Blade Runner Review

“I find the story to be so slow that it’s detrimental to the rest of the wonderful things that are presented.”

Blade Runner is a movie that I would say as a fairly high barrier to entry. Now I know this movie gets a lot of praise and the word “masterpiece” has been used more than a few times, but that’s exactly my point. I remember when I first got into watching movies, I was afraid to broaden my horizons because of movies like Blade Runner. If you had told me that Blade Runner is a cool movie about a dude hunting robots I would have been all in, but I wasn’t told that. Instead I heard a lot of talk about how Blade Runner is the best sci-fi movie, and a lot of discussion of how deep every single frame of every single scene is. This created this strange stigma in my mind where I was almost afraid to watch it. Before I even knew what Blade Runner was it had been built up so much in my in that I couldn’t work up the courage to watch what everyone was calling one of the greatest movies ever made. I don’t know if I’m alone in thinking all of this, but Blade Runner can be a pretty daunting film for those who are knew to watching movies. Another barrier to entry is the simple question: “Which version do a watch?”. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a different cut of Blade Runner, and that leads to a lot of feelings of overwhelming nature. You know that you’re in for a penny in for a pound (and by a pound I mean about ten hours of your life, give or take) if you even want to dip your toes in the water that is Blade Runner so a lot of people skip it entirely. Anyway what I’m trying to say is that Blade Runner, for a lot of people (myself included) isn’t a fun movie to watch. It’s seen as a chore that has to be done if you want to have any ‘street cred’ in any online movie forum. And I have seen Blade Runner before, a few times actually, and I’ve always had the same question pop into my mind: “This is the movie everyone goes nuts over?!”.

Anyway with the new movie coming out, I decided to go back and watch Blade Runner. And funny enough, I ran into the exact same problem I outlined above: I didn’t know which cut to watch. So I said fuck it and am watching them all (well, at least 3 of them). Everyone knows what Blade Runner is about (and if you don’t, it’s about a dude who hunts robots) so let’s just get into the review(s).

Theatrical Cut

I figured why not start at the bottom and work our way up, so last night I watched the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner. I had never seen the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, and I’m going to be honest with you: It was kind of a mess. I know now why there are so many cuts of this movie if the theatrical cut turned out this inconsistent. Blade Runner is just full of weird, very amateur mistakes that definitely should not be present in a theatrically released film, let alone a movie from the dude who directed Alien. One of the issues I had was with the very apparent use of ADR, to the point that I was wondering if some dialogue was supposed to be voiceover. Deckard will be talking to a dude and we can clearly see that his mouth isn’t moving, but the words of Harrison Ford still fill our ears. I don’t understand how Ridley Scott could see this and go “Oh yeah, this great. send this one to the printer” (but I guess he didn’t since we still have two cuts of the film to go). This weird ADR only becomes more confusing because there are actual voiceovers that happen in this movie. Much like the detective noire films of yesteryear, Deckard narrates his life in a way that makes things seem a little more dark and brooding than they are. This is fine, and I actually liked the tone that these narrations set, but the problem I had with lot of them were their placement. We’d get a voiceover, then there would be none for the next 20 minutes. We’d think that we’re done with that gimmick, but then Harrison Ford would start talking again; but this time he would be explaining things that happened in the last scene. It’s as if he was holding our hand through this experience, and it made things really confusing because we were hearing about some things but seeing others. And what bothers me is this isn’t the only sound-related issue I noticed with Blade Runner. Very few of the sound effects actually sound good (most sound choppy as though they are being played in “slow motion”), and in general the film’s audio wasn’t mastered properly. Conversations that fluctuate in volume, whispers then LOUD NOISES, it was all kind of annoying. To add onto this, I found the editing to be really all over the place as well. A big thing I noticed was reaction shots being used from different scenes. It’s as if they shot for however long, then in post Ridley Scott changed everything and instead of reshoots they just used what they had. This leads to the film feeling very disjointed, and I don’t understand how I was supposed to take it seriously when it seems like the people involved didn’t. There were also continuity errors (though I feel that goes without saying at this point) that were mainly linked with special effects. One shot a character would be spewing blood, the next shot they’re fine, the next shot they are back to being mortally wounded: It really is a mess.

