So once again we have survived.

Blade Runner (2007 Director’s Cut)


BLADE RUNNER is an amazing work of sight and sound, a groundbreaking depiction of future worlds, a gloomy cinematic nightmare, a unique approach to science fiction, and a complete fucking bore. Watching it on the big screen for the limited theatrical engagement of this “definitive cut” I was struck by how beautiful it looked and sounded, and also I wanted to take a nap. It’s like watching the greatest ant farm ever constructed.

Well, shit. I can’t believe I’m writing this. I know I’m only one paragraph in but I would like to extend my sincerest apologies. This is what you call a guilty un-pleasure. It’s easier for me to picture myself reading this review, written by somebody else, and pulling my hair out, than me sitting here writing it. But here I am. I always dug this movie. Never got why anybody would consider it Ridley Scott’s best (Motherfucker directed ALIEN. ALIEN! That’s his masterpiece, people. Let’s get this straight) and thought it was a little slow. But I always dug it and I was excited to see it on the big screen here. But facts are facts. I am a journalist, or whatever. I have to admit: this one time anyway, BLADE RUNNER bored the shit out of me.

Blade Runner: The Final CutDon’t get me wrong – everything everybody always loved about it is still there. The world of the movie is undeniably great, all the detail in that city, the sounds, the lighting. I’m not sure what they did with the effects for this new edition but it worked, nothing looked too dated but also didn’t look CGI-ified. I haven’t seen the movie for years and I have no idea what was changed in it (although obviously it’s like the director’s cut, no narration and the fuckin unicorn is in there).

But the thing that never bothered me before, but that I couldn’t get past this time, was the who gives a shit factor. The yeah but what about having a good story and characters dilemma. Of course the idea is cool, the replicants, the flying cars, the origami. But after all these years I was looking for something beyond that and I just kept wondering why I was supposed to give a shit about this blade runner dweeb, a guy too sissy to turn down an immoral job, not even that good at the job when he does it, not passionate about anything he does except in one part having forceful sex with a robot, a guy who dreams about a fuckin unicorn.

I repeat: he dreams about a unicorn, a magic fairyland horse with a horn that runs in glimmery slow motion. That is what inhabits this dipshit’s deepest inner thoughts. That is the character that is supposed to anchor us in this world. Harrison Ford, so cool and funny as Hans Solo and Indiana etc., has had every last drop of humor and charisma sapped out of his body for this role. They squeezed it into a mason jar and sealed it under 25 feet of solid concrete so none of it could seep out during filming. Fifteen years later Ridley Scott himself took part in a secret moonlight ceremony where they unearthed the jar. The charisma inside had dried up and shriveled into a tiny stone which Ford then began to wear as an earring.

Obviously this is supposed to be kind of like a film noir or a hardboiled detective story, but Deckard is no Sam Spade. Those stories have anti-heroes who are witty fast talking guys, or tough talking hardnosed bastards. Not this guy. This guy barely smiles, barely frowns. He’s not cool. He’s not exciting. The one part where he seems to have a sense of humor is when he puts on a cartoony “nerd” voice while talking to Zhora, at which point you wish maybe he didn’t have a sense of humor at all because that whole thing is pretty awkward.

The other bad news: his girlfriend is less interesting than he is.

Okay, I get it, they’re (maybe) robots. That doesn’t make them not boring. And besides, Roy and Pris are robots too, but they’re cool and funny, they have personalities and passion, anger and amusement. This time around, I honestly was not interested in what was going on in the movie until 2/3 of the way through when it was about Pris at J.F. Sebastian’s place and she says “Hi Roy.” That was when I realized the problem was Deckard. This is the longest stretch of the movie to not have Deckard in it and all the sudden it becomes a way better movie. If only the two lead characters were removed from the movie I could agree with everybody else that it’s a masterpiece. All the supporting characters are really good actually, it’s just that pesky central character who is the focus of almost the entire movie.

It’s hard not to root for the bad guys here. What they’re doing is no less immoral than what Deckard is doing. They’re escaped slaves. They’re trying to defend themselves. They’re programmed to die and they want to reverse that. They do kill a couple people, and that is wrong. But they are doing it for a cause. Deckard is killing them and not for a cause, he’s doing it for the money. Maybe not even for the money, maybe just because he’s too apathetic and wimpy to turn down the job. And it’s not even his job anymore. It’s his former job. So don’t give me that just doing his job shit. He knows it’s wrong. So if they’re both wrong, and the good guy is so boring he might as well be replaced by a paper plate with a smiley face on it taped to the back of a chair wearing a coat, of course you’re gonna root for the weird cute clown lady who does flips and the crazy passionate bastard who mutilates himself and recites poetry while crying in the rain but does not as far as we know ever think about a fucking unicorn.

