Blade Runner (Director’s Cut)

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Los Angeles, November 2019, retired police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is detained by officer Gaff (Edward James Olmos) and brought to meet with his former supervisor, Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh). Deckard, whose job as a “Blade Runner” was to track down bioengineered beings known as replicants and “retire” (euphemism for the killing of replicants) them, is told by Bryant that several have come to Earth illegally. As Tyrell Corporation Nexus-6 models, they have only a four year lifespan and may have come to Earth to try to extend their lives.

Deckard watches a video of a Blade Runner named Holden (Morgan Paull) administering a “Voight-Kampff” test designed to distinguish replicants from humans based on their empathic response to questions. The subject of the test, Leon (Brion James), shoots Holden after Holden asks about Leon’s mother. Bryant wants Deckard to retire Leon and three other replicants; Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), and Pris (Daryl Hannah). Deckard initially refuses, but after Bryant ambiguously threatens him, he reluctantly agrees.

Deckard begins his investigation at the Tyrell Corporation to ensure that the test works on Nexus-6 models. While there, he discovers that Dr. Eldon Tyrell’s (Joe Turkel) assistant Rachael (Sean Young) is an experimental replicant who believes herself to be human. Rachael has been given false memories to provide an “emotional cushion”. As a result, a more extensive test is required to determine whether she is a replicant.

Events are then set into motion that pit Deckard’s search for the replicants against their search for Tyrell to force him to extend their lives. Roy and Leon go to the eye-manufacturing laboratory of Chew (James Hong) to find a way to meet with Tyrell. Although he is unable to give them access to Tyrell directly, he divulges, in fear of his life, the identity of J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), a gifted designer who works closely with Tyrell. Rachael visits Deckard at his apartment to prove her humanity by showing him a family photo, but after Deckard reveals that her memories are only implants taken from a real person, she drops the photograph and leaves his apartment in tears. Pris then follows the lead obtained from Chew and gains the confidence of Sebastian outside his apartment, where he lives with manufactured companions. He asks if she is hungry and offers food and shelter for the night. She accepts.

While searching Leon’s apartment, Deckard finds a photo of Zhora and a synthetic snake scale that leads him to a strip club where Zhora works. Deckard retires Zhora and shortly after is told by Bryant to add Rachael to his list of retirements because she has disappeared from the Tyrell Corporation headquarters. Deckard spots Rachael in a crowd but is attacked by Leon. Rachael kills Leon using Deckard’s gun, and the two return to Deckard’s apartment, where he promises not to hunt her. Later they share an intimate moment; Rachael then tries to leave, but Deckard physically restrains her.

Arriving at Sebastian’s apartment, Roy tells Pris the others are dead. Sympathetic to their plight, Sebastian reveals that because of a genetic disorder that accelerates his aging, his life will also be cut short. Sebastian and Roy gain entrance into Tyrell’s secure penthouse, where Roy demands more life from his maker. Tyrell tells him that it is impossible. Roy confesses that he has done “questionable things” which Tyrell dismisses, praising Roy’s advanced design and accomplishments in his short life. Roy responds with “nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn’t let you into heaven for” and kisses Tyrell, then kills him. Sebastian runs for the elevator followed by Roy, who then rides the elevator down alone.

Upon entering Sebastian’s apartment, Deckard is ambushed by Pris, but manages to kill her just as Roy returns. Roy fights Deckard without using his full strength, chasing him through the building and ending up on the roof. In an attempt to escape, Deckard tries to jump to another roof, but ends up hanging from the rooftop. Roy makes the same jump with ease, and as Deckard’s grip loosens, Roy hoists him onto the roof, saving him. As his life runs out, Roy delivers a monologue about how his memories are about to be lost. Then he dies in front of Deckard, who watches silently. Gaff arrives and, referring to Rachael, shouts to Deckard, “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?” Deckard returns to his apartment to find Rachael sleeping in his bed. As they leave, Deckard finds a small tin-foil unicorn, a calling card left by his origami-making partner Gaff. Depending on the version, Deckard and Rachael either leave the apartment block to an uncertain future, or drive through an idyllic pastoral landscape.

REVIEW:

I’m probably going to get my sci-fi fan card revoked for saying this, but before tonight, I had never seen Blade Runner. Critics and fans alike hold this film in high esteem, even the book which it based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? by Philip K. Dick, has been called great. As we all know, sometimes great books don’t necessarily translate into great film, especially in alternate cuts, such as the director’s cut of this film.

What is this about?

In a smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles, blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is called out of retirement to snuff a quartet of escaped “replicants” — androids consigned to slave labor on remote planets — seeking to extend their short life spans. This version,  director Ridley Scott’s cut,  comes with a different ending and the omission of Ford’s narration, giving the film a different tone.

What did I like?

Plausability. Here we are in the year 2014, as many time travel and futuristic films have led us to believe, by now we should be getting ready to be overtaken by robot overlords who will scorch the earth and leave us with nothing but rations (the scenario that I think will happen sooner than we all think), or we’ll have flying cars, 80s cafes, and $10 gas. The jury is still out on that one. This film though, takes a more realistic approach to the future, 2019 is the exact year, as the robots, or replicants, aren’t shiny metal housekeepers, but rather synthetic human beings that feel many of the same things we do. I have always envisioned robots as this type of being, and I believe that when we finally get them, that’s what they’ll be.

Tme to die. Philip K. Dick called Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of Roy Batty as “the perfect Batty—cold, Aryan, flawless”. To get that kind of praise from the author is not something that every actor in a film can accomplish. As I watched Hauer’s performance, I can see how Dick was impressed. He gives a great performance, conveying the tragic figure as well as the charismatic, and psychotic, leader of the Nexus 6 group.

Creepy. There is just something about a dilapidated house overrun by toys that is just creepy. Everytime the film returned to this house there were more toys and the creep factor was multiplied even more. With the added pans over to this one Pinocchio-nose having toy, this thing was almost like a horror film, and a good one at that. Such a shame the toys weren’t really part of the plot, though.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I went into this dreading the runtime. Netflix led me to believe this was a 4 hr film, but apparently they just combined the runtime of the original and director’s cuts to come up with that figure. At just under 2 hrs, this still felt like it was nearly 4 because it moved along so slow and didn’t really seem like it as going anywhere. Eventually, it did, but that doesn’t change my mind about the pacing.

Unicorn. Apparently, unicorns play a pretty big role in the psyche of Harrison Ford’s character. In the director’s cut of the film, that point isn’t emphasized as much as it is said to be in the original. I am not really sure why this was cut out for the director’s cut, but it was, and not for the better. It is so rare that we get unicorns in film these days, it would have been nice to just get a regular unicorn hallucination, if you ask me.

It all comes to an ending. Again, it should be noted that I watched the director’s cut has a totally different ending than the original. This ending leaves the audience with questions. Given the tone of this edit of the film, the argument can be made about whether it fits or not, but for me, I guess I just need some kind of resolution from my movies, rather than an open ended ending.

As Blade Runner came to a close, I immediately thought to myself, should I watch the original? I believe the answer is yes. From what I’ve read, it makes more sense, has a better ending, and is easier to follow. That isn’t to say the director’s cut isn’t without its positive marks. It is well known how different, and superior, the Richard Donner cut of Superman II differs from the theatrical release. This film follows a similar pattern. Do I recommend it? Well, I do, but not this version. I believe that the original version would work better for general audiences. That being said, this is still a great picture.

4 out of 5 stars

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