Judge Brett Cullum is tired; he was up all night studying for his Voight-Kampff test.
Our review of Blade Runner (Blu-ray) 30th Anniversary Edition, published November 26th, 2012, is also available.
"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."—Roy Batty
Blade Runner was the reason I bought a DVD player. Even though back then the only version available was a bare-bones non-anamorphic widescreen version of the 1992 Director's Cut, I wanted the clarity and satisfaction of having it in digital. I had worn out my VHS copies, because I played the film on an almost continuous loop in my living room for several years. Yet as the format grew up, I always wondered why there was never a better edition or double dip for the movie. For more than a decade director Ridley Scott (Alien) talked about how he had in the can a special edition of the film ready to go with an entire array of the various cuts made over the years. I drooled at the thought, and dreamed of electric sheep waiting for the day to arrive. A rights struggle prevented it from happening on the twentieth anniversary of the film, as the original production company and distributor had been bought and sold in many pieces creating a legal battle to know who owned which version. A new edition of Blade Runner kept being pushed back, and I wanted to corner a Warner Brothers executive in a back alley and scream "Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch!" while I threatened to take his eyes out with my thumbs.
The release of Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition is cause for celebration among the legions of fans who have embraced the 1982 film and waited patiently for a definitive DVD release. It comes just in time to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary. Ironically the original theatrical release of Blade Runner was regarded as a disappointment, and Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford both seemed to disown what was shown back in the day claiming the studio made a lot of badly thought out revisions to the final product. For the tenth year anniversary of 1992 Scott was offered a chance to release a "Director's Cut" which was assembled under his remote guidance while he continued work on Thelma and Louise. He claimed even back then that it was not a true "director's cut," because there were more things he wanted to do. But now all of that has changed. Ridley Scott has supervised an overhaul of the film, gotten his favorite DVD extras producer to go crazy, and gathered up all the versions of his seminal sci-fi classic to offer to the faithful. Never has a film gotten so lavish a set with so much supplemental material without Criterion being involved. This Warner Brothers release finally suggests the studios "get it." DVD is a format where movie buffs can finally see every scrap of film in the vaults, and they'd really like to. Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition is an embarrassment of riches, and the best release of 2007.
Facts of the Case
Blade Runner is the extremely loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in which Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark) plays a hard-boiled cop named Rick Deckard in Los Angeles 2019 who has disturbing criminals to execute. He is a "Blade Runner" (a term actually coined by William S. Burroughs for a book), an executioner who hunts down androids or biomechanical robots built to look and act human. They are called Replicants, and used for slave labor to build off-world colonies where healthy humans are migrating to now the planet is polluted. Their presence on Earth is illegal, and it is up to Deckard to find them and shoot them. Yet technology has a funny way of catching up to modern man, and this latest batch of four "skin jobs" seems more human than humans. Included in this rogue group are not-so-bright but brutal Leon (Brion James, 48 Hrs.), sexy Zhora (Joanna Cassidy, Ghosts of Mars), gymnastic Pris (Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill: Vol. 1), and their lethally cool leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher). They are stronger and more intelligent, and viciously clinging to their last remaining days before a built-in four-year termination date. The Replicants have evolved, and Deckard's job has gotten a hell of a lot harder this time around. Worse yet, Deckard finds himself falling for a legal Replicant named Rachael (Sean Young, Dune) who might be his next target.
Somebody once told me all good science fiction should ask the basic question of "What does it mean to be human?" What makes Blade Runner work so damn well is it only dwells on this question. The story makes us think about the lines between souls and circuitry, and it does so in a simple stylish way. The film is dark and moody, and follows the rules of noir. At the time of its release Harrison Ford was always the wisecracking hero, but in Blade Runner he was a depressed alcoholic killer who wasn't good enough to get off the planet. In 1982 aliens and robots were often cute cherubic sidekicks, but here we had dark gritty psychotic "almost humans" who we somehow cared for before they died. Everyone was evil and everyone was good. One raging debate around Blade Runner has always been "Is Deckard a Replicant?," and seems Scott and Ford always disagreed. It all depended on who you asked and when you asked it. Finally in the commentary of this set Ridley Scott says it truly doesn't matter one way or another, because the line is set out to be blurred so much. The robots are humans, and the humans are robots. Nobody is one hundred percent one thing or the other by the film's end. The journey is one you'll put your own personal stamp on, and there are many takes on how you could interpret the metaphors and subtext.
