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Blade Runner: The Final Cut (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Perhaps the greatest single film Blu-ray release of all time was Warner Bros 5-disc set of Blade Runner. It was perfect. It featured a great (For the time) looking transfer, 5 cuts of the film, lots of extras and a 3 hour documentary retrospective that was engaging, informative and honest. I’ve long said a perfect Blu-ray/DVD release is one where you have no questions or wants after it. So, when it comes to this new 4K Ultra-HD debut of Blade Runner being shy of the new extras, its no bother, because we already have everything we need. And this release comes with all of them minus the workprint. The important factor is how the film is going to perform in the video and audio department with this new format. And, I’ll give you the short here; it looks AMAZING. It comes out September 5th, don’t hesitate to pre-order your copy immediately.  I’ll be shocked if anyone is disappointed with its presentation.

Film 

Deckard is forced by the police Boss to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter. His assignment: eliminate four escaped Replicants from the colonies who have returned to Earth. Before starting the job, Deckard goes to the Tyrell Corporation and he meets Rachel, a Replicant girl he falls in love with.

My first experience with Blade Runner came in my multimedia class my sophomore year of high school. “Mr. A”, the teacher and one of my early inspirations/influences/mentors, showed us some of his favorite clips from films on our first day and Roy Batty’s famed speech was included. I didn’t know the context, or what part in the movie it took pace in, but I was taken with it. Immediately after school, I rented the film. I had seen the VHS box at the video store, noted that it looked like sci-fi adventure with Harrison Ford (Like everyone of the era, one of my favorite stars). But, I never checked it out because I’d never heard anything about it or heard anyone talk about it. I knew it bombed, that was about it.

When I first viewed the film, I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it. There was likely some expectation made by myself, imagining from the poster, that there would more action carrying it. The visuals, the effects, those shocked me at how well they stood up and still impressed (This was the mid-90s). However, it lingered, I always had the desire to return to the film and give it another shot. Which I did a couple years later and found myself enjoying it much more. Ditto the next time and the time after that. Blade Runner really resonates more every time you view it. There are so new details that emerge, or doors unlock. Maybe you’re seeing something differently. Maybe your perspective is different now. As you grow up and experience life, so does the story that Blade Runner is telling you. My good friend John Rocha has always mentioned that its one of the few films that he could watch 5 times in a row, in the same day, and get something different from it each time.

Ridley Scott’s take on the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is almost in the vein of Kubrick’s The Shining. Like that one, I think Scott actually strengthens the material by doing a bit more of being more vague and ambiguous. The film’s story is all about answering the question of what exactly it means to be human. Our lead character of Deckard spends the film questioning himself, his profession, his peers and his antagonists. Aside from some of their violent outburts as a result of being slave laborers, what real difference do they have from us on a personality level. Through his relationship with Rachel, Deckard struggles to really see it despite what he’s been told and his world continually becomes more gray. I’m gonna just ignore the fact that Scott makes a proclamation in this “Final Cut” that is pretty out of place and something that is besides the point and should be left to the viewer if they are even questioning it.

Having just reviewed Prometheus 4K last week,  another thematic floated toward the forefront. This might have more to do with Scott as a filmmaker than Blade Runner as a film. The journey to meet one’s creator is just as much what Blade Runner was about as would be the entire premise for Scott’s journey 30 years later with Prometheus (And to a lesser extend Alien: Covenant).  These two movies are almost the Yin and Yang of one another. Blade Runner’s group that has traveled to another planet to find their maker are the antagonists. They ruthlessly work their way to Tyrell, their maker, whom is prim, proper, very much proud of his creations and willing to comfort them as his “children”. Batty turns on him and kills him. With Prometheus, the space travelers are the protagonists, finding a more primitive savage being that could care less about them and begins attacking and killing them (Including some head trauma). We could probably go into more about the android character of David even, but we’ll stick to where we are at here.

