit of information lost with the removal of the voice over.

I also realize that I'm in the minority on this issue. Why there is this dislike for the V-O mystifies me.

dlw said...

I paid cash money to see that movie at the theater. I felt I'd wasted my time. The blatant in-movie advertising was annoying, and in the course of expanding a short story into a loooong movie, there were hours of not-much-going-on.

Yes, Hauer's death speech is probably one of the classic scenes is all of film, but it wasn't enough to carry the rest of the movie.

Chainsawing an hour or so's worth of embedded advertising out, and the many lengthy and pointless shots that had no apparent purpose other than to bulk out the play time, would have helped a lot.

I felt much the same way about "2001." Great special effects and sets, check. But padding a four page short story out into a mega-movie meant a lot of time sitting there watching nothing happening. I could do that at home. Yet a great number of people hold them up as shining exemplars of the bestestest movies ever.

Anthony G Williams said...


I may have been influenced by Scott's dislike of the voice-over, which as I understand it was forced on him by the studio to make it easier for people to follow what was going on. But I also felt that not having everything explained added to the atmosphere of mystery and tension.

Anthony G Williams said...


I can't say that I was aware of the advertising - I expect that I just accepted it as part of the background.

On action vs inaction: I think that a succession of ever-more frantic blockbusters has conditioned us to expect almost constant violent action - fighting, chasing or exploding. Personally I find that all rather wearing and like to see films where there is more of a balance. In fact, a film can be excellent without any action at all, as with The Man From Earth which I reviewed here a month ago.

Fred said...

The advertising adds to the tone of the film--shows how ubiquitous advertising will become, or rather is today. Just as the film shows, we can hardly escape ads.

And non-stop violence certainly does not make for a decent film.

Fred said...

True--mystery and tension are important, but confusion interferes with the development and maintenance of mystery and tension.