Blade Runner: The Definitive Cut
It took a bit longer than expected, but I’ve finished my own cut of Blade Runner, and yes I’m calling it “definitive” with only a trace of irony because, of the myriad of cuts, I think this is the most respectful to the story. Ridley Scott put many hurdles in my way, including having the US theatrical, international theatrical, and Director’s Cut all on the same DVD with seamless branching, meaning that the timecode was all messed up. Also, the new “Final Cut” has been graded to look like a Michael Bay movie — all over-saturated and high-contrast and hideously ugly — so any footage I took from that had to be finessed back from the brink of insanity to the original neutral tones to match.
List of Changes
All voice-over narration is intact. I get that a lot of people say they don’t like the voice-over, but I think they’re just saying what they think they’re supposed to say. The voice-over not only includes information not otherwise available, but it roots the film firmly in its detective-noir territory.
Audio in original stereo. 5.1-channel sound is like the little brother to 3D — silly and distracting.
The original opening remains. This is digitally “fixed” in the Final Cut, but I don’t care if the flares on the buildings are not timed exactly correctly, it’s a reminder that this shot is all done in-camera.
“Two of ‘em got friend running through an electrical field.” I didn’t want to change this until I saw the original work-print has this line. It becomes important when Bryant and Deckard later argue about whether there are three or four more replicants loose.
Repeated footage of Roy remains. While I realise the first two shots of Roy are just reused footage, I like that our introduction to him is an asynchronous moment from the end of the film. The digitally touched-up shot in the Final Cut is stupid.
The serial number on the snake scale now matches the Animoid Row lady’s dialogue. Taken from the Final Cut.
Deckard’s conversation with the snake merchant is properly lip-synced. Taken from the Final Cut.
Joanna Cassidy’s face digitally superimposed over the stunt double’s. Taken from the Final Cut.
The unicorn daydream/dream is gone! I could write a thesis on why the unicorn dream should not be in this film. The simplest reason is that it was never part of the story or screenplay, the footage shot for the film Legend and Ridley Scott only later inserted it into his Director’s Cut as an afterthought. (Scott alleges that although the footage was shot on the set of Legend it was always intended for Blade Runner; if you can believe that then maybe the unicorn dream mythology is for you.) There are some who believe this scene suggests that Deckard is a replicant, but to think this is both accept a vast conspiracy at play, full of so many logical inconsistencies it makes a moon landing hoax seem pretty plausible, and to miss the core meaning of the film. And why would anyone implant an memory of a unicorn?
Tyrell’s death from the US theatrical cut. The international theatrical cut shows Roy killing Tyrell by poking his thumbs into Tyrell’s eyes. The US theatrical shows less, but the audio instead implies Roy crushes Tyrell’s skull with his hands, which I think is both more horrifying and makes for a more interesting symbol. The scene focuses more on Roy’s emotional turmoil at murdering his creator. Also, there is a shot of the owl watching, which is absent in the more violent cut.
Pris’ fight with Deckard and death taken from US theatrical. Again the version with less violence feels more shocking. Deckard only shoots Pris twice, which makes the space between, in which Pris is convulsing on the floor, seem much longer and more painful.
When Deckard picks up the origami unicorn, Gaff’s repeated line, “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?” is edited out. This is the edit I’m most proud of. It leaves the meaning of the unicorn to linger on through the credits. This is probably also the most contentious change. A lot of viewers read the origami unicorn as a literal reference to a memory implanted in Deckard — of a unicorn. Very surface level. This unfortunate reading robs these viewers of the profound meaning of the film. I’ll leave the real meaning of the unicorn for you to discover on your own, but you can watch this excerpt on Vimeo.
No “happy” ending. The film ends when the elevator doors close.
End credits from the Final Cut. The credits from the theatrical cuts play over the happy ending landscape shots, so I needed credits on black from the later cuts. Unfortunately the Director’s Cut credits are cut too abruptly with the final scene so the music doesn’t transition well. Instead, the final scene is taken from the Final Cut, with new music by Vangelis.