Warner Home Video answered the pleas of thousands of fans that have clamored for a more in-depth DVD release of Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner, an adaption of Philip K. Dick’s novel titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The film, previously released in a single disc DVD release, was eventually announced for a plethora of home video releases, including an ultimate five-disc edition that included five cuts of the film. While the wait was long, it’s undeniable that the wait was well worth it for the hardcore fans—not only do they get the original cut but two others that were previously unavailable on DVD.
In Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the world of Los Angeles is 2019 is similar to modern day, just with technological advances that have crept into the everyday life of its citizens. One of the advances is the replicants, which are nearly identical to human beings in every way. Banned on Earth, Replicates were sent off-planet, while any others that remained behind killed by special cops called Blade Runners. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was one such blade runner, who was pulled out of retirement to take down a group of replicants that returned to earth to meet their maker—literally.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of the book-to-film adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s novels, most recently A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report, although a few have been hit and miss (Next comes to mind). Until this DVD arrived, I had never seen Blade Runner, as shocking as that may seem. Hell, until this year I’d never seen any of the Alien movies either, but after seeing the first Alien and learning that Ridley Scott was behind Blade Runner, I knew I’d have to see it when the new edition hit on DVD. Perhaps it was the expectations of it all, but Blade Runner didn’t exactly wow me in all of the ways I had expected it to—and therein lies my main issue with the film.
Blasphemous for me to come into a Blade Runner review not loving it, but that’s what happens when you haven’t seen a film that millions love. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but it certainly is an acquired taste. I could use the word “boring” to describe the film, but that is too harsh; while I did find my attention wandering quite a bit during the film, it’s hard not to be wowed by the visuals of the film, even to this day. It’s not even just the digital restoration, which looks remarkable; it’s more just Scott’s directing and his vision for it all. It’s a really breathtaking film just to watch and as an artistic piece alone it’s worth the near two hours it runs.
Even saying that, the story leaves something to be desired. There just doesn’t seem to be that much to it; robots returning to meet their maker, while not entirely original (and even less so with the other movies that have copied it since Blade Runner’s original release), just didn’t have much of a dramatic impact and I didn’t find myself nearly as confused as I often am with Philip K. Dick adaptations—A Scanner Darkly was a serious head screwer—which his almost a complaint in of itself. Blade Runner just didn’t make me scratch my head all that much; the story is pretty straight forward and the replicants learning and feeling throughout their short life span is always a fun aspect, but I think my enjoyment of the film was hindered by the fact I took too long to see it. After films like I, Robot and those having been thrown into my mind before Blade Runner, I think I expected more from Blade Runner being one of the original android movies. Unfortunately it seems that everyone else just copied it and because Blade Runner is the most recent film I saw with robots, it also seems like it was the latest to copycat previous films.
I, of course, know that Blade Runner was the original and pioneered how sci-films were made, it’s just a real shame that I couldn’t have experienced the film earlier, so that I may could have enjoyed it more for what it was, rather than what other films made of it. Unfortunately, seeing as it was my first viewing of the film, I can’t compare this final cut to previous releases, though from what I read the violence was amped up a bit and the ending to this cut is more ambiguous. The ending was actually one of the more appealing aspects of the film to me—even though they’re frustrating at first, the ending that doesn’t wrap everything up has become more satisfactory to me as of late.
Overall Blade Runner is passed the point of recommendations. It’s a sci-fi classic and one that Warner Home Video has seen fit to grace us with multiple editions of—just like any good sci-fi classic.
Arriving in a standard two-disc amaray case with no insert and an embossed foil reflective slip cover, this Blade Runner – Two Disc Special Edition is the weakest of the three DVD releases, containing only two of the five discs produced for the latest release. Even though it’s the slimmer release, it’s still not exactly light on the extras—there’s plenty here.
Disc one houses the all new digital restoration transfer of the final cut. Not only is the video cleaned up frame by frame, the audio gets a new 5.1 surround mix that is an absolutely submersing experience from the opening frames. The visual elements of the film are simply astounding and while I’m sure they’re even more jaw dropping on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the DVD transfer does a fine job of jaw dropping clarity as well. Combined with the frequent use of the satellites, the film is just absolutely amazing from a technical standpoint.
Moving onto the extras we start out with an intro by Ridley Scott for this final cut as well as three commentaries on the final cut. The first commentary is with Scott who takes us on a full history of Blade Runner and his directing process on it and what it was like to revisit the film all these years later. It’s a really informative track and easily eclipses the other two on the set, which isn’t easy to say as all three are extremely engrossing. The second commentary has executive producer and co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher, co-screenwriter David Peoples, production executive Katherine Haber and producer Michael Deely and the four make for a rather relaxed commentary, which can sometimes lead to spots of no one talking, but overall it’s still a nice commentary. The third commentary is the most technical of the three and has visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. The commentary can start to get confusing with all the tech terminology used, but the six of them manage to keep it lively throughout. Of the three, Scott’s is definitely the one to listen to first, but fans will want to check all three of them out.
Moving onto the second disc of the set is where we find the exhaustive “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner” documentary which runs over three and a half hours. Everything from the beginning days of the initial concept of doing the movie up to the productions issues it faced in post and finally the revisiting of the film and its impact on the sci-fi genre as a whole. There are quite a few cast and crew interviews, with Scott of course taking up a lot of the talk time, although we do hear from Pans Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro who says the film changed his life. I can definitely see the resemblance between Scott and Del Toro’s directing and artistic visionary style—it hadn’t dawned on me until Del Toro talked about his love for Blade Runner that the two directors are very much alike.
The near four hour documentary is so in depth and exhaustive that I could review that entire thing in of itself. Hell, the whole thing is longer than the entire Look, Up in the Sky! Superman documentary that Warner did for the release of Superman Returns–and that covered Superman’s entire life in all genres. With over three and a half hours focused entirely on Blade Runner, this is definitely the definitive look at the film for the fans.
Despite the lengthy documentary, which is where this two-disc DVD set ends, there are three other discs that Warner produced for the ultimate “Deckard Briefcase” set that will arguably make for a difficult choice for the consumer? While the two-disc here is more than enough for the casual fan, the four other editions of the film (including a rare workprint cut) and a bonus disc featuring a ton of other featurettes, many of which feature on Philip K. Dick’s original novel, will ultimately get the die-hard reeled in.
I questioned Warner Home Video’s releasing of the two, four and five disc editions of the final cut of Blade Runner, but I’m rather appreciative of them now. With my enjoyment of the film not being what I had expected, watching five discs worth would have simply been a little much. The newbie’s to the film will want to start with this edition—at least a rental anyway—before plunging into the five disc mammoth.
New to the Film: Recommended or Rental
Fans: Skip and go straight to the five-disc Deckard briefcase edition.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut is now available on two, four and five disc DVD as well as five disc HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.