Multiple Meta-fiction Perspectives and the ‘Blade Runner: Collector’s Edition’

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Despite the annoying packaging (a silly “blade runner” plastic briefcase) and the bundled chotchkies (do I really need a plastic toy version of Gaff’s origami unicorn?), I purchased the 5-disc “ultimate collector’s edition” of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. I would have preferred to have avoided all the “collectible” junk included in this package, but apparently it’s the only way to get all five discs in DVD format. There’s a two-disc version with the new, “final cut” version of the film and the documentary “Dangerous Days: Making of Blade Runner”; and there’s a four-disc “collector’s edition” that includes everything except the early “workprint” version of the film. But if you want the workprint version, you have to purchase the whole bloated package — unless you’re getting the set in HD-DVD or Blu-ray, which have the full five-disc version available in a standard package.

I have yet to view all five versions of the film (and I wonder whether I ever will), but a quick survey of the extras on discs 2 and 4 finds a number of gems. The documentary segments are informative and well-produced. “Signs of the Times,” a documentary on the design of the logos, signs, and badges in the film, shows how much artistry went into the background details that bring the fictional world of Los Angeles in 2019 to life.

Among the treasures in the “deleted and alternate scenes” on disc 4 is a striking image not seen in the other versions: an overhead exterior shot revealing that the street level shown in much of the film is, in fact, merely one of multiple levels of roadway. Like Coruscant in the Star Wars series or North Am in the original Gold Key Magnus the Robot Fighter comic books, various levels of the city have grown together into continuous surfaces.

br-steet-scene-w520.jpgThe deleted and alternate scenes are particularly noteworthy for the details they add to the movie’s storyline. With the exception of a pause between the two variants of the “happy ending” conclusion (one of which isn’t so happy), the extra scenes can be viewed together as a single, continuous feature. And, as such, they function as something of an alternate mini-movie version of Blade Runner. Without the original context, of course, these snippets leave huge gaps in the plot. But if you know the story, they function as an alternate view of the same narrative.

The effect is akin to hearing new conductor interpret a classic symphony. Or, perhaps closer to the mark, it’s like reading meta-fiction like Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, which retells some of the major events in the Marvel comic book universe from the perspective of news reporter Phil Sheldon. Just as Sheldon witnesses the events surrounding the arrival of Silver Surfer and Galactus from a viewpoint different from that in the original story appearing in Fantastic Four issues 48 through 50, the deleted and extended scenes show us Deckard’s investigation from a new perspective.

Many of the additional scenes consist of additional voice-over narration not included in the original version of the film. While aficionados may prefer the later versions (the 1992 director’s cut and the new final cut) that eliminate this noirish commentary, it provides an interesting backstory to the main narrative.

This additional material fills in a number of plot gaps in the full-length versions of the film. Ever wonder how Deckard knows the details of Rachael’s memory that he later uses to try to convince her that she’s a replicant? (“Remember the spider that lived outside your window? Orange body, green legs. Watched her build a web all summer then one day there’s a big egg in it… .”) As Deckard returns from testing Rachael at Tyrell Corp., the additional narration adds, “It shook me up — her being a replicant and not knowing it. But Tyrell thought it was cute. He ran scans of her memory implants for me — a proud father showing off the insides of his kid’s brain.”

We also gain a few additional details about Deckard’s former wife, mentioned only briefly in the previous versions of the narration. (“‘Sushi.’ That’s what my ex-wife called me — cold fish.”) These remembrances are particularly poignant as we wonder whether these, too, are merely implanted memories.

Which brings us to the “Is Deckard a replicant?” question. One of the features on disc 4, “Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard,” explores this question with authoritative commentary on both sides of the issue. Scott himself makes his view apparent, but that’s not necessarily the last word. Some of the contrary interpretations, particularly that of movie director Frank Darabont, offer thought-provoking alternate viewpoints. Ultimately, it’s the on-screen content that matters, and it’s interesting to ponder why these deleted and extended scenes were originally filmed and yet ultimately excised from the film.

In the original version of the film, the hints regarding Deckard are fairly subtle, such as Rachael’s pointed question, “Have you ever taken that test yourself?”. In the 1992 director’s cut, additional clues appear, such as the famous unicorn dream sequence that echoes Gaff’s origami figure at the end of the film.

A number of more explicit clues are available in the deleted and extended scenes. Near the end of the film, after Gaff says (as he does in previous versions), “You’ve done a man’s job, sir” he then asks, “But are you sure you are a man?” and then we hear an echo of an earlier comment in the deleted scenes: “It’s hard to tell who’s who around here.”

Would the film have been better with these additional scenes? Which version of the story is right? Which is “best”? Ridley Scott believes it’s his new “director’s final cut.” But there’s much to be gained from viewing the alternate versions and, now, the wonderfully woven together deleted and extended scenes. Each telling provides a different perspective on the same story — like looking at the fragments of a hologram rose.


Images from Blade Runner are a screenshots from a copyrighted film, the copyright for which is most likely owned by the studio which produced the film, and possibly also by any actors appearing in the screenshot. It is believed that the use of a limited number of web-resolution screenshots for identification and critical commentary on the film and its contents qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

One thought on “Multiple Meta-fiction Perspectives and the ‘Blade Runner: Collector’s Edition’

  1. Nice write-up, Kendall. I think I’m going to treat myself, in the new year, to the HD-DVD version of this gem. The interview with Ridley Scott in this month’s (12/2007) issue of Wired is worth a read to give a little bit more insight into the “Final Cut” version.

    Who knew Ridley was such a potty mouth?

    Merry Christmas! See you in the new year!

    Like

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