One thing that also loses me when it comes to Blade Runner is just how fucking slow it can get. For a large part of this movie, nothing happens. Harrison Ford is sent to kill these replicants, and he does the job in like ten minutes at the end. The rest of the movie is just him insulting this chick who works for the dude who made the replicants. And I understand that there’s a lot going on with the conflict within Deckard because he’s falling in love with the one thing he is paid to kill, and there’s also a sub-plot of Deckard possibly being a replicant, and there is also some detective stuff that happens; but what I’m trying to say it’s all pretty fucking dull. But luckily there is a lot in Blade Runner to keep you occupied while you wait for plot to happen. One of those things is the great performances given in the film. Blade Runner is a very bleak film, therefore the performances are what I would call refined. There is very little extravagance here, just sadness and billboards. A lot of the replicants in the film are said to have no emotions (at least at their inception), so you would think this would lead to some very wooden performances, luckily the actors either didn’t get the memo or Ridley Scott just didn’t give a shit. The two ‘main’ villains, Pris and Roy Batty (played by Daryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer respectively), really set the tone for the this world. They reminded me almost of The Joker and Harley Quinn; He’s crazy and she loves him for it. Daryl Hannah does a great job of playing the batshit Pris, and doing so in a way that makes you despise her. But really the cake has to go to Rutger Hauer who plays Roy Batty, an emotionless robot, with so much intensity and emotion. Through Hauer’s performance we can definitely feel how much Batty just wants an answer for everything. We feel his desperation, his willingness to stop at nothing before he finds out why. On the other side of things you have Harrison Ford who, surprise surprise, plays Harrison Ford in this movie. That’s right, you ever wonder what Indiana Jones would be like in space? Well that’s Han Solo, dummy. But if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Indiana Jones killed robots, then Deckard is your answer. Deckard’s love-interest, Rachael (played by Sean Young), is surprisingly the only replicant who is devoid of emotions. And I say surprisingly because she didn’t even know she was a replicant. Once again I’m leaning into hyperbolic territory here (I know she cries like twice), but for the most part her performance is about as enchanting as that of the future-blimp that we see from time to time. And that’s the problem that I had with the rest of the performances as well, they all kind of felt wooden. I admit that the world does feel populated, but by what? A bunch of mannequins? I was half-expecting Will Smith to pop out from a street asking Fred why he’s all the way out here.

But easily the best thing about Blade Runner, the reason why I don’t completely hate this movie, is the world that is presented. Blade Runner is such a well-crafted world, that it makes all of those other things so much worse when you think about it. So much time went into thinking about every single aspect of this world, how technology works, how people speak, the abundance of advertising; and then somebody fucks up the audio? It’s a travesty to be completely honest. The tone of this film is so unique, like a blend of sci-fi and noire, that you can’t help but be drawn in when it starts. Every scene has something that can hold your attention, even if it’s something as obscure as a stylized umbrella that an extra is holding in the background of a scene; that’s how well thought-out this film is. Ridley Scott obviously toiled and slaved over every aspect of this fucking movie, and it shows. Blade Runner is literally like moving art. Even shit like the soundtrack is so carefully crafted and does so so much to further immerse you into this world. The beautiful blend of classic film cues that you would find in old noire films, as well as the inclusion of ‘futuristic’ synth-based sounds is breathtaking. Not only does this wonderfully encapsulate what this film is going for, it’s downright beautiful to listen to. Blade Runner is like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ of cool shit; and the best part is, the cool shit is everywhere! You’re always winning when you watch Blade Runner, but that doesn’t mean that all of that other stuff is excused. Like I said, I almost makes all of the other ‘sins’, if you will, worse. It’s like someone took a van Gogh and wiped their ass with it. Sure you can still appreciate the art, but you have to look through a lot of shit to do it.

I give the Theatrical Cut of Blade Runner a C

Director’s Cut

Nine years later a second cut of Blade Runner is released, this one called the Director’s Cut. I’m not sure why it took so long to accomplish what amounts to a handful of changes, but hey, you can’t rush a genius. So what exactly is different in the director’s cut of Blade Runner? Well first of all, all of the Deckard voiceovers were scrapped. This change has pros and cons in my opinion, but first let’s talk about the cons. Blade Runner is trying to be a ‘future noire’ film. The voiceovers in the original cut of the film instantly made you recognize what it was going for. “Oh, it’s like those old detective movies. I get it” one would say when watching Blade Runner for the first time. Because of this simple association, you would instantly recognize what the film was going for and set your expectations accordingly. But if I’m being honest, that’s the only con and it’s pretty weak at that. Removing the voiceovers was a smart move in my opinion because it allowed Blade Runner more freedom. In the director’s cut of the film, Blade Runner throws you into a story that has already begun to unfold. We meet Deckard, who is in the middle of his life, and we get introduced to the case, which has already taken the life (at least the fun part of life) away from one Blade Runner. In the original cut of the film, Blade Runner opted to kind of hold your hand through all of this. Masking itself as a callback to old film genres, Blade Runner used the narration to explain to you a lot of things we were seeing on screen. This made the world kind of lose it’s magic, because you were constantly being shown how the sausage was made. The director’s cut of Blade Runner is kind of like jumping into a pool, as opposed to wading in slowly like the original cut wants you to do. I understand why this change was made because like I said earlier, the world in Blade Runner is really well-built. Never once was I scratching my head wondering what a certain object’s purpose was, because everything is so intuitive that you know by context clues. This way of presenting the story makes the world of Blade Runner feel more alive, and that is a no-brainer move for this film; you always put your best foot forward.

