The IU Cinema recently showed all three versions of the science fiction classic “Blade Runner.” In one day it showed the 1982 original version that was cut by the studio, the partially restored 1992 director’s cut, and the “final cut,” the only one over which director Ridley Scott had complete editorial control. I only saw the “final cut”, and it blew me away. “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” is a masterpiece of mood and vision, and it presents one of the most lived in worlds I have ever seen on a screen.
Though he is not immediately introduced, the ostensible hero of this film is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). He’s an ex “blade runner,” a special type of policeman who hunts down and kills rogue replicants. Replicants, in this neo-noir science fiction universe, are incredibly lifelike androids that are stronger than humans and just as smart. To prevent them from rising up against humanity, they are given a four-year lifespan. Though he left the force for reasons never explained in the film, Deckard is roped into tracking down and “retiring” four rogue replicants seeking longer lifespans. As he goes about his task, he slowly starts to fall in love with Rachael (Sean Young), a replicant whose implanted memories make her think she’s human.
Though it’s 117 minutes, I never felt that this film was overlong. Indeed, as the final fight between Deckard and replicant leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) began I was surprised at how much had happened. This is accomplished by the film’s gripping story as well as its dreamlike atmosphere. This atmosphere is helped by Vangelis’s score, which disorients the viewer as he/she tries to make sense of this world and the motives of its characters. Deckard in particular is hard to get a hold of, as we never truly learn his backstory. He’s a mysterious character, but it’s touching to see how his relationship with Rachael slowly starts to awaken his humanity.
It’s humanity that helps makes the film’s antagonist, Roy Batty, such a great character. In his manner and actions Batty is a villain, and some of the film’s creepiest music serves as his theme. But the desire motivating his actions is simply to live longer and to extend the lives of his loved ones. His last monologue, as he reflects on his life and accepts death, is one of the most moving I’ve seen in a film. The fact that it’s spoken by an android makes it all the more cool.
Especially when I thought of all the films that have been butchered by studios that can’t be reconstructed, I loved “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.” It brought to life one of the most stunning worlds I’d ever seen, populated it with characters that still remain fascinating, and explored ideas of morality and what it means to be human. It’s one of those films that you need to give a second viewing.