I recently went to see a special screening of Ridley Scott’s newest version of Blade Runner, recently released as THE FINAL CUT. I am a huge fan of BR since it was released in 1982, and have the original version on both VHS and DVD. I have seen the studio release at least five times in a theatre, and countless times on video. I consider it one of my all-time favorites, though I last viewed over a decade ago.
I was excited when I saw that his “definitive” BR: FINAL CUT would be playing a limited engagement in Atlanta. I even considered watching the original again before going, but simply didn”t have the time.
As the theatre darkened (a bleak and threadbare movie house in Little Five Points that is often home to retrospectives and old horror marathons), a ball of fire erupted as the camera pulled back on a view of Los Angeles in 2019. The Vangelis soundtrack came in and my first thought was “Christ,that music is ghastly,did I actually like that stuff?” That aside,
The gravel-toned voiceover by Harrison Ford is gone (an addition that Warner Brother’s insisted upon for the hard-of-thinking). Now Rick Deckard keeps his thoughts to himself and both he and the film are infinitely more interesting for it.
This simple change creates a colder and lonelier place. The original was dark; it now is ravishingly dark. Los Angeles in 2019 is a fabulous hell of skyscrapers and monolithic Fritz Lang factories, jammed with mixed race peasants from thirties Charlie Chan movies. The sky is cluttered with belching aircraft and floating neon advertisements. It never stops raining on the cramped and seedy streets, and virtually everyone smokes short, nasty-looking cigarettes that discharge a thick fog of white.
This cut also reveals far less of Ford than the original. He is haggard; he seems utterly confused and depressed throughout. There is something going on in his head, but it is never fully understood. And that is good. It makes the overall film much more brooding and interesting. It’s the height of noir.
The story arc and plot remain intact, but with a noticeable veer off to side in the latter part of the film. Deckard’s assignment: to track down rogue replicants (crazed androids) and “retire” them. They have escaped from the “Outer-World” to force those who engineered them to change their scheduled date of obsolesce. The story line has been tightened, however, resulting in a fading of the differences between Deckard and the six genetically engineered fugitives that he is hired to terminate. Our doubts are now sharpened about the flawed hero.
Scott supplies fresh and sensational evidence that he may not be all he seems, by inserting a creamy black-and-white dream sequence so wildly removed from Deckard’s own reality that it implies a manufactured memory. This shocking supposition adds an interesting edge to Deckard, as well as to his developing relationship with the melancholic replicant (or is she?) Rachael. Compared to the original, their chemistry is alarming and desperate rather than romantic.
The closing scene of FINAL CUT lends a clue to Deckard’s true nature. It was removed from the original and replaced by a manufactured “happy ending” demanded by the furious studio (who thought that this film would be more like Raiders of the Lost Ark than a futuristic Big Sleep). It provides the ambivalence to the concept that Deckard is also a replicant, and thus will eventually be hunted down as well,by another Blade Runner. He and Rachael step into the elevator at his apartment building. The door slams. FTB.