Nina and I caught Blade Runner: The Final Cut in Campbell last night–it says something when a movie originally shot 25 years ago, with only a handful of new subtle, cleaned-up CGI shots, is infinitely better in scope and ambition than anything playing in theaters today. (And attracted a pretty good–if fairly middle aged–crowd as well.) You could probably say the same thing about the movies in 1982, (cue the William Goldman quote) but Hollywood at least was coming off a decade of great movies in the 1970s. I doubt that even the most hardcore of Hollywood fans would compare the quality of the films of the “naughts” with the films of the period of 1970-1983.
Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits has an extensive review of the latest–and maybe even final!–version of Blade Runner and the shots that were replaced and cleaned-up. These changes definitely help the film’s continuity, which was its weakest element: I can understand why Leonard Maltin trashed the film in his popular guide; beyond the killer production design and music score, the film really does have the feel of a movie where the director was trying to clean things up at the last minute in the editing room. Check out how much expository information is dubbed in, particularly in the early scenes in the police station with Harrison Ford’s Deckard and his boss, Capt. Bryant, played by veteran character actor M. Emmet Walsh. Much of it comes when Walsh’s character is speaking is off the screen during a reaction shot of Ford, or a cutaway to a computer monitor. The new version smoothes a lot of this out, but it’s clear that there was probably too much information flying around for early audiences to process, and the editors tried their damndest to fix this at the last minute–and didn’t entirely succeed.
But so what? Like 2001: A Space Odyssey 14 years prior, Blade Runner is an awe-inspiring collection of great images and sounds, and should be viewed on the big screen–at least before watching it this way.