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8 October, 2007 / Erik

Attack Ships on Fire off the Shoulder of Orion

When you get right down to it, the issue with Blade Runner is not a question of humanity. It’s actually just simple numbers.

Or, at least, it is to the Ridley Scott who assembled what is now called the Final Cut of Blade Runner. If you don’t know the history, you might see this and how it is different from the 1992 Directors Cut. There are no new scenes. There is no strengthening of the “Deckard is a replicant theory.” There is no substantial change in the vision of the film from what Scott laid down fifteen years ago. This version still removes the narration and the so-called happy ending.

So what does the Final Cut achieve? It removes some errors of pace and dialog. It also cleans up a couple of visual mistakes Scott could not live with. There is also the possibility is slightly shorter to remove the gaps caused by the narration, but I’ll need both version on hand to be sure. So we’ll begin with the numbers.

In the theatrical and Director’s Cut versions of Blade Runner, Captain Bryant tells Deckard about the six escaped Nexus-6 replicants attempting to break into the Tyrell Corporation. During that break-in, he says, ” One got fried.” So, in those versions, there is still a replicant on the loose at the end. Deckard retired Zhora, Priss, and Roy Batty. Rachel puts Leon out. The missing replicant was part of a scene never filmed where Deckard finds a homemaker model and retires her. When this scene was removed early on, Bryant’s dialog was changed to reflect this. In an test screening version of the film from 1982, he is heard to correctly say, “two got friend.” However, somewhat bafflingly, this line was changed back to “one got fried” in the release version.

Twenty-five years later, Bryant is finally seen to give Deckard the correct number.

Later in the film, Bryant’s numbers are again dubious. In the theatrical and Director’s cut, the deaths of Zhora and Leon happen right after one another. Afterward, Deckard is confronted by Gaff and Bryant. Mysteriously, Bryant says Deckard has “one to go.” Deckard responds with “two.” Bryant then says “three” and adds Rachel to the list.

However, if you look closely, Deckard is not nearly as beat up as he is after his confrontation with Leon. This is because Bryant’s appearance is supposed to take place between the two death scenes. The numbers were looped to reflect the re-sequencing of events. The Final Cut also re-orders these sequences to their scripted spots. Deckard now retires Zhora, meets with Bryant, and is then attacked by Leon.

Oh, and Roy now conclusively says “I want more life, father.” Some of the people in my screening audibly gasped at the change. I was not chuffed as I’ll soon have access to five version of the film when the box set is released in November.

Until I have access to the cuts to review more closely, these are the biggest differences you will find between the Final Cut and the 1992 Director’s Cut. Unlike certain other Special Editions, the Final Cut does not realign the characters or change the pace of the film. It does not remix the film for a modern sensibility. It actually remains true to its somewhat muddled vision of a muddled future society. Its alterations do not call attention, but instead make the fit slightly better. The best thing about going to see the Final Cut was the chance to finally see Blade Runner on a large screen, where the intense detail and staggering design Scott obsessed over twenty-five years ago can be appreciated.

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6 Comments

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  1. David S / Oct 9 2007 10:31 am

    Am I the only person that actually enjoys the noiresque voice overs and thinks that they add to the atmosphere of the film? I know that they were added because the audience was concidered to dumb to understand the movie, but sometimes decisions made for the wrong reasons actually work, unlike the Greedo incident.

    Now – will I purchase this for curiosity and the International Theatrical release or will financial sense win out?

  2. Red Queen / Oct 9 2007 1:30 pm

    And, most importantly, do I get all your old versions now?

  3. Erik / Oct 9 2007 9:05 pm

    David: My favorite line in the whole film is “They don’t advertise for killers in the newspaper.” I’m fond of the narration, but I reserve final judgment until next month.

    RQ: My previous copy was on VHS and long ago sold.

  4. tom gastall / Oct 9 2007 10:32 pm

    the narration never bothered me, but it wasn’t at the level of say, Double Indemnity.

  5. andy khouri / Oct 9 2007 11:36 pm

    Had I been there, I would have gasped too. What bullshit! CLASSIC LINE. Like Han and Greedo, I choose to ignore this retcon.

  6. Erik / Oct 10 2007 8:01 am

    Andy: At least Scott gives you the choice to ignore that line. Certain other directors would tell you he always intended that line and that other reading no longer exists. On the whole, it’s pretty minor for an amazing restoration on the rest of the film.

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