Blade Runner: The Final Cut at the Ziegfeld

I am going this evening to see my favorite sci-fi movie at my favorite movie theater with my favorite movie buddy.

I’ll update this later . . .


Blade Runner Update October 11, 2007 10:42pm:

First the good news: The movie looks fantastic. As ahead of their time as the retro-future effects were back in 1982, they still look great today: They pop off the screen (and the Ziegfeld is a pretty big screen). The color is wonderful, the perception of depth, the visceral sense of living in an over-polluted, never stops raining dystopian Los Angeles works even better than before.

Whatever digital work that was done on the film print is just marvelous. Even the opening green tree logo that scans line by line looks fantastic. All in all, the technical work was tremendous.

The Sound is also worth noting: Its crystal clear; the sound effects and the darkly gorgeous Vangelis soundtrack are wonderful — beautiful, brilliantly rendered, dramatically enhancing the film. It also sounded as if additional Vangelis music was added here and there (short clips/segues). I have owned the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack for years, and its simply a must have.

Now for the not so good news:

I first saw the movie while working in the campus cinema at Stony Brook as an undergrad; must have seen it 5 or 6 times the first weekend (showtimes: 7, 9:30 and 12) then another a few more times at a campus Sci-Fi festival. The version I fell in love with had the  hard boiled film noir Harrison Ford voice over — and its not in the Final Cut.

As much as purists claim the film is better off without it, I have to disagree. First, it fills in some details that the complex narrative was otherwise missing. If you do not know the book, there is a complexity to the future world that the movie alludes to, but does not cleanly explain. Second, it creates a void — there are long moments where the voice over is simply not there — and needs to be. Lastly, it humanizes the main character, as he his struggles with himself as a Blade Runner.

As to the ending . . . Not much of a spoiler alert, as this has been written about plenty — but if you don’t want to know, stop reading here.







Is Deckard a replicant?

Director Ridley Scott has always argued he was. The Unicorn scene, plus the origami at the end certainly implies as much.

I could give you dozens of arguments why Deckard isn’t a replicant — he gets the shit beat out of him constantly, the other replicants would recognize him as one, he quit his job, he’s a drunk . . .

Rather than go down that road, its simply easier to say that Phillip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, wrote him as a human. In the book, Deckard takes and passes the Voigt-Kampff test.

Between Ridley Scott, a director whose work looks beautiful, but has trouble telling a great story, and Dick, who was all about creating wildly compelling narratives, I have to go with PKD.

And as my friend Ralph argues so eloquently in the comments, the movie loses much of its appeal once the main character is no longer a person seeking redemption, trying to find his humanity. Instead, it becomes a story about the interaction of biorobotic devices.

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  1. Ralph Sevush commented on Oct 11

    I’ve been looking forward to “BR:Final Cut” for some time, since its one of my favorite movies. But let’s be clear… Ridley Scott has to be the most over-rated director of his generation. Over the last 30 years, he has turned out maybe 3 or 4 good to great films, and then went back and sabotaged his best one.

    Scott started out as a set designer, and graduated to directing commercials in the 1960s-70s, so his style is exquisite in its sense of design and photography. But with regard to real storytelling, not so much.

    His first feature, THE DUELLISTS (1977), was a dirge-like contemplation of honor during the Napoleanic era. Its sonorous tone overlies exquisite visuals.

    But his next film ALIEN (1979), is the only unqualifiedly great movie on his resume. The quintessential “monster in the haunted house” movie dressed up as SF, it was both a huge critical and commercial success. This one gave him the clout to make, and then survive, his next project.

    BLADE RUNNER (1982) was a bomb upon its initial release but has, over time, become a cult classic and is now considered one of the greatest and most influential films of the last 25 years. And it certainly is my personal farorite of all his movies. The Vangelis score is hauntingly beautiful.

    The design is as influential as any movie ever made… until MATRIX, anyway. But most importantly, the themes of the story resonate in harmony with its images. What does it mean to be human? If you lack compassion, empathy, and emotional connection to others… are you really human? And if you have those things, does it matter what the origin of your biology is?

    Phillip K. dick wrote DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP partly as a critique of the “I was only following orders” defense of WWII-era Germans. Dick told us that we are each responsible for our own humanity, and the day we let the least of us die out of our own disinterest or lack of courage, we have surrendered that humanity.
    Of course, Scott completely sabotages this theme in the “Director’s Cut” (and now again in the “final cut”) by giving more evidence that Deckard is, himself, a Replicant, thereby rendering the entire point moot. Instead of a story of redemption, where a person reclaims his humanity by recognizing the humanity in others, Scott turns it into a story of a Replicant who learns to feel. Well, who cares if a non-existent fantasy construct called a “Replicant” learns to freakin’ feel, Ridley? Why don’t you say something about people, instead, you schmuck?!

