The View From Here

Blade Runner -- The Final Cut

Michael Bonner

While John and Farah were riffing it up at Led Zeppelin last night, I went to see Ridley Scott's latest and, presumably, Final Cut of Blade Runner, one of my favourite films. For a cold and drizzly Monday night viewing at the Screen On The Green in Islington, it was remarkably busy -- unsurprisingly, the audience conspicuously all male, pretty much all of them, like me, glued to the screen.

The last time I saw Blade Runner at the cinema was in 1992, or thereabouts, when the Director's Cut was released. It was, I think, at the Sutton Odeon that’s now, I believe, Zoots nightclub. Anyway, I remember pretty clearly how stunned I was to see it on the big screen for the first time, to be able to appreciate the incredible levels of visual detail Ridley Scott layered onto the film, something I'd never previously appreciated when seeing it on video.

Scott's Final Cut offers nothing new in terms of content -- there's a few minor tweaks but no great revelatory conclusion to the Is Deckard A Replicant? debate (yes he is, thank you). What Scott has done, though, is strike a new digital print from the negatives and tidied up the special effects. For a film made in the last days of the pre-digital era, it still looks fantastic.

I caught a few moments of the second Star Wars prequel Attack Of The Clones on TV over the weekend, and the CGI looks so ham-fisted next to Blade Runner's graceful model work. Watching Hayden Christiansen's Anakin Skywalker battle animated 'droids and monsters against a blue-screen background is such an arid experience compared to those establishing shots in Scott's film of LA at night, plumes of flame rising into the air, the Spinner hover cars gliding overhead, blimps advertising life Off-World. Then there’s the constant rain, the way that on ground level, everything looks like it’s about to malfunction, the cramped apartments, shonky equipment, leaking pipes, the dilapidated buildings… It's astonishing how fully-realised the film’s setting is, as opposed to the sterile CGI landscapes we're so used to now.

At the risk of sounding too geeky here, I've seen Blade Runner 20 odd times, and when I watch it now I tend to find new things to look at in the film. Last night, for instance, I was struck for the first time by the interiors of the apartment belonging to genetic designer JF Sebastian; all the funny little toys, mannequins and drapes resembling a densely textured sci-fi take on Miss Havesham's cobwebbed palace in Great Expectations.

I could go on all night about this film. Lead Replicant Roy Batty's ultimately moving attempt to extend his life and his crucial decision that life, anyone's, is worth preserving. How Harrison Ford's never been better than here as harrassed, troubled cop Rick Deckard. How, amazingly, the smoking ban's been revoked in LA by 2019.

Instead, though, I'll just steer you towards this new print. At cinemas now, as they say, for a limited time. Please do go and see it.


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