Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

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Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

It might be easy to overlook these days — especially given the sheer amount of time since we last visited this particular franchise — but the upcoming R-rated blockbuster, Blade Runner 2049, is actually a sequel.  Although the adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel was never intended to be part of a greater series of events, its now-legendary place in the pop cultural pantheon means that cash-strapped studio executives couldn’t simply leave well enough alone.

It’s actually quite remarkable that the film enjoys the near-fanatical reputation that it has amassed over its thirty-five year lifespan.  Due to its infamously botched theatrical cut, the movie bombed on release: both critically and commercially.  It was released the exact same day of another R-rated sci-fi film that questioned the authenticity of those around us — The Thing — although to much less fanfare, and within a month of the much better received E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

And to be fair, given how justifiably reviled the version of the movie released to theaters was, it’s no wonder it failed.  The studio, uncertain about the quiet, thought-provoking film, inserted an utterly inane voice-over throughout the film, which was written and recorded entirely in post production against the wishes of Ridley Scott, the film’s director.  In addition, they recut or removed a number of scenes and tacked on a saccharine ending: undercutting the entire preceding narrative.

Even when it was released on home media, the film couldn’t catch a break.  Multiple different versions of the film circulated in various states of release for decades: confusing anybody who cared to watch it with exactly what version was best.  Even the alleged director’s cut — notably made without Scott’s input — was ultimately nothing to write hoe about.

Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

It has only been in the last decade that we’ve gotten the Final Cut: Ridley Scott’s true, intended director’s cut of the film.  Restoring and re-editing the film to his intended vision — including the now-famous “unicorn scene” and the original ending — and chucking the voice-over in its entirety, it has proven to be the only version of the film worth seeing.

Although I have perplexingly seen multiple articles proclaiming that you don’t need to see the original film in order to watch and enjoy the new one, I have to wonder what exactly is the point of it.  The original film introduces one of the best “hard boiled detectives” ever put to film — a role that Ford specifically chose to break away from family-friendly material like Star Wars and Indiana Jones — as well as a vast, complex and unutterably fascinating world.  It also ends on one of the most beautifully ambiguous endings of all times, questioning whether Ford’s character is Human or a machine: a question that appears to be central to the plot of the upcoming film.

Required Reading: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’

Even though it may very well prove enjoyable to even those new to the franchise, I can’t think of any reason why anybody should skip out on the original film (or, rather, the Final Cut of the original film).  If nothing else, it is a stand-out entry into the science fiction genre that has only appreciating in the years since its release.

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