    The DIRECTOR’S CUT is actually worse than the theatrical release in other ways, too. In addition to adding the “Deckard is a replicant” theme, he has stripped out the voice-over narration, which furthered the movie’s “film noir” style, and its absence resonates throughout this cut. And while the movie didn’t need the “happy ending” the studio originally insisted on, the dark ending you are now left with instead is not at all satisfying, and it removes the final images of blue sky that rewarded and mirrored Deckard’s emotional transformation. These changes just indicate how little Scott understood what was great about his movie in the first place.

    After BLADE RUNNER flopped, Scott churned out 3 stylish misfires: LEGEND (1985), SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987) and BLACK RAIN (1989). LEGEND was a total flop, but SOMEONE and, to a lesser degree, BLACK RAIN were moderate commercial successes. These lead up to his getting hired on to direct THELMA & LOUISE (1991). T & L was both a commercial and critical success, and is an excellent film, but Scott was brought into this project fairly late in its development, and was just a director-for-hire on this one. Still, an excellent job, even if not entirely a “Ridley Scott” picture.

    But he followed up T&L with 3 pieces of Scottian crap: 1492 (1992) ,WHITE SQUALL (1996) and G.I. JANE (1997). While JANE was a huge hit (echoing his themes of militaristic women from ALIEN and T&L), I found it relentlessly ridiculous and nearly unwatchable.

    He hit the next one out of the park, though, with GLADIATOR (2000) … a blockbuster/Oscar winner. But, despite its unmistakable grandeur and Russell Crowe’s star-making performance, the film can be read as profoundly stupid and cynical (a view i share). Still, it remains one of his best works (which says all you need to know about Scott’s career output).

    HANNIBAL (2001) was a hit, too, based largely on its status as a long awaited sequel to the terrific SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The critics lambasted it for the most part, and, while opulent, it is also repugnant and unengaging.

    BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001) was next and joined SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, G.I. JANE and HANNIBAL into the group of glossy but inept hits from the witless Brit. Despite its box office performance and a generally positive critical reaction, too, BHD seems to me more akin to Scott’s cinematic misfires like 1492 and WHITE SQUALL.
    BHD is basically a Bruckheimer film, where handsome young men perform heroic deeds at great speed and high volume. It left me totally uninvolved, unmoved, and not particularly entertained. I was, however (like the goofy-looking soldier in the film), deafened by the din. Perhaps it could play on a triple bill with GI JANE and THE DUELLISTS as a meditation on the nature of martial honor… as told through a series of lovely photographs, narrated by a moron. Still, BHD has been Scott’s last hit to date.

    MATCHSTICK MEN (2003) is a poorly constructed “Sting” con-man movie with an extremely annoying performance by Nick Cage. It failed to find an audience.

    KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005), however, is pure Ridley, returning to the epic scale of GLADIATOR. Unfortunately, Orlando Bloom is no Russell Crowe, so it ends up an entertaining donut… yummy around the edges with a hole in the middle. Again, coherence is not his strongsuit, but this is probably Scott’s best film since GLADIATOR. Yet it, too, couldn’t make back its huge budget domestically (though it ultimately paid off internationally).

    With A GOOD YEAR (2006), Ridley tried his hand at a romantic “dramedy”; watching Ridley Scott try to pull off this type of light entertainment is like watching a hippo trying to hula, which was not a sight anyone cared to see. A big flop.

    Lastly, this year’s AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007) is another of his “gun for hire” projects that has a mixed critical buzz going on before its November opening. It could be pure hack work or a return to respectability. We shall see.
    Whatever Ridley Scott’s multitudinous flaws, he is at least an artist with a point of view. He has themes that he explores in his films (with varying degrees of success), and his films have a personal quality to them, a “hand-crafted” quality, that bespeaks the presence of an artistic vision.

    At this point, though, Ridley Scott seems to me an idiot savant… a total genius with a camera, but nearly incapable of creating anything approaching credible human drama, except only occasionally and only by accident.

  2. rob commented on Oct 11

    Enjoy, I have the prior authorized edition, the new version will never get to my neck of the woods.

    If you are a movie fan living in the sticks just plain sucks.

  3. jim commented on Oct 11

    pretty sweet rainy day for seeing it in nyc, right? you should run around dumbo eating hot noodles afterwards.

  4. SPECTRE of Deflation commented on Oct 11

    Barry, have a kick-ass time! I can’t wait for your critique.

  5. esb commented on Oct 11

    Ralph Sevush …

    Interesting presentation/analysis my friend.

    Now for the hard part, you must answer this decade’s hard question.

