[WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS FILM.]
Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I was barely a teen (but already a huge sci-fi nerd) when I read a Starlog article about an awesome-sounding sci-fi movie coming out in 1982. Though it was rated R, I knew I’d manage to see it somehow — after all, I got into Alien (also rated R) when I was just ten thanks to a sympathetic (but probably not very responsible*) adult. By the time Blade Runner came out, I think I’d already read the comic adaptation and gotten my hands on some of the ERTL die-cast miniatures. (I remember reading in Starlog that it was unprecedented for an R-rated movie to have a toy campaign associated with it, something that still seems remarkable in 2007.)
So I walked into my first screening of Blade Runner already a fanboy at age 13. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the movie left a huge impression on me. For years after, a well-worn VHS copy kept me company as I matured from bowl-cuts to mullets. Before I had a clue what noir was, Deckard’s lonely existence in an indifferent, brutal world gave me comfort in my own journey through the darkness, even though my demons were mostly confined to boring classes, pimples, and the inability to land a girlfriend. As corny as it sounds now, the happy ending of the film gave me hope that like Deckard, I too would find my own Rachel and we’d escape the evil world by driving off into the countryside together.
Ten years later, Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut was released. This version was far darker than the original — and to my surprise, far better, too. The unambiguously happy ending of the original cut was gone, replaced by a new finale and an added scene that left our heroes with a murky, dangerous future. I loved it even more than the original, something I didn’t think was possible. The film had grown up, and so had I.
Another fifteen years pass and it’s 2007, time for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film and a long rumored “final cut” of the film. I’m still a huge Blade Runner fan, but not so huge that I’ve been following all the rumors about what’s included in this version. All I really know is that it’s got to be a new print and that it’s going to be opening at the Ziegfeld on Friday, October 5. But that’s reason enough for me to go, and at 7pm Friday I’m there with 800 other fans as the lights go down. Two hours later…I’m underwhelmed. Yes, the film is still beautiful and dark and powerful. But Final Cut is also 99.5% of the 1992 Director’s Cut. I guess I was expecting Blade Runner v3, but this is more like v2.1.
So what’s new in this version? Some scenes were slightly extended, there’s been some visual and sound sweetening, and they’ve finally fixed the most glaring continuity/effects blunders of the previous two versions…but that’s IT. That said, I still love Blade Runner. It’s still a bleak, gorgeous masterpiece of the future. I can’t complain about seeing the pristine new print on a big screen. But don’t go expecting to see anything radically new. And, if you grew up with the film as I did, be prepared to find that the film has stopped growing, even if you haven’t.
(Ziegfeld Theatre, Manhattan)
*Irresponsible because impressionable ten year olds are not likely to ever forget images of 1) what the alien does to John Hurt and 2) what Sigourney Weaver looks like in her underwear. [Warning: blood and panties.]