Today! Because those aren’t your memories, they’re somebody else’s –
Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Harrison Ford, Sean Young (x2), Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah (x2), M. Emmet Walsh (x2), Edward James Olmos, William Sanderson, Brion James (x2), Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong
I have a pair of what I’ve discovered are super unpopular opinions in regards to Blade Runner. 1) Ridley Scott might be the most overrated director in film history (Ouch!) and 2) I prefer the original theatrical version of the movie to the Director’s Cut (Yikes!). I know! Coming out hot!
So where the hell do I get off with my stupid ideas? Okay, first off, while Scott made a few admittedly great movies – Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator maybe, The Martian – his reputation is such that you’d think it’s wall-to-wall masterpieces, when he was also behind the camera for middling near misses like American Gangster and Hannibal (Okay, I do kind of like Hannibal – the first half, anyway) and a bundle of absolutely awful films – Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Exodus, Legend, Robin Hood, 1492, A Good Year, The Counselor. I’m not saying he’s a bad director – there are too many legitimately great movies on the resume – I’m saying he’s massively overrated. His name on a picture is no reason to see that picture, is all I’m saying.
Second, and trickier, are my feelings about the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner. I get that it’s a somewhat cooler film without the voice overs – narrators in movies, plays, TV shows, almost any visual medium are a lousy gimmick born out of lazy writing – and that the ending works fine without the “happy” spin of the original. But I don’t know – people talk about the Director’s Cut like it is this vastly improved version of the movie. It doesn’t really add much of anything – it’s the only “director’s cut” I can think of that attempts addition by subtraction – plus I think losing the voice overs shifts the film closer to the poetic than the sci-fi actioner, which I just don’t prefer in this case. Much becomes left to interpretation that – even if you’re well familiar with the original – becomes more distracting than not. I realize I’m in the extreme minority on this. Oh, also, no movie needs this many versions (I dare you to explain the difference between the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut off the top of your head) without any significantly different content. In the ’00s this started bordering on Star Wars revisionist lunacy for Blade Runner.
Which, again, was a wildly acclaimed film to begin with – no one lamented the fact that Blade Runner didn’t deliver in its original form. It was nominated for eight BAFTAs, two Oscars, a Golden Globe, and was frequently included on Best Science Fiction and Best Film lists forever after. Did you know that Walt Whitman released nine different versions of Leaves of Grass? Not editions – versions! Nine! Blade Runner is technically up to seven, plus the 2017 sequel, which, while okay, was wholly and completely unnecessary, and like a half hour too long.
This all comes off more that I’m banging on Scott and Blade Runner than praising it, and that was not my goal. This movie is a dazzling filmmaking achievement, and is rivetingly creative beginning to end. I know multiple people personally who claim this as their favorite movie, and vehemently disagree with everything I’ve said above. Maybe if I hadn’t seen the original version first I’d feel differently? Maybe if it didn’t become so damn hard to find a copy of that original version for so long I wouldn’t have developed an actual bitterness toward the Director’s Cut? There are factors, to be sure. But I’m sticking by these opinions, at least until better ones present themselves. Maybe the 8th rendition will be the one to really blow my stupid socks off, who knows?
Sean Young (#287 Stripes), Brion James (#256 The Fifth Element), Daryl Hannah (#389 Memoirs of an Invisible Man) and M. Emmet Walsh (#266 The Jerk) join the Two-Timers (hard to believe this is the first Harrison Ford film, at #230!), clocking the club at 304 members now! How many can you name? Go! Get 95% or better and win that origami unicorn!