    Will the 2006 film Deja Vu, trashed by so many at the time of its release, ultimately attain “cult status.”

    I’ll take my answer on the air (or here, if you so desire).

  6. Captain Ned commented on Oct 11

    Already pre-ordered the 5-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition, so I can figure out what version really is the best.

  7. trail commented on Oct 11

    OT, but since we are on pop culture, I just downloaded the new radiohead album? cd? that you mentioned a few posts before. Since I heard that they were getting an average of 4 pounds, I decided to be generous and gave them 5 pounds – after the fee to the retail front end, 5 pounds and 45 pence. Not a great radiohead fan but this is one of the most subversive things I have heard about in a while so I had to support it. And it’s really pretty good…

  8. David commented on Oct 11

    Berry my favorite part is “Batty- I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
    Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
    I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
    All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
    Time to die.”

    Just about as good as Shakespeare:

    “What is he whose grief
    Bears such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow
    Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand
    Like wonder-wounded hearers?” Hamlet the Dane

  9. Barry Ritholtz commented on Oct 11

    Amazingly, much of that was written by Rutger Hauer !

  10. PrahaPartizan commented on Oct 12

    David, I couldn’t agree more with your observation. I’ve always felt that getting to that scene in the movie justified all of the rest of the time spent having watched the movie, even if the rest of it had been a disaster, which it was not. What better way to ask the question of how can one differentiate between replicant and human.

  11. Mike Nomad commented on Oct 12


    Well, I’m jealous. Getting to see it big, in focus, etc.

    That said, however, I have to disagree about the narration: The film is better without it. When you talk about the VO filling in the missing pieces, the problem is, there is nothing missing. Sort of. What I don’t need is a big signpost, “WARNING: Bryant is a racist sleaze-bag @ssh@le!”

    What is missing, when the VO is in place, are some of the few opportunities in the film for the background to come to the fore. That’s when a film becomes immersive. All of the radio/scanner chatter that pops up in the office, speaks volumes, along with the occasional bits of new found silence.

    Scott’s riff about Deckard being a Replicant never held any ground with me. The film doesn’t support that premise. What I think it has always supported is the idea that Deckard has a problem thinking of Replicants as nothing more than a really slick bit of hardware. He refuses to think of Replicants the same way that a lot of America thought about black slaves brought in to do the work: They are nothing more than tools, and not capable of being _truly_ human. With Deckard’s emerging perspective, we have the other half necessary to balance what Bryant represents early in the film.

    The fulcrum becomes the Voigt-Kampff test. Deckard sees through the scam the same way some people see a polygraph test for what it is. The V-K test doesn’t really tell you if someone is human or not. Rather, it tells you if someone has an overly/non-standard emotional response to a situation. I’ve always wondered: In 2019, does PETA = Replicant? A polygraph test is no lie detector. It is an elevated emotional response detector. They are like voodoo, meaning, if you buy into the trip, you are at the mercy of the ride.

    The significance of the Unicorn Dream? Simple. What makes Deckard so good at his job is his ability to empathize “That Blade Runner Magic.” The Unicorn dream shows how Deckard is getting in sync with the Replicants. Don’t forget, Gaff (maker of Unicorn figurine) shows up at the end of the movie. As an aside, I’ve always thought it interesting that Gaff never stepped in. Obviously he was there a while: He gives Deckard his gun back.



  12. Ralph Sevush commented on Oct 12

    The only reason for the unicorn scene being reinserted is to set up Gaff’s leaving of the origami unicorn at the end. It is there to say, “i know your dreams. I’ve seen your file”. Unicorns have nothing to do with the replicants. they are not “magic” computers… they are “physical”, as Batty tells Sebastian.

    The unicorn scene serves no other logical purpose in the narrative, and supports what Scott has himself said about his conception of Deckard as a replicant.

    Gaff leaves the unicorn at his apartment after entering it (remember, Deckard’s door is open when he returns), to say, “I’ve given you your gun. I’ve given you your girl. Now i’ll give you a chance to run. But i know who you are and i’ll be coming.”

    When Deckard nods at the end, he is saying, “yes, i get. I’ll be ready”.

    Trying to read other abstract interpretations onto these scenes, in opposition to what the director has said he intended, is certainly possible, but the “deckard is a replicant” theme is certainly a reasonable interpretation of what he’s put forth, and as such, is subject to criticism.

  13. Ralph Sevush commented on Oct 12

    Also, in response to ESB’s comment about DEJA VU. I inadvertantly left out that most recent flop. No, i don’t see “cult” status in its future, any more than i do for WHITE SQUALL. However, GI JANE seems to have developed camp appeal amongst some of my gay friends.

