Friday, September 22, 2017

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT (Ridley Scott, 1982 and 2007)

Four artificial yet human-like drone workers known as replicants escape from laboring on a planet colony to running from the law in 2019 Los Angeles. The replicants, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), are marked for death--or retirement, as it’s called in director Ridley Scott’s science fiction film BLADE RUNNER. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a weary policeman in the Blade Runner unit who is tasked with hunting down and executing these runaways. Although he harbors no sympathy for the creations of the Tyrell Corporation, his view of them becomes complicated when he meets Rachel (Sean Young), the latest replicant iteration and one that can pass even more convincingly as a real person.

BLADE RUNNER transports the world of mid-20th century film noir several decades ahead. With blazing neon signs and massive advertisements cluttering the polluted, rain-battered skyline, Scott’s vision, which itself owes a debt to METROPOLIS, has essentially defined how the future is expected to look on film. THE MATRIX and GHOST IN THE SHELL are just two examples of many that derive their looks from this seminal work. Thirty-five years later the images in BLADE RUNNER still dazzle with visual imagination in addition to being fundamental to establishing the oppressive atmosphere that permeates the story. The detective, his targets, and most of the individuals with whom they come into contact feel choked by the dystopian lives into which they’ve been delivered. Their environment reflects the restrictions occupying their minds.

Vangelis’ synth-laden score is evocative of a foreseen time in which the distinction between man and man-made begin to blur. Electronic melodies emerge from machine-like clanging and burbling, the human or human-like straining to rise above the mechanistic. BLADE RUNNER’s score also expresses the weight of the atmosphere, bringing to bear the darkness, fullness, and brittleness of the strange advances that have become commonplace.

In their loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples raise questions as relevant as ever regarding technology and how it affects our philosophies, our economies, our interactions, and the environment. BLADE RUNNER is more of a canvas for sketching out ideas for further consideration than a deeply argued text, yet it seems strikingly prescient in anticipating how modern life is becoming more inhuman.

Five versions of BLADE RUNNER have been available on home video: the U.S. theatrical cut, the international theatrical cut, the 1992 so-called director’s cut, the workprint, and 2007’s THE FINAL CUT. Despite being called the director’s cut, Scott was not as involved with that version, making THE FINAL CUT the best realization of his vision for the film. The obsessive may want to track down the other cuts or read up on the differences, but this version should serve most well.

Grade: A

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