It seems as though more and more often directors are choosing to go back and re-edit their old movies. Sometimes they change significant plot points, sometimes it is just an addition or subtraction of a few shots here and there, and sometimes it is a graphical/FX makeover. George Lucas is, of course, notorious for "tweaking" his Star Wars saga through the years. However, Lucas is not the only director to tread down this path.
Over 25 years ago, Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner, a futuristic-noir movie that takes place in Los Angeles in 2019 and is based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. From that time to this, multiple versions of the film have been released onto cassette tape, laser disc, and DVD. A few weeks ago the alleged "final cut" of the film was released.
The story still follows Rick Deckard, a retired detective brought back to the force in order to hunt down a group of replicants (androids) that have returned to Earth. Deckard was once a "blade runner," a police officer who specialized in the tracking down and "retiring" (read: killing) of replicants.
The replicants, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), are after a way to extend their life, which was, during their manufacture, limited to four years for fear that the replicants would grow too many emotions and end up revolting against their human masters. Batty and his gang attempt, in various ways, to see their creator Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) in order to cajole him into extending their lifespan.
Deckard meanwhile has his own discussion with Tyrell on the nature of humanity and whether a replicant could not know that it was a replicant. Tyrell, in fact, created one such replicant, Rachel (Sean Young), who was unsure about her own status until Deckard outed her.
Blade Runner, in all its various forms, is a dark, brooding look at humanity. The film spends much time questioning the very nature of humanity and where we are headed, and does not tend to come up with joyous answers.
As Deckard, Ford is brilliant, but it is Hauer's Batty who truly keeps things interesting. Batty's desperate desire to live combined with his overwhelming urge to kill make him a hugely flawed, but sympathetic, villain. Batty's struggle for humanity, to outlive not only his own programming but Deckard's gun make him a villain unlike most that appear onscreen.
The film is also blessed with a wonderful supporting cast, including Edward James Olmos as Gaff, a police officer who may know more about Deckard than he lets on. Darryl Hannah appears as Pris, one of Batty's gang of replicants, and William Sanderson is J.F. Sebastian, a man befriended by Pris who works for Tyrell. M. Emmet Walsh also briefly appears in the film as Deckard's commanding officer, Bryant.
The newest version of the film, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, contains some minor changes from the 1992 Director's Cut of the movie. Most notably, the film has been digitally remastered, some special effects have been improved, and it now boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The film also contains some additional/extended scenes, none of which truly provide a new take on the movie.
The two-disc release of the film also contains several different audio commentary tracks, including one by Ridley Scott. The second disc features a full-length documentary, Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner which features interviews with cast and crew and is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the movie.
Blade Runner does a wonderful job of moving from think-piece on the nature of us all to sci-fi action adventure. While we will certainly not get to the future Blade Runner ascribes to us by 2019, we may one day still head down that dark path.
As for the ultimate question that surrounds every release of Blade Runner — is Deckard a replicant? — watch and decide for yourself.