  14. Ralph Sevush commented on Oct 12

    Oh, and about the narration:

    I think it was originally overused for expositional purposes, and i think cutting it back was a good idea. However, the cutting out of all narration damages the “film noir” atmosphere the film otherwise tries to establish. It could’ve been used simply as a framing device,at the beginning and the end, establishing the story from Deckard’s point of view, and enhancing the noir-ish elements.

  15. David S. commented on Oct 14


    Agree with you about Ridley’s films and his problems as a director. He’s an awesome window dresser with a few lovely tricks up his sleeve, but he’s a second rate storyteller.

    Black Rain uses Scott’s visual fetishes – digital billboards and colored lights flashing against a rainy, dark, overcrowded, 21st century Osaka (Scott said that Tokyo served as an inspiration for his 2017 Los Angeles in BR). But it’s an awful movie.

    And BR fans can’t miss the shot of the palace interior in Gladiator, which is an overt reference to Tyrell corp’s massive windowed headquarters overlooking Los Angeles.

    I’m in the camp of the original poster who actually prefers the voice over, as sloppy a voice-over actor as Ford is.

    There is simply no way Deckard is a replicant. The narrative does not support it.

    Just on example (of dozens). Why does Gaff encourage Deckard – with his chicken oragami – if he knows Deckard is a replicant? Wouldn’t sending a replicant after one of their own be a disaster waiting to happen? And if Gaff found out later in the film, wouldn’t he try to take Deckard off the case?

    And I know there has been a lot of debate about the unicorn scene, but I think it’s completely ridiculous. Out of all the implanted dreams that would verify Deckard as a replicant, why that one? It’s as if Scott had this vision in his head that he just had to put in there because it looks cool – constructing the world of “Legend” a decade before he got to make that film. Kind of like a jazz musician who must insert a be-bop riff into a simple funk tune just to show off. It’s techinically impressive, but it just doesn’t work.

    And I don’t care what Scott says about Ford’s reaction in the end – and how Scott tries to retrofit it in his interviews for this new release. I don’t buy that Ford’s understanding nod is him thinking, “Yes, I get it now. I’m not human and it’s time for me to go on the run from you, Gaff.”

  16. Eric commented on Oct 18

    One theme of the movie not mentioned above is that of exploitation of
    humans by humans, on the basis of which I quite disagree with both the
    reviews linked above. There are many kinds of exploitation, such as
    economic or sexual, slavery being the extreme forms, also on the basis
    of race. Each of the replicant characters experiences some form of
    exploitation in the movie–I’m sure you can think of many examples, but
    here’s an interesting one: the scene near the end where Harrison Ford is
    kissing the special almost-human replicant lady while still holding his
    gun in one hand. He says, “Do you love me?” or something like that…
    what would you say if someone asked you that while holding a gun? (I
    found that scene quite creepy.)

    With this in mind, the issue about whether Ford’s character is a
    replicant becomes much more interesting. If he is not a replicant, then
    the movie is merely about humans exploiting sub-humans or
    non-humans–not so interesting, since for example most people accept
    exploitation of farm animals. Moreover it is well-known that people
    committing acts of racism or exploitation dehumanize their victims to
    avoid incurring emotional trauma themselves (and conversely, woe to the
    cattle rancher who begins to humanize his cows!). Along these lines, the
    events of the movie could have the unfortunate interpretation of
    “justified” racial exploitation, namely in a setting where the victims
    are human-like and yet not human!

    But if Ford IS a replicant, then the movie is no longer just
    humans-exploiting-replicants and has the potential to become an
    exploration of the psychology of present-day human-on-human
    exploitation. Or to put it another way: Ford the racist exploiter
    realizes that he has something in common with his victims, and gives up
    his former life of persecution in order to go live with them, take up
    their cause, etc. Or another: there turns out to be at least one way
    that replicants are “like us”: they also exploit each other.

    It is one thing to watch people being exploited when you don’t identify
    with them, and quite another when you do. The audience spends the whole
    movie identifying with Harrison Ford, watching him pursue these
    murderous, perverted, sick and insane criminals who for the audience are
    the only representatives of an exploited underclass. Then a revelation:
    we find out that the leading lady is a replicant, even though she seems
    human. Then another revelation: the leader of the criminal gang is
    raised to the level of hero by virtue of his compassion (he saves Ford)
    and his poetic love of life, two essential human qualities. The final
    revelation: our human protagonist (Ford) with whom we identify is not
    human at all–he is a replicant!

    What a clever way to get the audience to walk a mile in the shoes of the
    “others”. And how else could you accomplish that? If they knew from the
    start that the protagonist belonged to the exploited class, they would
    never identify with him in the first place–unless they are themselves
    exploited. But by now, if I have convinced you, then you know that the
    target audience for this story is not the exploited.

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