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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (****)

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe."

Seeing Blade Runner as a boy was like witnessing a fortune telling of my future. I knew when I first laid eyes on Rick Deckard, the laconic blade runner who hunts Replicants in dystopian Los Angeles circa 2019, I'd end up just like him in three specific ways. First, I would have a short haircut. (I actually had a variation of Harrison Ford's Caesar haircut for a while in the '90s.) Second, I would still be single in my 30's. (Kudos to me for keeping that dream alive.) Third and most importantly, like Deckard, I'd be willing to have sex with a robot. (If she looked like Sean Young, although I'm sure when they're eventually invented, fembots will be much hotter.)

The 1992 Director's Cut of Blade Runner has always been the definitive version for me. I've watched it at least a dozen times over the last 15 years. I've also seen the theatrical cut on video with the voice over and more upbeat ending. The harsher, colder, more impenetrable Director's Cut, even with its unicorn dream that Sir Ridley Scott thinks supposedly "proves" Deckard is a Replicant, resonates with me much more.

Deckard has never been a hero by any measure a traditional hero is defined. He shoots a Replicant in the back. He coldly and cruelly reveals to Rachael that all of her memories are implanted from Tyrell's niece, which means she's a Replicant. He then calls Rachael while he's on a case and asks her out even after the way he treated her. Worst of all is their "love scene", where he becomes alarmingly violent both physically and emotionally as he forces himself on Rachael.

The "love scene" is an example of just how vital the score by Vangelis is. Vangelis' haunting music may be the single most important component of Blade Runner. Without the score laid over the "love scene", for example, it would play much, much differently. You can replace the word "love" with "robot rape".

Personally, I still don't believe Deckard is a Replicant. It just doesn't make sense from what we're shown of him and how his few associates behave towards him in the movie. The arguments towards him being a Replicant -- Unicorn! He has red eyes in one shot! More unicorns! -- don't wash with me. Deckard being human -- in some ways being more cruel and dangerous than the robots he hunts -- is the way I prefer to view his character. It makes for a better, more resonant story than "Deckard was a robot all along!" Sir Ridley can insert all the unicorns he wants into his movie, but I'll never buy Rick Deckard is a robot. But the beauty of Blade Runner is that it's ambiguous enough for either interpretation.

After years of blundering about with the rights to the film, the 20th anniversary restoration of Blade Runner in 2002 was completely blown, but here now for the 25th anniversary is the Final Cut, which Sir Ridley promises is the definitive Blade Runner. Having finally seen the Final Cut, it really ain't all that different from the Director's Cut. It actually is just the Director's Cut with a few added shots here and there and some altered or added dialogue noticable only to nerds who know the lines by heart. (That'd be me.)

Here's what I noticed as new or different:

* Bryant giving a bit more information about Leon to Deckard.
* A couple of added shots of the spinner in the air as Deckard heads to the Tyrell building to Voight-Kampf Rachael.
* A shot of Deckard's car entering the garage of his apartment building.
* The death of Zhora has finally been fixed where it is no longer clearly a stuntman in the wig that Deckard shoots in the back and crashes through glass.
* The dialogue where Rachael asks Deckard what he would do if she ran is different. In the Director's Cut the lines are: "Would you come after me? Shoot me?" In the Final Cut the words are now "Hunt me?" To which Deckard replies in the Director's Cut: "No. But someone would." But the Final Cut, there's a new line in the middle: "No. I owe you one. But someone would."
* When Roy Batty confronts Tyrell, in the Final Cut he demands, "I want more life, father." Much more polite than in the Director's Cut: "I want more life, fucker."
(In both instances, I prefer the Director's Cut's dialogue.)

The pivotal, iconic, climactic dialogue from Roy Batty (invented on set by Rutger Hauer) thankfully remains untouched:

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've seen c-beams glitter in the dark of Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like... tears in rain."

It would have been lunacy to change anything about that scene; in a way the entire experience of watching the movie hinges on it.

Despite the minor additions and alterations, I'm glad to see the Final Cut is the same bleak, sad, difficult, and strangely moving Blade Runner I've loved for half my life. They just don't make 'em like that anymore. 

"Too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?"