Of course, that is a strength of the movie, that those characters are so strong. I just wish they appeared earlier in the movie to liven things up. Or at least let Brion James live a while longer. Or have Edward James Olmos be the main blade runner instead of Harrison Ford. Or have Billy Dee Williams play Deckard. Or go with the paper plate taped to a chair idea I mentioned, that was a pretty good idea.

I must admit, I have not gotten enough sleep lately. So it’s partly my fault. I implore you, be very awake when you watch BLADE RUNNER. This is especially important because of Vangelis, who apparently scored the movie with tunes he had leftover from a hypnotism tape he worked on. Or an illusionist’s act. When the end credits came up and he started doing some low down John Carpenter/THE WARRIORS type shit I thought where the fuck was he keeping that during the movie? Try to put everybody to sleep with your magic show soundtrack and then wake them up at the end credits so the ushers can clean the theater.

I guess people love this whole idea that Deckard is (maybe) a replicant too, maybe even one of the escaped replicants reprogrammed for some reason to think he has a past with the police department. I admit that it never occurred to me back in the day when I watched this, and I thought it was pretty cool when I heard about it. But watching it now (in a version that leaves you with the origami unicorn as the last thought, so either you’re supposed to think his stupid dreams are implanted or it’s just a reminder that this guy is a sissy) I’m not sure this whole idea holds water. It’s kind of stupid, actually. To kill these robots all he does is shoot them. One of them, the only one that was hurting anybody, he doesn’t even kill, the guy’s time just ran out. So really, he has not done anything to make anyone’s life better, he’s only killed two harmless robots shortly before their time. Any human could’ve done the same crappy job he did, and many could’ve done a funnier voice when interviewing Zhora.

(Actually, to be fair, by killing Zhora he may have created a job opening for a human snake dancer. So it may have had a positive effect on the economy, you could make that argument.)

If they wanted to do a good job, why wouldn’t they have gotten a robot that has super-strength and agility like the blades it’s hunting? And why would they have to trick it into thinking it’s human? Why not make it competent and aware of its abilities? Maybe there’s some kind of obscure union rules they need to follow or something but otherwise I can only assume these police are both incompetent and completely crazy. That is a horrible god damn plan. You’re never gonna stop runaway androids with this moronic approach to law enforcement. Shit, send Olmos out there on his crutches, give him a sock full of quarters, he would do a better job than ol’ Grumpy McUnicorndreams. I guess maybe dismantling replicants is too expensive so they just send a shitty one like this out on a useless mission to get him out of their hair.

For years I always heard how this movie was misunderstood at the time, and I always believed that. Well, undeniably it has been a huge influence on other movies and has stood the test of time. Its strengths are more than enough to justify its legend and I was happy to see it again even lacking the ability to fast forward it to the good part at the end. But I can’t help but think you know what, maybe they weren’t wrong at the time. Maybe the people who were ahead of their time were actually the people who said from the beginning that it was a brilliant failure, not an actual masterpiece. I don’t know.

I do know this: THE THING came out on the same day. Both movies got some real bad reviews and suffered from comparisons to lovable E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which came out a couple weeks earlier. Of the two anti-E.T.s though, I gotta go with THE THING as the more powerful viewing experience. BLADE RUNNER is more innovative, THE THING is more watchable.

Oh well. Nice try though Ridley Scott, maybe your next cut will be the one that brings it home.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 5th, 2007 at 9:27 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

21 Responses to “Blade Runner (2007 Director’s Cut)”

  1. Great review, Vern. This one is spot-on. I guess the movie just came out at the right time for everyone to like it but never really think about how empty it is.

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  3. I must say this is a pretty shocking review

    Blade Runner is in fact one of my favorite movies, I can watch it over and over and not get bored

    while I can kind of understand Vern’s criticisms, I think what makes the movie great for me is the atmosphere and mood are some of the best ever done, it just draws you in and you find yourself fascinated

    of course I will agree that the showdown between Roy and Deckard is one of the best parts and that the replicants are not really bad guys

  4. the City of Lost Children is a movie that has a similar effect on me

    I like all kinds of movies, but I love movies that have really strong atmosphere that draws you in (Kubrick’s 2001 and Full Metal Jacket are the same way)

    I wish Vern would revisit Blade Runner so more people could have a debate

  5. Griff – I gotta agree with Vern wholeheartedly here. Rutger Hauer just owns this movie, and when he’s not in it, it drops. It was still a fantastic technical achievement, but the Deckard / Rachel scenes lacked the “soul” or emotional connection that Batty inspired, to me.