One of Blade Runner’s strongest appeals is the sights and sounds. It has one of the most popular and influential aesthetics ever capture on celluloid. While its no world I think any of us one to live it, the slight familiarity of it, the futuristic twist and the grimy accurate detail to it makes us just wonder and soak in its unique beauty. The lighting and camera masterwork here with its heavy neo-noir approach with a stylistic touch of loose Japanese culture, frame absolute masterpieces scene by scene that just put together one hell of an image.  Throw on top of this, the mesmerizing and absolute dream weaving score by Vangelis, and you’ve got one of the most well crafted and put together moods seen in the history of cinema. I could honestly watch a lot of the random in between scenes of just the camera wandering around the city while Vangelis plays and be incredibly happy and blissful.

Had the film been a bigger success, who knows what kind of career would have been in store for Rutger Hauer. He truly delivers an incredible performance. Its one of the best “jump off” roles that didn’t really take him much of anywhere. Hauer does get to have one of the greatest moments ever, with the luck of the film given life after its financial failure. Sean Young is pretty impressive in the film as well, with a very interesting turn that is both human and flat at the same time. Little did we know at the time, but this was just a stroke of good casting putting her in a role that played to her normal acting talents. Harrison Ford gives one of his more understated performances where people might think he’s ho hum, but he’s actually having a lot of fun (Check out the Zhora scene for prime vintage fun) and also handling a man going through a like changing internal conflict like its a walk in the park. Now, if you’re watching the original theatrical version, yeah, that narration blows…but to be fair, he hated that idea and was trying to sabotage it.

With a film I love as much as Blade Runner, I hope I didn’t sit and just slobber on it. Its very hard to express and accurately put to words your extreme love and passion for a film like this.  I could go on about how the effects still look perfect and better than most of today’s impressive CG work, for instance. Its a film that was ahead of its time and then has stood the test of time. Its one of the biggest cult classics we’ve ever seen. Though this is in the “prestige” department of said cult films. So much can be said, has been said and probably still is there to be said about Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Personally, I’ve never thought or desired this film to have a sequel. I think it truly has EVERYTHING here in this film. But, we’re getting one anyway. I wanted to be against it, but they seem to continually have made decisions (Cast, production, etc) that won’t allow me to. Storywise, I still don’t know what I’m in for or if I want to be in for. But, I don’t think that’s what is exciting people. The excitement may just be stepping foot back in this world again, to see and feel it. To sooth yourself with the score while looking at the neon lights on the dark rainy city streets. A lot of Blade Runner’s appreciation is just that, so if Blade Runner 2049 can at least please in that department, that’ll give time to make the story appear or get better. Blade Runner, the original, does that and continues to.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  Warner Bros, I am floored. You have done the most incredible work here on one of my favorite films of all time (Its usually Top 3 for me). I almost had tears in the rain from the moment I pressed play. From the LADD Company logo at the beginning to the final closing credit exiting the top of your screen, you will be utterly amazed at the restoration upgrade work done on Blade Runner. Details are abundant and the picture is incredibly clear. The moment we start with the already breathtaking visuals, they will once again take your breath away. The Tyrell building is a complete jaw dropper. You’ll then get the Voight-Kampff test with Leon and notice the cracked leather and logo stitching on the chairs that he and the implementer are sitting in. Blade Runner is a world we love because of the wear and the grime and now we can see ALL OF IT. Little flecks of snow, or water droppings are well rounded and much more discernible notable bits. HDR is applied handsomely too. Blade Runner is a film that begs for it and it is given its well deserved due. Warner Bros has put together the most impressive display of a classic catalog film that is now the gold standard by which they should all be judged. This has that feeling of seeing the film for the first time again. And for that, I thank you, Warner Bros.

Depth:  Blade Runner has never looked so smooth or clean in its camera movements. Effects have always looked pristine, but this is a different level of zipping around for the flying cars and such. Characters move much more natural with a cinematic edge. Any instance of blurring or jittering do to quicker, rash movements are no longer present in this picture.

Black Levels:  As colorful as we’ll discuss in the next section, Blade Runner is also a dark movie and this new transfer is deep, rich and very luscious. Blacks help things become more defined, but never resulting in any lost information. There are some very dark scenes in Deckard’s apartment that bring on a bit heavier grain, but its handled incredible well. Blade Runner has never look so natural in its darkness and yet been perfectly clean and visible at the same time. And of course, there were no instances at all of any crushing going on while I viewed the film for this review.