Speaking of tons of options, check out the number of different ways you can buy this movie. Blade Runner is being released in several different iterations, so you can choose exactly how in-depth you want to go and even select your favorite digital format. There are choices including DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD. The only differences include the number of discs, and each set is packaged differently with completely unique cover art. Also the ultimate collectorsâ edition comes in a metallic briefcase which looks like the Voight-Kampff machine case featured in the film.
Disc One -The Final Cut
Differences in the new 2007 cut include (list adapted with help from the
Internet Movie Database or IMDb.com):
Disc Two—Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner
Disc Three—Three Complete Archival Versions
Disc Four—Enhancement Archive
Disc Five—The Assembly Cut
Differences in the Assembly Cut also include (source is the Internet Movie
Database or IMDb.com):
The Assembly cut includes a commentary by Paul M. Sammons who wrote a book on the history of Blade Runner, and he chronicles all the differences and inserts history and trivia at a rapid pace. He cites over seventy differences in this version that are not in any other cut of the film, although he admits to not having seen the 2007 version when he recorded the track. It's a well-done audio discussion that rivals the one Ridley Scott delivers on the first disc. Also included on the fifth disc is a featurette called "All Our Variant Futures," which features Paul Sammons, Ridley Scott, and Charles de Lauzirka talking about all of these cuts and how they came about. There is also a look at the restoration, and why it took seven years to finally get this thing out and on to retail shelves. Included is footage of Brian Ford and Joanna Cassidy doing green-screen work to perfect visual flaws in the movie.
Fans looking for the high-definition versions should note that Warner Brothers is offering the five discs outside of the collectible casing for much less, although for DVD fans you have to splurge on the collectible packaging to get everything. Inside the replica of the Voight-Kampff case is also included art stills, an origami unicorn, a Matchbox-style model of the Spinner, and more elaborate artwork on the discs and in the foldout gates that hold them. There is also a lenticular motion film clip in Lucite to round things out.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The differences in all of these cuts are minimal, and I'm not sure if anyone but true fans will see much to catch their eyes or claim a sequence of extra violence truly changes the plot. I'd say the two-disc DVD release is fine for most normal people, because it includes the best version of the film along with the great documentary on the making of Blade Runner. Three commentaries and a long, loving look at the film is enough, and the collector's editions just add more for the sake of excess. True fans will immediately snatch up the metallic brief cases, but cheaper alternatives will satisfy those who just want the film in their library. I hate to admit it, but not everyone wants to watch this film five times over. It seems a bit much to expect high-definition consumers to see a value of twenty bucks just to get the elaborate packaging, some art stills, and toys. Certainly some will, but it's something you have to weigh.
This is an incredible way to handle a DVD release, and it's remarkable the studio is offering this many options to purchase. Of course my instinct is I want as much as I can get, and I would immediately grab the Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition just because I am a completist freak. Something tells me I am not alone. With the 2007 digitally improved version, a lot of people are accusing Ridley Scott of the same patterns George Lucas had with his Star Wars trilogy. To an extent they are right, but there is a difference in the way he is honoring the fans. All I can say is yes he has tweaked shots here and there, but he has also provided sets that include every version of the film even with what preview test audiences saw before release. If you don't like Roy Batty saying "Father" instead of "F—-er" all you have to do is switch discs. Want a happy ending or more violence? Here, have both. Ridley Scott and Warner Brothers honor fans by giving them the option to own either a new version or the one from their childhood simultaneously.
It's an amazing amount of material that boggles the mind with six hours of behind the scenes footage, new interviews, vintage footage, four separate commentaries often with four and five participants, and five versions of the film all offered in their original form. This is how a DVD set should be done, and we rarely see sets like this. Ridley Scott, Charles de Lauzirka, and Warner Brothers have raised the bar on a studio release. For the longest time this kind of lavish obsessiveness has been the territory of companies like Criterion; hopefully this marks a new realization by studios and film producers as to what DVD can do. This set traces every step of progression for a well-loved movie, and chronicles how it came to be a cult obsession with many variations.
Blade Runner itself remains an amazing "ahead of its time" feature that has only grown more fantastic as time marches on. The film still looks fresh even with all the '80s trademark stylistic choices, and it still resonates because it is great science fiction. 2019 will be here before we know it, and certainly in a few years we won't be sending robotic slave labor to build colonies throughout space. But what Blade Runner says about what constitutes a soul is still as powerful today as it was back then. The difference is more people respect the film than when it arrived in theatres back in '82. If you need proof, just look at all of these sets around of the movie. It's about time.
Guilty of being the event DVD of the year, Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition was a long time coming. And now we all have multiple versions of the film to obsess and argue over. There's never been a DVD set like this before, but hopefully one day it will be considered run of the mill. But like the film, it remains extraordinary.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
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