This change kind of created a domino-effect throughout the film that I couldn’t help but notice. A change had taken place between the two cuts of Blade Runner, and now I could almost here the film say “I am what I am; deal with it”. Ridley Scott obviously had so much faith in the world he had created (and rightfully so) that he didn’t want anything to muddy that experience. There are even some changes that directly show how much Scott was jerking himself over how great his world was. Compare the beginnings of both of these cuts of Blade Runner and you will notice one thing: the director’s cut has a shitload more flying scenes. Instead of an edit taking these characters where they need to go, we have to watch almost every inch of the journey. And of course these shots just so happen to showcase the immaculate world that Ridley Scott worked so hard on. If you didn’t tell me which cut was which, it would be pretty obvious that this cut of Blade Runner is the one Ridley Scott wanted. It has his fingerprints all over it, and all of those fingers are pointing at cool shit going “Look what I did!”.

The director’s cut of Blade Runner still has a lot of issues (like ADR, editing, and sound), but one thing I found interesting was the inclusion of a brand new scene. As Deckard sits at his piano contemplating how shit life is, a scene of a unicorn fades in and then out. Now this may seem like a weird, out of place scene that should reinforce my argument that the editing in this film is shit, but what it does is completely change the ending of the film. At the end of Blade Runner, Deckard leaves his apartment with Rachael and finds an origami unicorn on the floor of the hallway. In the original cut of the film, this is just supposed to signify that Rachael will always be hunted by Gaff, at least until he runs out of cool origami figures to make. But with the inclusion of Deckard’s unicorn dream, this origami craft means something else. Earlier in the film Deckard talks about Rachael having memories implanted to make her life seem full, and he recites a few key moments form her past to prove this point. The inclusion of the unicorn in Deckard’s mind hints (well, “HINTS”) that Deckard may be suffering the same fate. Now the origami unicorn means two things: I’m coming for you, and you’re a replicant. Why Gaff chose such a strange place and medium to convey this point to Deckard is beyond me, but I’m just some idiot on the internet.

I give the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner a B

The Final Cut

So 25 years after the theatrical cut of Blade Runner was released, we were blessed with The Final Cut. So what’s different about the final cut? If you’re comparing it to the director’s cut, then not much. But if you compare it to the theatrical cut, then it’s about the same as the director’s cut. Let’s be real here: the final cut of Blade Runner is just a prettier version of the director’s cut. That being said, it was noticeably prettier in a lot of different ways; the first being the general look of the film. The final cut of Blade Runner essentially turns up the brightness on a lot of the scenes. This allows us to actually enjoy the detail and beauty that went into  a lot of the smaller pieces of the set. These changes are most notable during the exterior shots of Tyrell’s tower/pyramid. During these shoots we now get to see a level of detail that was masked by darkness before. Another change (that very well could be placebo) was a lot of the flying effects in the film looking more polished. I’m not sure if there actually were any touch-ups done to clean up these kind of dated effects or if the lighter appearance of the film played tricks on my eyes, but either way these effects look better than they ever did.

One thing that really surprised me was the care to go through and for the most part fix all of the issues I had with the previous two cuts of the film. Sure there are still some issues, but for the most part they are far less noticeable, and it is very obvious that they were addressed during the creation of this cut. First of all, a lot of the ADR was fixed. No longer do we see Deckard’s mouth moving for a full minute after he is done speaking. The worst offence in this regard in the previous two cuts of the film was Deckard’s conversation with the snake merchant, but I was surprised to see that the final cut made it so that the conversation actually looked as though it was taking place. The same goes for a lot of the sound effects and general mastering of the audio in the film; everything just seemed much more polished. Even some of the editing issues that I had were addressed. They weren’t fixed, but they were worked on. A big issue in this department that I had during the last two cuts was the scene in which Deckard is testing Rachael. There is a shot of Tyrell smiling, but it is painfully obvious that this shot was taken from another scene, to the point where you can actually see Deckard’s shoulder in the shot despite him now being across the room. This shot wasn’t removed (unfortunately), but it was altered to fit the scene better. It was cropped to remove the shoulder, and darkened to fit in with the rest of the scene. This may go unnoticed to some, but it was a welcome change in my eyes. Another change that I thought was a little strange, but not bad, was the inclusion of more gore. Starting with Roy Batty’s meeting with Tyrell, the film gets increasingly more violent. This wasn’t something that the movie needed in my opinion, but it also wasn’t a terrible addition.

I give the Final Cut of Blade Runner a B

And this is the problem I have with giving movies a grade. A ‘B’ to me, means that I liked a movie but didn’t love it. This isn’t true with Blade Runner because, to tell you the truth, I don’t really like it. I find the story to be so slow that it’s detrimental to the rest of the wonderful things that are presented. But there are things in Blade Runner that I love, mainly the world that is created before our eyes. So if you’re still reading this know that Blade Runner the movie I would give a C, but that doesn’t feel fair because of how much I love the world. Ratings give things such a finality when in reality there isn’t an actual final opinion on art. Our views on art evolve every second of every day, and in that regard even these reviews are pointless.

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