Color Reproduction:  Blade Runner is the perfect movie to have the glorious HDR applied to it. There are many scenes where a filter that is blue, green or read will illuminate the screen, but its never overbearing and you can still make out the actuality of the natural colors beneath it, keeping the image still crisp. There are too many instances and highlights from the use of HDR to go over in this review, but if you’re a fan of this movie, you can just imagine where it is applied. The neon street lights, car lights, red glowing lights, candles…but my favorite has got to be the Tyrell building. As mentioned above, the windows have this blue glow to them and they are all wow’ing and individualized. The HDR use here isn’t abused either, its absolutely perfect. Even more regular things, like Edward James Olmos yellow vest and teal jacket look bold and strong. Naturals like Deckard’s iconic brown trench coat of the grimy looking apartments.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent look throughout the film. Facial features are quite amazing and impressive. You make out pores, stubble, brush strokes on Pris’ painted face, sweat beads, mascara, lip texture, dried blood, glitter, wrinkles…you name it. For the age of this film, you’ll be very impressed with the incredible amount of detail your eyes can see on a face or skin from really any distance, like every bit of white paint on Roy Batty’s mouth from kissing Pris.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Mandarin (Simple), Mandarin (Traditional), Cantonese, Korean, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Arabic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish

Dynamics:  Completing the amazing video is its partner in crime, this friggin’ awesome Atmos track. Blade Runner is just fully as you’ve not experienced it before. While I’m one for the original audio, I can’t deny the incredible experience this film is with this track. It showboats and is loose, crisp and distinct in the audio design. It also really loud, which I love. This is as close as you get to being sucked into the world of Ridley Scott’s film, and paired with the video, you’ll really be a part of it.

Height: Not forgotten is right about you as cars fly by, rain and storming makes its presence known and debris can fly around. Its nice to see that its put to some use.

Low Frequency Extension:  Blade Runner has never thundered and pounded like this before. The subwoofer is an incredibly big factor here. Many moods are set with its vibrations as well as helping to pulsate club music, have a car roar bay, increase a storm’s intensity, fire a blaster, glass shatter, fire shooting off and so many more instance just have some awesome hits.

Surround Sound Presentation:  From the get go, they show you there is no playing around. Cars fly on from back to front, overhead, to the side. You get an incredible sense of place and presence with no channel ever ignored. The ambiance is tremendous with drippings, outside rain and other little sounds placed in their appropriate place in a scene.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is loud, crisp and clear. Vocal inflections and diction are well captured and improved from before. There are some moments that come a little light (Like Deckard’s opening scene), but that has to do with the source and overall isn’t bad.

Extras 

Blade Runner: The Final Cut comes with the standard Blu-ray edition discs from the previous set, minus the Workprint disc. It also includes an UltraViolet digital copy. You should have 5 Discs total. For the purpose of this review, Warner Bros Home Entertainment has asked that I only cover the contents of the 4K Ultra-HD disc as it is the only new material in this set.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Ridley Scott
  • By Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Michael Deeley and Katherine Haber (Dubbed “Writer/Producer Commentary”)

Introduction By Ridley Scott (HD, :35) – The same introduction from the previous release where Ridley Scott talks about the cut of the film as well as the restoration.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut-4K Remastered Trailer (HD, 2:31)

Summary 

Blade Runner has long been one of my favorite films and one with some of the most amazing rewatchability. And I’m going to love rewatch this 4K Ultra-HD release. As a matter of fact, I’ve already watched it 3 times prior to writing this review. The video and audio on this thing are absolutely stunning and the answer to that question your friends (or yourself) may have “Why 4K?”. If we can get more classic films to get this type of care and devotion, more people are going to come along. As I said, I was almost in tears the minute the film opened up to the flying cars and Tyrell building as I couldn’t believe how incredible the movie looked. Warner is hooking you up, too by throwing in 4 of the discs from the former 5 disc set here as well. This is the most MUST HAVE 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray title old or new. Blade Runner 2049 can suck now for all I care, and I’m still going to be thankful for it, because it brought us this release.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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