Saturday, February 24, 2007

BLADE RUNNER: Blu-ray (The Ladd Company 1982) Warner Home Video

The postmodern sci-fi epic that defined its generation and beyond, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) is an apocalyptic vision of the not so very distant future; a perpetually dark and overcrowded, neon-lit dystopia with a sub-tropical climate and predominantly Asian population.

Our story concerns bounty hunter, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is assigned the task of killing three replicants - android robots identical to humans - that have come to earth from a colonized mining camp to seek revenge on their creator - Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). 

Rachel (Sean Young) is Tyrell’s latest creation, so sophisticated and life-like that not even she knows she has been manufactured. Deckard and Rachel begin a problematic affair. But before long, Rachel learns the truth and cannot come to terms with her own artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the colony replicants have murdered scientist, Hannibal Chew (James Hong), the man responsible for creating their eyes. The replicant's self appointed leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) sends Pris (Darryl Hannah) to seek out J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) – another genetic designer - for extermination while he pursues Tyrell.

Deckard begins to have nocturnal visions of his own childhood that perhaps suggest to him he is not human either. As he struggles to come to terms with his own self doubts - genetically modified or otherwise - Deckard also becomes involved with Rachel. But like all things in this oppressively bleak vision of the future, their 'romance' is not to be. In fact, it's not even a romance, except to say that it involves a brief sexual encounter that ends tragically for both parties.

Blade Runner is very much a futurist noir mood piece heavily influenced by Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis (1927). Despite some fairly solid acting and thoroughly compelling special effects, as a whole the narrative patched together by David Webb Peoples and Hampton Fancher simply fails to gel in a way that is entirely satisfying. 

Evidently, director Ridley Scott must have agreed with this assessment. After its’ limited theatrical run, the director re-edited and re-released the film in a new director’s cut that, sadly, did not improve much on the original’s disjointed plot. Then came the ultimate director's cut, an infinitely more cohesive and satisfying explanation for all that had gone before.

Viewed today, Blade Runner is unrelentingly bleak - not just about the future but about everything in it; the fate of mankind, human interaction, relationships, technology's place in society, the sanctity of life, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps it remains just a little too dark and depressing to be acceptable as pure entertainment. The film, in any of its cuts, plays like a suicidal vision of one man's fate.

Not surprising since its source material is a novel by Philip K. Dick. But Dick's more cerebral protestations are not presented to us in the screenplay - leaving only Jordon Crownanweth's excessively moody cinematography and David L. Snyder's claustrophobic art direction to sustain and nourish. Although fascinating to look it, it sadly does neither. I like Blade Runner - don't get me wrong. But I have to be in the right frame of mind to digest its many layers of overwhelming tragedy.

Warner Home Video’s 5 disc Blu-ray offers Blade Runner in its various cuts rectifies the problematic transfer the film was given on DVD. These 1080p transfers are head and shoulders above anything the film has ever looked like. Colours are bold. Contrast is bang on. Fine detail is evident even during the darkest scenes and in Blade Runner there are many VERY dark sequences.  There's nothing to complain about here.

The audio remains in 5.1 DTS but is very nicely remastered for a sonic experience one will surely appreciate. This multidisc set includes all of the various cuts of the film with independent audio commentaries for each, plus an extensive backlog of archival footage (interviews, stills, audio outtakes, etc.) and a staggering two hour documentary on the making of the film that is perhaps even more compelling viewing than the movie itself. 

Bottom line: this is Blade Runner as Ridley Scott always intended you to see it. If you're a fan of the movie then the multidisc Blu-ray is definitely the way to go.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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