Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Finally, The Final Cut

Warning: this review contains spoilers

If only you could see the film I saw with my eyes last Friday night...

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is stunning, a rare example of amazing post-post-post-production that completes a film. Everything is better: the sound, the picture, the visual effects, the lighting.

Though I have seen the Director's Cut on the big screen a few times, I was struck this time by what a idiosyncratic film Blade Runner is. This is a science fiction movie set at a glacial pace (perhaps only Kubrick's 2001 moves more slowly) but Scott fills that tempo with a wonderful sort of poetic imagery. With these images Scott transforms the science fiction film into a meditation. The climactic chase scene which takes place at sort of a fast trot is so loaded with figurative imagery it would take a great effort (perhaps by bloggers and Internet Dick-heads) to catalog, analyze, and cross reference it all.

Here are a couple of things that struck me as especially intense on the big screen:

In the final chase scene, the beautiful doubling of Deckard and Batty as both suffer (Batty mourns Pris' death and Deckard sets the bones in his fingers); their screams blend together in the echoes.

The chase scene climbs upward, a complete ascension as Batty seems to metaphorically climb the great chain of being, first uttering animal-like noises of pain, then howls, followed by taunts, and finally, a sermon on the mount - of sorts.

My favorite combination of image and dialog in the film is in the chase scene. Batty, on the other side of the wall, says, "Come on Deckard, show me what you're made of" while the audience gets a closeup of Deckard's gun, 25 feet tall on the big screen.

The difference in picture quality between The Directors Cut and The Final Cut is like going from an old VHS tape to a DVD. While the picture is still quite dark, it's no longer completely black in places. It is much easier to see the details of Deckard's surroundings from the giant pile of take-out kipple that clutters his kitchen, to the multi-lingual graffiti that covers 'Sector Four.'

Here's what they changed (Spoilers to Follow!):

(And by the way, these changes have not been verified and you have only my margarita-addled mind to depend upon. Take these with the same grains of salt they sprinkled around the rim of my glass)

Perhaps the weirdest addition is a short scene that shows Deckard entering the Tafy Lewis' bar to watch Zhora do her snake dance (alas, I was wrong, there is no snake dance, although there is a shot of two go-go dancers wearing hockey masks who Deckard checks out before going upstairs - this is the shot in the trailer that looked completely new).

The film is gorier and more violent: Pris gets her fingers up Deckard's nose momentarily in their fight scene and there's a close up shot of the nail coming out the backside of Roy Batty's hand. I think both of these shots were included in the international release, perhaps even in 1982 but were cut out of American editions. Eldon Tyrell's death is a bit gnarlier too, with extra crunching and some additional blood coming out of his eyes. In previous cuts Batty says "I want more life fucker" and 'fucker' kind of sounds like father in a weird and cool way. Now he says "I want more life father." I think they gave Roy Batty and extra line here as well. After he tells Tyrell he's done "questionable things" he says something like 'but nothing to keep you from bio-engineer's heaven."

Scott changed one scene to make Deckard's own Replicant-ness more obvious: when Deckard is playing the piano and envisioning the unicorn, Scott cuts back and forth between the unicorn and Deckard's face, making it clear that the unicorn is his vision.

In one of my favorite moments, when Deckard's eyes glow momentarily as he tells Rachel that he won't come after her, but someone will, the glow is less pronounced and the musical cue has been de-emphasized. Perhaps Scott wants to keep the audience wondering about Deckard's humanness until the very end.

Finally, the blue sky that the dove flies up into in the director's cut is gray and overcast now. I'll leave the teleological implications of this change to the abler hands of Gabriel McKee at SFGospel.com.

There was a great review of Blade Runner in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday and I agree with him: "This definitive print should be the last little push that "Blade Runner" needs to complete its 25-year journey from box office failure to cult favorite to full-blown classic."

Seeing the film in the theater was a really fun. I met Henri Wintz of The Philip K Dick Bookshelf at Chevy's (for you international readers or those unfamiliar with their cuisine, this is in no way an endorsement of the quality of food or drink at Chevy's which really isn't that good. But hey, it's close to the theater and they serve margaritas).

Above: Me and Henri. I'm in black leather, natch.

Here's some memorable lines from Blade Runner as performed by lolcats

This one looks to be worth it (and I'm not just saying that as an Amazon 'Associate')

Be sure to buy the 5 DVD(!) BOX SET December 18th:


Karl Hodge said...

'After he tells Tyrell he's done "questionable things" he says something like 'but nothing to keep you from bio-engineer's heaven.'

The quote is:

Roy: I've done questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time.
Roy: Nothing the God of biomechanics would let you in heaven for?

And it's always been there.

Palmer Eldritch said...

Anyone know if the film is going to be shown in the UK outside London? I've never seen it on the big screen, myself.

Anonymous said...

Something magic. I've never seen it on the big screen before, and yesterday night a dream came true. Like going back to 1982. What I've seen since now? Have I ever seen movies? Are they really movies?
All the best, from Italy.

Anonymous said...

the fucker/father ambiguity in the director's cut is spelled out if you turn on closed captioning and english subtitles

robin said...

The new lines in dialogue in the death scene come where Batty talks to Sebastian as he tries to scamper away.

The extra violence is all there in the International version, which I saw first as the video version in Canada.

For the first time in this cut Batty says "father" clearly. Also there are a couple of new/different lines in the early description of the replicants, most notably a complete description of Leon.

The dove scene has been re-edited merely for continuity, as have a few others. How this might be interpreted is another matter!

Other info on my own blog:

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching a downloaded version (since the theatrical run in Toronto was over before I even realized it had begun).

Some of the more mechanical things you didn't mention:

-- The wires that suspend the flapples have been removed.

-- The woman being shot at the end of the Zhora chase is actually Zhora and not some anonymous and ill-matching stuntwoman. Didn't you tell us that Joanna Cassidy had been called in to film a new scene?

And what a relief, since both these have bothered me since I first saw Bladerunner on the big screen in 1982.

P. S. I don't like the new transition to Chinatown. Before Ridley Scott inserted the scene that ends with the strippers in the goalie masks, it was a straight jump from squalor to opulance. I enjoyed that shock, and always though it funny that it made look as if "Chinatown" -- unlike the rest of Los Angeles -- was strangely devoid of any asians.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure that some of the dialog during Deckard's debriefing with the videos and information on the Replicants was different as well. Among other things, two were caught up in the electrical field, not one.

Also there were scenes of Deckard climbing the stairs to JF Sebastian's apartment that I don't remember seeing before, and Pris was shot three times in this version to the Director's Cut's two.

It was wonderful to actually see Blade Runner, a movie released a few years before I was even born, on the big screen. I'd seen the theatrical cut on a projector and the International and Director's Cuts on a variety of TV screens and computer monitors, but nothing could compare to seeing it the size it was intended to be - larger than life.

Very fun.

Anonymous said...

Watching the Final Cut was the first time I realized that some of the transient character dialog was in German ... perhaps it was there before, but lacking clarity. That was rather jarring, given that the world seemed to only have been taken over by Asians.

Anonymous said...

ChrisK, I think you're talking about Citispeak (I think that's what they called it). If you are, it's intentional, and Edward James Olmos improvised some of it.

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