Fresh on 4K: near-perfect ‘BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT’ fails to ‘interlink’ with outdated special features

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT

Rated R,
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Harrison FordRutger HauerSean YoungEdward James OlmosDaryl HannahWilliam SandersonBrion JamesJoanna Cassidy and Joe Turkel
Available today on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

It’s no secret that BLADE RUNNER has a complicated and troubled history. Harrison Ford famously phoned it in while recording his narration in the theatrical version, the film failed to turn a profit in the box office, it only gained its cult following after leaving theaters, and there are a total of four different versions with very different endings. When considering all of the reasons BLADE RUNNER should have failed, it only makes the film that much more intriguing.

Just in time to get caught up for the sequel, Warner Bros. Entertainment has released BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT on 4K UHD Blu-ray. But just how well can a 1982 film make the transition to Ultra High Definition? In a word: exceptionally.

Movie Grade: A-

Set in the dystopian future of 2019, the human race has developed a means to grow synthetic humans known as “replicants” to be used as slave labor to colonize other planets. Replicants have genetically enhanced traits such as strength and intelligence, but also a significantly shorter life span. After four replicants escape from their OffWorld colony and flee back to Earth searching for a way to extend their time to remain alive, a Blade Runner named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tasked with hunting them down one by one. A Blade Runner’s job is simple: determine whether or not someone is a replicant, and kill them if they are one. BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT is an epic story comprised of a simple premise. It challenges the audience’s perception of what defines us as human as well as our notions on the value of life.

Video/Audio Grade: A+

Interestingly enough, a 4K digital intermediate was put together back in 2007 for the Blu-ray release referred to as The Complete Collector’s Edition. Ten years later, this same master was given an additional treatment of HDR and the result is stunning. Make no mistake, this is the best BLADE RUNNER has ever looked. Seeing a film from 1982 look as though it were made today is truly amazing. Subtleties such as trash along the cluttered streets of Los Angeles or the individual strands on Rachel’s extravagant fur coat are bursting with detail. The climactic fight scene between Deckard and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is also a stand out moment, as the contrasting textures of facial pores and raindrops are very distinguished.

What really sells this one though is the HDR. Being a futuristic homage to crime noir films of the past, BLADE RUNNER has a very dark color pallet. Several scenes are filled with rich shadows pierced by rogue rays of light that illuminate billowing smoke and fog. This creative use of cinematography is all the more beautiful with the added color depth, and makes it feel as though you’re seeing the film for the first time again.

The audio is equally brilliant. The new Dolby Atmos track is a welcome addition that really takes advantage of the movie’s intricate and layered sound design. Dialogue is crystal clear and Vangelis’ haunting synthesized score never feels out of date. In short, BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT is one of the best 4K viewing experiences on the market.

Extras Grade: B-

The history behind making BLADE RUNNER is nearly as complicated and interesting as the film itself. As mentioned earlier, the 2007 Blu-ray release was considered the ultimate package for the film. This was because it included the four alternate versions of the movie, but more importantly an incredible collection of behind the scenes documentaries that broke down the story step by step from the Workprint to the Final Cut. There was just an unprecedented amount of care and respect for the legacy of the film to be found in that release. This is why I find it so hard to look the other way when examining the blatant lack of passion or effort put into the extras in this new version.

All alternate versions including the Workprint are left out of this release, leaving only the Final Cut in both 4K UHD and 1080p. It’s worth noting that the Final Cut is widely regarded as the best version of the film, so at least there’s that. The presentation of the discs themselves is nothing short of confusing. Upon opening the case, you’ll find a total of four discs: the 4K disc of the Final Cut, the Blu-ray of the Final Cut, and two DVDs containing a (fantastic) documentary and additional features. The problem with this is that all discs other than the 4K disc, are simply duplicates from the 2007 release. Even more confusing is the fact that they maintain their original cover art and numbering (1, 2, and 4). This is just lazy. Would it really have been that much of a hassle to move the features from disc 2 and 4 over to a single Blu-ray with an updated cover art? It actually may have ended up being cheaper in the long run.

As it stands, the extras that did make the cut are still as fascinating as ever. It’s just too bad that so much was left out of what was almost a perfect collection.

  • Disc 1: The Final Cut in standard Blu-ray. It contains the same commentaries and director’s introduction as the UHD.
  • Disc 2: “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner” – The ultimate documentary on the making of the film, culled from over 80 interviews with Cast, Crew, and Colleagues, and hours of outtakes and on-set footage.
  • Disc 4: A second DVD containing a collection of featurettes, trailers, deleted and alternate scenes and other supporting material.

Final Grade: B+

The release of BLADE RUNNER on 4K UHD is by far the greatest way to experience this timeless classic. It’s just a terrible shame that Warner Bros. failed to live up to the masterful work done to restore this now 36-year-old film by cutting so many corners with the special features. For those who already own the 2007 Blu-ray release, the 4K disc alone may only attract the most dedicated of fans. Yet for anyone who has yet to own a copy for themselves, this absolutely deserves a space on your shelf.

Tune in later this week for our 4K review of BLADE RUNNER 2049.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.