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BLADE RUNNER
5 Disc Ultimate Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah
Director: Ridley Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes, 110 Minutes (Workprint Version)
Release Date: December 18, 2007

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

Film **** (All Versions)

At the time of its release, no one had any suspicions as to how much of an impact Blade Runner would have on not simply the science fiction genre, but movies in general. The movie didn’t click with audiences initially, resulting in a disappointing take at the box office. And yet, Ridley Scott’s visionary film has gone onto become the quintessential cult movie of our time.

Star Wars was the first movie to change the way we experience movies, and Blade Runner was the first film to expand on that change. Ridley Scott had already proven to be a more than confident director in the sci-fi genre, having already directed Alien in 1979. In Blade Runner, Scott had crafted a film whose look and design would influence countless movies in the years that followed. The film’s production was a flawed one, but the end result would make for an enormous payoff…and then some.

Though the film is often labeled as a classic case of style over substance, the film does in fact have a strong story at its core. Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the film takes place in Los Angeles in the year 2019, where a robotic race known as Replicants have been rendered illegal in society following a bloody mutiny in an Off-World colony. Replicants, who were created specifically for the purpose of slave labor, are identical to humans in appearance, making them hard to identify.

Replicants, if detected, are to be retired (executed) on the spot. For that dirty work, the LAPD has its own special department of cops, known as blade runners. When five replicants have escaped after the Off-World colony mutiny, and are supposedly roaming the streets of L.A., the police request the service of ex-blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to track the escaped replicants and retire them.

The leader of the fugitive replicants, Batty (Rutger Hauer), is on a bloodthirsty quest to find his maker and urge him to give him and his fellow replicants more life. The whole purpose of the replicant revolt is quite simple; they have a life span of only four years. It becomes clear that the robotic beings have grown human like feelings and an appreciation of life that they are willing to do anything to keep on going.

Throughout the story, one thing is always clear when watching Blade Runner, the futuristic setting of L.A. is the star of the movie. From that riveting shot at the beginning of the film, showing a hovering police car flying alongside a motion billboard, just about every single shot involving the landscape of L.A. is nothing short of remarkable. If any single film was to impact the way set designs are used, this is unquestionably that film.

No other movie in history seems to have been recut and re-released more than this one. From my perspective, only one thing is proven from this, Blade Runner just keeps getting greater and greater over time. And this new 5-Disc Ultimate Edition is a fantastic opportunity for one to experience every single version of the film, giving one the chance to debate which cut is the definitive version.

I was most eager to revisit the original 1982 theatrical cut, which has never been available on DVD before. It’s the only version to include the voice over narration provided by Harrison Ford, making it more of a futuristic private eye tale. It was included only as a means to explain the story, since the studio feared that audiences would be lost otherwise. It was then cut out of the 1992 Director’s Cut, which made the film into a bold new film with an all-new feel to it.

At the heart of this release is the brand new Final Cut of the movie, which Ridley Scott himself has declared his official preferred version. His opinion of that is understandable, because it is, in fact, the absolute best version of Blade Runner you will ever come across. In this cut, not much as changed story-wise but the look and sound of the film is more incredible than ever.

But whichever version you go with, you simply can’t go wrong with the film at hand. Though with each new version it becomes more improved, Blade Runner itself will always be known as the film that broke new barriers for the science fiction genre. It’s Ridley Scott’s definitive masterpiece, and remains one of the most superior sci-fi films ever made.

Video **** (All Versions)

Warner has done a most tremendous job in restoring each individual print of this movie. The Final Cut edition is the most outstanding version of the lot, but the 1992 Director’s Cut as well as the Theatrical and International Theatrical Cuts are quite phenomenal to look at as well. To look at the original version, you’d swear that it wasn’t made 25 years ago…that’s how great it looks. The anamorphic picture is simply amazing in it’s superb detail. For a film that pretty much is devoid of daylight, the dark and rainy streets of L.A. are riveting to look at, in addition to all the eye-popping sets. No image flaws detected at all, making this one of the best restorations of any 80s film to ever appear on DVD.

Audio **** (All Versions)

What an accomplishment of sound this is! The 5.1 mix provides some of the most stunning sound you will ever hear in a single film, no matter which version of the film you are watching. From the jolt delivered by Vangelis’ brilliant score to the countless effects and action scenes to just about every single element of sound placed by the film’s one of a kind sound design. Again, The Final Cut edition is the most powerful of the presentations, but all versions come off strong!

Features ****

My oh my, where to begin? All I can tell you is that if you are able to get your hands on this 5-Disc Ultimate Edition, do it immediately. I’ll start off by saying that the packaging, a silver briefcase, is one of the best DVD packages I’ve ever come across. It’s a highly priced gift set, but worth every penny.

Disc One includes The Final Cut version. It features an introduction from Ridley Scott as well as three commentary tracks; one with Ridley Scott, the second features executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher, co-screenwriter David Peoples, producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine Haber. The third commentary features visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer.

Disc Two features the remarkable documentary titled “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner”, which is a most revealing and incredibly informative documentary that gets my vote for best making of documentary of the year. You will learn every single aspect of the film’s difficult production.

Disc Three includes the three additional cuts of the movie, the Theatrical Cut, the International Theatrical Cut, and the 1992 Director’s Cut. Each features an individual introduction by Ridley Scott.

Disc Four features an arsenal of extra features, divided into three sections. The first section-Inception, includes the featurettes “The Electric Dreamer: Remember Philip K. Dick”, “Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film” and “Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews”. The second section-Fabrication features the featurettes “Signs of the Times: Graphic Design”, “Fashion Forward: Wardrobe and Styling”, “Screen Tests: Rachael and Pris” and “The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth”. Also included are Deleted & Alternate Scenes. The third section-Longevity includes three promotional featurettes from 1982, a trailer gallery, Poster art conceptions, and two more featurettes; “Deck-a-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard” and “Nexus Generation: Fans and Filmmakers.

Disc Five is exclusive only to this release. It features the first ever video release of the rarely seen Pre-release Workprint, which features alternate footage, music and voice over work. The disc includes an intro by Ridley Scott and a commentary track by Paul M. Sammon, author of “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner”.

Also included in the gift set is a Motion Film Clip, a Spinner Vehicle Replica, a Miniature Unicorn, and Rare Art Works by Syd Mead and other visionary artists.

Summary:

Every year has its one standout DVD release, for me that release is the Blade Runner 5-Disc Ultimate Edition. The sci-fi classic which was ahead of its time has led to one of the most extravagant and excellent DVD packages of all time. It’s a must have for fans of the movie and DVD enthusiasts as well!

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