HD-DVD review: Blade Runner Complete Collector’s Edition

Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.
Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.
Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.
Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.

Blade Runner: Complete Collector’s Edition (Warner Home Video, Rated: R, $27.95 to $39.99) is the definitive, final, final, final version (I’m serious) of director Ridley Scott’s grim 1982 sci-fi homage to Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” At least that is what is being said.

For this final version, Blade Runner arrives in high definition format packaged with four other adaptations of the film to keep fans slathered in the nourish world of Replicants.

The goods: This five-disc HD-DVD set is a Blade Runner geeks virtual blonde bombshell. In addition to the 117-minute (latest) Final Cut, they can also watch the saga as presented in the original domestic and international theatrical release, i.e., the original film. They can then watch for the differences found in the 1992 Director’s Cut version and, if they still need more, view a “work print” a not quite finished version, that shows the film not quite finished.

The Final Cut in hi-def, however, is a pure vision of beauty. This film experience is visually crisp, check oot the Spinner vehicles light flares, and delivered with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track. The result is a movie that contains all of the moments and slight nuances that Mr. Scott wanted, but was not able to technically achieve, with the original release.

The set also offers a generous supply of extras to meticulously analyze the history and making of the epic.

The bads: How is it not possible to get director Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford, who played Rick Deckard, the Blade Runner, into a room to offer an optional commentary or picture in picture narrative track while they watch the Final Cut of the film?

This movie may end up as one of the most important pieces of sci-fi cinema ever released and Warner Home Video had a responsibility to get these guys together.

The mandatory extras: Three separate commentary tracks accompany the Final cut, with Ridley Scott going solo, offering some insight into the film, in one. The second track features the writers in another and those all important special effects gurus taking the mike for the third.

For further fun, there is an audio track accompanies the work print version of the movie. Featuring Paul M. Simmon, the author of “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner,” this aural offering delivers a ludicrous Trekkie type of experience.

But wait, there is more. The fourth disk is also loaded with featurettes that includes interviews, screen tests, a generous supply of deleted and alternate scenes and the answer to whether Rick Deckard is a replicant?

What I learned? The beauty of all those extras is that one can become the ultimate trivia maven. But there was some interesting stuff to be learned, including that all of the original negatives from “Blade Runner” were going to be junked by the film storage facility Preferred Media. Luckily, the managers never received a final order to throw out the containers and this bit of sci-fi cinema history was saved. Sad to think what wasn’t.

I also found it interesting that Director Ridley Scott was heavily influenced by “Heavy Metal” magazine that, originally launched in 1977, features the work of some of Europe’s most influential, and avant-garde, graphic artists. A particular Scott favorite was the legendary sequential artist Moebius, or Jean Giraud, who is one of the founding fathers of the modern sequential art, science fiction and fantasy art mediums (http://www.bpib.com/illustrat/giraud.htm).

An interesting bit of trivia learned is that Dustin Hoffman was seriously considered for the part of the stories hero, Rick Deckard, which was played by Harrison Ford. Possibly, had Hoffman taken this role, we would have been spared “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” Now we will never know.

Above and beyond: An over three hour “making of” documentary will cause Blade Runner junkies to grin bigger than the Joker and please any serious cinema fan. This lengthy documentary offers reflections from most of the cast and production staff, critical behind the scenes footage and, overall, clearly sets a new standard for recording the history of epic film creation.

Fuel the disc revolution: It kills me that with all the ridiculous hoop-la surrounding the set and care taken with massaging the Final Cut print to such visual and aural brilliance that Warner did not strive to release the extras, or at least the mega documentary, in the high-def format, instead of standard DVD quality.

Additionally, with Blade Runner’s incredible cult following, the HD-DVD should have offered some sort of accessibility to an online community, at least as basic as the screening room seen in the Harry Potter release.

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