My latest Sympatico/MSN DVD column
— which is not up yet, but will be soon — focuses on the DVD event of the season and possibly the year: Warner’s new edition of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, now fully restored, remastered and retooled for its 25th anniversary.
As I mention in the piece, I’m not the biggest fan of the movie; yeah, it’s gorgeous and amazingly constructed, but I’ve always found it a little boring to sit and watch. But as a cinematic landmark, it’s as important as, say, Lucas’ “Star Wars” or Scott’s “Alien” — it’s a watermark for what the science-fiction genre can accomplish, and a signpost for where it’s going.
I also donâ€™t think Scottâ€™s endless tinkering with the film has really helped it that much. Losing the studio-enforced narration and the tacked-on happy ending, thatâ€™s fine; itâ€™s the other thing that bugs me. Central to Scottâ€™s 1992 â€œdirectorâ€™s cutâ€ (which, fifteen years later, turns out to be a directorâ€™s cut in progress) is the unequivocal revelation of Rick Deckard as one of those pesky replicants â€“ an identity twist that had only been hinted at in the original theatrical release. The new cut retains that concrete certitude, and I think â€“ as I thought fifteen years ago â€“ that it still feels wrong.
The best virtue of “Blade Runner”, aside from its marvelous visuals, is its sense of foggy ambiguity. The human characters are portrayed as dithering, confused and ineffectual; the replicants are sleek, poised and sexy, with one exception â€“- or two, if Scott is to be believed. Sure, sidekick Gaff is slick and sharply dressed, but we never see him do much; all he does is serve as Deckardâ€™s taxi driver and make those damn origami animals.
Fortunately, documentarian Charles de Lauzirika understands that the central issue of Deckard’s identity is something that’s intrigued and annoyed fans of the film for years, and even though he leaves it out of the epic making-of documentary, he’s included a nine-minute featurette on Disc Four, “Deck-a-Rep”, that examines the question thoroughly. (Bottom line: It was Scott’s idea, and he thinks it’s obvious, while the actors and writers believe otherwise.)
The person who makes the strongest case for Deckard’s humanity? Frank Darabont, a filmmaker who doesn’t exactly have the best track record for understanding the essential nature of his text.
I guess that’s irony for you …