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Set in the now not-so-distant future, robot design has developed so far that synthetic humans, or replicants, are now almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Most of the human race has moved to the off-world colonies for a better life and those left behind aren’t exactly the cream of society. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a blade runner, an officer of the Los Angeles law enforcement whose job it is to track down and “retire” rogue replicants.

2006 Remastered Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
1999 Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
Four replicants have arrived on Earth, leaving a trail of destruction and death in their wake, and Deckard is called on to get rid of them. Along the way he meets Rachael, a replicant who doesn’t know she isn’t human. They form a relationship that is fundamentally wrong in society’s eyes and is there something about Deckard that he doesn’t know?

The first amazing thing about Blade Runner is the fact that it was made at all. Huge investment went into set design and special effects and, rapidly running out of money, director Ridley Scott was tearing pages out of the screenplay on a daily basis in order to get somewhere close to the budget. Many books have been written about the torturous shoot and relations between Scott and serial grudge-holder Ford have never fully healed.

2006 Remastered Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
1999 Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
Blade Runner is a film that sets standards. It is the definitive vision of a dystopian future. Its influence is obvious in so many sci-fi movies produced since 1982 because the filmmakers have taken the capitalist society of the 80s to the logical extreme. Advertising and industry will take over the landscape and the human race will be fighting against the technology we worked so hard to create, which is a common theme in the writing of Philip K Dick, upon whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this film is based. Essential follow-up viewing is the anime classic Akira, which pays homage to the Japanese-influenced Los Angeles of Blade Runner by creating a neon Tokyo with the detail and scope that a live action budget would not allow in the days before CGI.

With a screenplay that is light on dialogue and considerably less action-focused than Star Wars, Blade Runner is almost certainly the opposite of what fans of Harrison Ford were expecting at the time. His performance could not be more low-key, with the introverted Deckard using a look or a nod to get his point across where Han Solo would have shot first before asking questions. Deckard’s nemesis Roy Batty is played with incredible intensity by Rutger Hauer, in a role that defined him as a sinister eccentric, a persona that he later carried over to The Hitcher.

2006 Remastered Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
1999 Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
I believe the ‘classic’ tag given to Blade Runner is well and truly deserved, however there is something about the film that doesn’t sit quite right with me. Whether intentional on the part of the filmmakers or not, themes of sexism and racism can be read within the story. The only female characters are replicants (and therefore disposable) and Deckard’s seduction of Rachael is more of an exercise in coercion than romance. The theme of racism can be identified but I’m not sure if I agree with those that argue its case. It’s true that Deckard is a one-man army attempting to rid the world of those that don’t fit society's acceptable norms, but this is a story of man vs. machine rather than man vs. man. If that were the case then surely I, Robot, another Dick adaptation with a similar theme but directed with considerably less subtlety, should be considered more right-wing in its approach.

Although derided upon its release, time has been kind to Blade Runner and the main reason for its continued success was the re-release in 1992. If it wasn’t for the director’s cut of Blade Runner, we wouldn’t have endless re-workings of classic movies and there wouldn’t be the endless slew of ‘rated’ and ‘unrated’ DVD releases. It also highlighted the practice of studio interference and gave the fanboys plenty to argue about. Is the movie better with or without Harrison Ford’s voiceover? Is Deckard a replicant or isn’t he? And what else is missing from both versions? For me, the difference in the two versions lies in the tone of the movie. With the addition of the hard boiled voiceover and less ambiguous ending, the original Blade Runner feels more like a 1950s Hollywood film noir. Without the voiceover, the lack of dialogue is more obvious and has more in common with classic European noir such as Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai.

2006 Remastered Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
1999 Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)

Video


Before sitting down to watch the review copy of the remastered version of Blade Runner, I hadn’t watched my old copy of the 1999 release for a long time. Maybe my expectations were set too high by the ‘Digitally Remastered’ tag on the cover but I was fairly underwhelmed. There is still some dirt and scratches on the picture, which is most prominent during the exterior model shots. The colours are strong but there is quite a bit of colour bleeding and edge enhancement on show.

My opinion changed quite considerably when I popped Warner’s initial release into the DVD player and it became immediately apparent that even though it has its faults, the remastered version is a considerable improvement. The 1999 release is wobbly, cropped on both sides, suffers from significant compression artefacts and has jagged black borders around the non-anamorphic picture. This new DVD presents Blade Runner with the best picture quality yet seen on a home release of the movie, but I hope it passes through the remastering process a few more times before the release of the high definition version and the long-awaited definitive edition.

Audio


My hopes of a fully remastered 5.1 soundtrack for Blade Runner were dashed with this release. Unfortunately all we get is a cleaned-up version of the Surround track from the 1999 release. Admittedly, it is a lot cleaner with fewer crackles but surely we deserve full use of directional sound to get the most out of a futuristic world where a multitude of noises should hit the audience from all angles. Surprisingly for such a high profile release from a major director, the looping is quite lazy in places. In long shots it is sometimes obvious that the actors’ lips are saying something completely different to what we can hear. This is something that I hope will also be addressed in the next release.

2006 Remastered Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)
1999 Version


Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (Remastered)

Extras


Unless scene selection and interactive menus are your idea of a good time, there’s nothing else here for you other than the movie.

Overall


With second hand copies of the out-of-print original release of Blade Runner going for $40 or more on eBay, it makes sound business sense to get this version out there on the shelves, but it does make me wonder who this release is for, other than the few who can’t wait for the definitive edition. The video and audio quality still aren’t up to the standard we generally expect from a major release but it is a significant improvement over the 1999 release. If you absolutely have to own Blade Runner on DVD now then this is the version to pick up but everyone else should wait and see just how special Warner Bros can make the inevitable special edition.


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