  6. Katrine Brøndsted

    August 8th, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Well reviewed, Vern. I just watched BLADE RUNNER after having read the novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, and I too must say that it is definitely not all it’s hyped up to be.

    Now, I know what some of you might say: “You shouldn’t compare the novel and the movie”, and to some extent that is true; the movie is a work of its own. But on the other hand, when you read a story so interesting as DO ANDROIDS … and look forward to watching one of the most amazing movies of all time, and the movie doesn’t even come close to resembling the novel, it’s difficult not to be disappointed.

    There are so many plot lines, interesting themes and characters in the novel, and the film has nothing. I don’t even know what the film is about. Yes, Deckard hunts androids, but come on now, that hardly does justice to Philip K. Dick’s ingenious plots. And what’s with the random changes of setting and names? Does it make for a better film that it takes place in L.A. as opposed to San Francisco? Especially if you insist that the setting should be set in China Town, then why not keep the story set in SF? Why change J.R. Isidore’s name to J.F. Sebastian? Is that cooler? Perhaps it is a reference, I do not get.

    But worst of all: one of the greatest “scenes” in the novel is where Deckard tries the Voight-Kampff test on Rachell. He almost doesn’t figure out that she is an android, so perhaps the test doesn’t even work. Which could prove fatal to humans, and perhaps to Deckard himself if he some day takes the test and is accused of being an android. And the way Rachell discovers that she is in fact an android is a thrilling sequence that in the film lasts 5 seconds and is nothing special. Furthermore, the whole “is Deckard himself and android?” keeps rearing its ugly (read: exciting) head throughout the novel, and as you Vern, I failed to see how that is expressed in the film. Moreover, what’s with the rape?! Not very sympathetic. In the book, Rachell is the one who persuades Deckard into having sex with her to then later use it to her advantage. And why is the film called BLADE RUNNER? Oh well, I guess there are many things I do not understand.

    Sorry all, it guess this comment became rather long. But not as long as the time it will take me to get over the disappointment of not having seen one of the greatest movies ever.

  7. Katrine – If I remember right, in the book there was like a religious TV channel or something where somebody gets literally stoned by the viewers or something that fascinatingly conceived.

    As for why the title, well it wasn’t like the book title was ever an option for the producers, and I think they started out with crappy stand-in titles like DANGEROUS DAYS (urgh) and ANROID (yeech) before somebody came upon a William S. Burroughs book (NAKED LUNCH?) and found “Blade Runner” which for some reason or another they thought it was a great title.

    On the flipside, you had the infamous 20th Century Fox head huncho who decided to name that recent Tom Cruise flop KNIGHT AND DAY.

  8. I have to say, I think you’re looking at it all wrong. In my opinion, Roy Batty is the good guy, and Rick Deckard is supposed to kind of seem shitty. The movie is really all about Batty, and his struggle to be recognized as alive, much more alive in fact than Deckard.

  9. Also, Ridley Scott has apparently stated in interviews that Deckard is a replicant, but I think it’s better to think of him as a human who might as well be a robot, because that contrasts better with Batty’s robot wishing to be human.

  10. And, it has to be said that this Director’s Cut (which I also saw in the theater and now own on blu-ray) looks about a million times better than I ever thought this film would look. It might be the most impressive restoration I’ve ever seen, and the changes that were made were all relevant and interesting. It’s actually a better movie now. Suck on that, George Lucas.

  11. I was a Blade Runner-hater for years – I thought the same as Vern – it’s too slow, too bland of a main character, shitty and unconvincing love story, but I saw it again this weekend and HOLY SHIT – everything clicked. I agree with Levon – if you look at it from the perspective that the Replicants are the good guys, it really is incredibly powerful and sad. There’s so many layers I never really picked up on, like how the stripper Replicant was special ops (revealed when they go over her file, Steven Seagal-style). How incredibly depressing to spend your life in slavery/forced battle (like Gladiator!) and then forced to make ends meet by fucking stripping and then getting shot twice in the back while running away.

