Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Review by Paul Preston
Wrapping up my thirty-five year wait for a Blade Runner sequel, I decided to take in the cut I hadn’t seen yet, The Final Cut. This is reportedly Ridley Scott’s definitive version, having hilariously not been given real control over a cut CALLED The Director’s Cut, which was released in 1992. For those who know Blade Runner lore, the infamous Harrison Ford voice over is missing and the ambiguous ending is intact.
Quick update for those who don’t know, Blade Runner is about a special kind of police officer in the future who hunts down replicants, man-made machines that look remarkably like humans, used for slave labor on Earth’s colonies off-planet. The replicants rebelled, killing people in the process and are now marked for termination on Earth.
Harrison Ford is my favorite actor of all time. A tough guy who is willing to be vulnerable at any moment, I love the cut of his jib. But voice over is not his thing. The original theatrical release’s voice over of Deckard talking us through his adventures in 2019 Los Angeles was clunky at best and distracting at worst. I get its inclusion, as the whole film is going for a futuristic film noir feel. Rick Deckard is our Sam Spade. Watching The Final Cut and Douglas Trumbull’s glorious visuals (in crisp DCP projection), I was impressed how they’re held on, we get to take them in. It seemed very of-its-time, very early ‘80s when audiences could be assumed to have patience, when what they were seeing was not so commonplace in movies. The production design and cinematography of Blade Runner are staggeringly good. It was then I remembered that there was originally a lazy Ford monologue going over top of it all, and that would’ve killed the wonder of the scenery. Check out clips of the original voice over on YouTube, it adds nothing, and losing it makes Ford’s acting better, quite frankly. There’s more mystery about him.
Speaking of which, the ambiguous ending concerning Deckard’s humanity is also unimportant. Really intriguing to the makeup of Deckard’s character, but ultimately unimportant to the plot. It feels to me like the voice over in the original’s final scenes provided so much context as to what set up the “happy ending” (Rachael’s special no-termination date design), that cutting it out led to an abrupt ending. So, going with the abrupt ending of Deckard and the origami leads to other assumptions that they just let hang there (Deckard’s a replicant). It’s interesting. Not necessary to the grand design of the movie, though, whose plot is more about a group of robots who rebel against their maker.
Deckard being a replicant undermines his standoff with all the other replicants. Why is he so beaten up by Leon and Pris if he could match their strength? Especially if he were a newer, improved model? The Deckard-as-replicant theory GREATLY undermines his final showdown with Roy. As Roy dies in front of Deckard, Batty uses his final words to show humanity. As a human, Deckard’s witnessing of this should affect his core, but would only do so if Deckard were, in fact, human…which I believe he is. The other angle is intriguing, but I think things like adding in the unicorn footage and cutting the humanistic voice over were late-game, George Lucas-esque attempts to placate a theory that developed as Blade Runner became more and more of a cult hit.
Of course, this alternate ending throws that whole theory out of whack, and shows that the Deckard/replicant theory may have been something thought of all along:
Which is to say, the ending has always been the most frustrating part of Blade Runner. The ending that best suits the story is ham-fisted and cheesy and the ending that’s the most thought-provoking is the most problematic.
Putting aside the film’s controversial characteristics, this is still stellar science fiction with a wholly realized futuristic universe and much to say. The Final Cut also has upgrades in its look with CGI added to backgrounds to fill them up and different color templates added here and there to where it looks like the stills and footage I’ve seen from Roger Deakins’ color-soaked Blade Runner sequel. Vangelis’ haunting and memorable music is a thrill coming through a movie theater sound system, even the cheesy saxophone-led love theme.
I saw Blade Runner with a Q&A with Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, the scriptwriters. Fancher has been brought back for the sequel having written only one other produces screenplay in thirty-five years. Fancher exited the original Blade Runner and was replaced by Peoples (although they got along famously at the Q&A), later in production, Fancher returned to the project. Ridley Scott also came and went during the shoot and in the end, the tacked-on voice over was studio-mandated, as they thought no one would understand the story unless Deckard explained it to audiences as they went along. To top everything, that voice over was written by NEITHER of the previously-mentioned writers. Basically, it’s a miracle this movie was made at ALL, especially with the confident tone and pace it maintains.
I can wait no longer for the sequel. I’m going tonight, where the debate about the possibility that Deckard’s a replicant will end (whatever conclusion the film comes up with).
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Release Date: October 5, 2007
Run Time: 117 Minutes
Country: UK/USA/Hong Kong
Distributor: Warner Brothers