Even if Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) isn't one of your favorite movies, it's easy to admire from a technical standpoint. The film's blacker-than-black atmosphere, enveloping sound design, clever special effects, excellent score and stunning set design make it a veritable feast for the eyes and ears, but it's the densely layered story that makes sure the other side of your brain stays happy too. While early financial troubles and a relatively poor box office performance almost doomed Blade Runner right out of the gate, time has been unusually kind to it. Scott's film was nominated for (and won) a number of year-end awards...and later on, the accidental screening of a "Workprint" version of Blade Runner circa 1991 led to a Director's Cut, renewed public interest and a second life in the blossoming home video market.
The film's blend of science fiction and classic noir makes Blade Runner ripe with interesting characters and locales. Our story follows retired police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, fresh from Raiders of the Lost Ark) who's brought back into action for his skills as a "Blade Runner". Essentially, his job functions included the termination of "Replicants" (bio-engineered life forms with superhuman strength, speed and intelligence)...and as bad luck would have it, four of them are in immediate need of disposal. They're only designed for legal use in Off-World colonies, but these particularly cunning Replicants have made their way back to Los Angeles. If all four aren't stopped quickly, innocent civilians will undoubtedly die.
Blade Runner's potent mix of mystery, drama and action would be effective with any backdrop, but the rain-drenched neon cityscapes of Los Angeles 2019 make any viewing a truly memorable experience. The film's unique visuals and sprawling East-meets-West cultural stew have influenced everything from video games (Perfect Dark, Dues Ex) to later films and TV shows (Battlestar Galactica, Firefly), while the work of source novel author Philip K. Dick continued to seep into mainstream films like Total Recall and Minority Report. The story remains layered and complex---enough so that first-time viewers will probably have trouble in soaking up all the clues, themes and details---but it's the rare case of atmosphere and mood almost overshadowing every other element of the production. Blade Runner was undoubtedly far ahead of its time and it continues to hold up today, even though 2019 won't resemble the world it depicts.
Original released on DVD as a Director's Cut in the early days of the format, Blade Runner likewise found new life in 2007 when a Collector's Edition brought together multiple versions of the film in one package. The U.S. Theatrical Cut, International Cut, Director's Cut and "Workprint Cut" were paired with a new "Final Cut" by Scott, who ironically was not all that involved with the 1992 Director's Cut. Released to celebrate the film's 25th Anniversary, the landmark 2007 Collector's Edition was shuffled away to make room for a 30th Anniversary release, available as a Blu-Ray Digibook or this bulked up boxed set; both versions add a few minor extras, but this also throws in a few physical trinkets for $30 more. It may not necessarily be worth a purchase, but at least it's worth reading about. Let's dig deeper, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
It's not like Blade Runner's landmark visuals had much room for improvement...but it doesn't matter, because this video presentation is basically identical to the 2007 release. Some folks were hoping the studio would at least re-encode this material using the more modern AVC codec (rather than the older VC-1)...but let's be honest, the differences would've been trivial at best. Oddly enough, though, "The Workprint Cut" actually has been re-encoded, but all other versions remain the same. Either way, what we're left with is certainly nothing to sneeze at: the 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer is pretty damn flawless with deep black levels, strong image detail and a perfect palette. Blade Runner was one of the earliest home runs on Blu-Ray in all departments, and the visuals haven't faded much during the last five years.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Not surprisingly, the menu designs are basic but they're smooth and easy to navigate. Obviously, there are a ton of options and bonus features included with this release and, to the studio's credit, they're all nicely organized and easy to find (though owners of the 2007 five-disc edition will find that a few extras have been shuffled around). Seen below, this four-disc release is housed in a multi-hubbed keepcase with attractive cover art and no inserts. The case itself and a number of physical extras are housed in a collector's box that's not quite as big as you think. It's an attractive set, though I'd imagine that most folks' media shelves are reaching critical mass by now. A Blu-Ray only Digibook version is also available.
DISCLAIMER: These images were taken from promotional outlets and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
Pretty much an identical situation in the audio department: the same Dolby TrueHD mixes are present on every version of the film...except the Workprint edition, which gets a new bump to DTS-HD Master Audio. Not that there's anything wrong with TrueHD, of course: the film's still sound fantastic for their age and the multi-channel remix is very tastefully done. Vangelis' score gets perhaps the biggest boost in clarity and overall sonic detail, while the dialogue and overall ambiance are always crisp and well-defined. It's just odd that the roughest version of the film (in a technical sense, at least) got a modest upgrade and the others didn't...but either way, Blade Runner still sounds like a million bucks. Optional subtitles are also available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.
As unexpected (and frankly, kind of pointless) as this release is, there's actually one new bonus feature on board: a thorough Production Photo Archive with roughly 1,000 images to dig through, and they're all presented in 1080p. Aside from that, the physical extras exclusive to this release include a double-sided Art/Archives Hardcover Book with more photos and behind-the-scenes info, a die-cast Concept Spinner Car, a Lenticular Print similar to screen cap #2 and a DVD & Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the Final Cut.
Everything else has been ported over from 2007's massive five-disc Collector's Edition, though a few featurettes are now presented in a slightly different order. Disc One includes three Audio Commentaries during the Final Cut; one with director Ridley Scott, a second with writers Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and production executive Katherine Haber; and a third with "visual futurist" Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence Paull, art director David Snyder, and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. Needless to say there's plenty of great information available, depending on which area(s) interest you the most.
On a related note, Disc Two includes a helpful Video Introduction by Ridley Scott, who takes a few minutes to explain several differences between the International, Theatrical (U.S.) and Director's Cut editions of Blade Runner, as well as a few personal thoughts about how each version came to be.
Disc Three holds the lion's share of recycled extras, which have now been condensed onto a single Blu-Ray instead of three DVDs on the 2007 edition. An Audio Commentary featuring author Paul M. Sammon is included for the Workprint edition, which goes into great detail about this influential version that revived the film years after its initial release. Charles de Lauzirika's "Dangerous Days" is an excellent 2007 feature- length documentary about the film from inception to legacy, although it's still presented in 480p and the text graphics look rough. There's also a massive Enhancement Archive which includes a few featurettes about author Philip K. Dick, screen tests, a tribute to cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, deleted scenes, vintage featurettes, trailers, testimonies from fans and filmmakers, and more. Last but not least, "All Our Variant Futures" offers a fascinating 30-minute look at the Final Cut restoration.
As mentioned before, everything from the 2007 Collector's Edition has been ported over, though just about everything remains in standard definition. Combined with the new production photo gallery, die-hard fans will be up to their ears in extras for many, many hours. Optional subtitles are available.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is an undisputed sci-fi classic that's risen in stature considerably during the past three decades, and fantastic packages like the 2007 Collector's Edition Blu-Ray only serve to deepen the film's legacy. Unfortunately, this relatively pointless 30th Anniversary Edition is basically a cheap cash grab, though it's got a new image archive, a more organized platter of extras and a few physical extras if you've got the extra shelf space. I'd imagine that most new fans will want to opt for the Blu-Ray only Digibook release, while those who own the 2007 Collector's Edition needn't bother with this lukewarm (and expensive!) "upgrade". Like Unforgiven, just Skip It and wait another five years.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.