    Deckard is easily the least interesting, least charismatic main character in a great movie, but it really works to contrast with the Replicants, just like Vern said. (That’s why I call bullshit on the whole “Deckard is a replicant” shit, which reeks of George Lucas-y tinkering – the whole theme goes out the window!)

    I could seriously clog up Vern’s page with about 50 posts on this movie, but I’ll just point out one thing – anyone else think The Island was Michael Bay’s attempt to remake Blade Runner from the perspective of the replicants?

  12. neal2zod, which cut did you watch? I think Scott’s recent remastered final cut is the best one, and it looks amazing on Blu-ray or (HD-DVD). However, I do think Deckard is a replicant.

  13. Charles – HDNET didn’t mention what edition, so I assumed it was the theatrical cut when I started watching it. Then I noticed there was no narration and of course I saw the unicorn, so I’m assuming it was the Director’s Cut. (I looked at the wikipedia for The Final Cut and didn’t see the changes they mentioned).

    Then later HDNET played “The Final Cut” and I was like, “awesome, they’re playing two different versions! But it turned out to be the same cut that I saw earlier! Do you have the 5 disc blu ray? Believe it or not, I actually DO want to see 5 discs about this movie now.

    So re: Deckard being a replicant – I see the evidence, but just don’t want to believe it. In your opinion what value does that add to the story? I mean, I admit it would be a neat twist, but it really does take away the entire theme of “Are cold, emotionless humans any better than emotional robots?” I think someone summed up the ending best by saying Roy saved Deckard at the end because he WAS “More Human Than Human” as the motto went, and showed the compassion that Deckard sure as hell wouldn’t show him.

  14. neal2zod, I do have the 5 disc set on HD-DVD, and it is great. There are 4 versions of the film (the theatrical, work print, director’s cut, and final cut of the film), lots of extras, and the extensive DANGEROUS DAYS: MAKING BLADE RUNNER documentary (Harrison Ford cusses like a sailor). I don’t remember there being a huge difference between the director’s cut, and the final cut from a narrative stand point, but the Final cut is not only digitally remastered but they also digitally touched up many of the practical effects and the film looks amazing! I am assuming the Blu-Ray looks and sounds as good as the HD-DVD, and the HD-DVD of the final cut is maybe the best looking and sounding HD disc I own, and I own a number of HD-DVD’s and Blu-Rays. The combination of Scott’s haunting vision of the future and top notch visual and audio remastering will really blow you away, the effects look better then most modern films.

    It has been a couple years since I watched the film, but I do agree that whether Deckard is a replicant or not is not really central to the story. I think at the heart of the film is the question of what really makes someone human. In the end Roy is a Christ like figure dieing for humanities sins.

  15. Is BLADE RUNNER the only movie in history where the director actually doesn’t understand the script?

    It was spelt out to Scott at a script meeting that Deckard isn’t a replicant and he apparently was looking out of a window, puffing on a cigar, when he suddenly hit the table he was sat at and exclaimed, brilliant! He’s a replicant, too! I love it!

    The “he’s a replicant” ending is too “Twilight Zone” for me. It goes “dun-dun-DUN!” but doesn’t have the staying power of him being human.

    I’m sure plenty of people dig that and that’s cool but I’m with the screenwriters on this one.

    He’s basically dead at the start of the film and slowly comes back to life.

    That shit is deep.

    BTW, you can actually hear the anger in Hampton Fancher’s voice rise on the Final Cut commentary when the “replicant glow” appears in Deckard’s eyes. I think he actually growls “Ridley….” At one point, too.

    It’s kind of awesome.

    I like to imagine he’s also shaking his fist at the screen in a “why I oughta…!” fashion.

  16. There really is no good and evil in this as far as I’m concerned. It’s all shades of grey, maybe apart from the two figures of authority (Bryant and Tyrell) who aren’t exactly twirling their mustaches the whole time. Watching the film (which for me means the ’92 directors cut and the more Final Cut, still have yet to see the other three versions) from this perspective is a rewarding experience, I feel.


    Paint me interested. Between possibly this happening and Blomkamp doing the next ALIEN, these franchises might have a fighting chance of returning with a truly fresh approach with each guy at the helm.

  18. I think a lot of franchises have managed to “come back” with the right director at the helm. Fresh eyes seems to help. I would have dreaded this a lot more if Scott were doing it.

  19. Holy shit. My local cinema screens BLADE RUNNER in april!

  20. Are you finally getting BLADE RUNNER in Sweden? This must be a glorious day for you…

  21. Blade Runner 2049 is a real thing:

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