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Countdown to Blade Runner 2049: Part III – Which version do you prefer?


This year's most anticipated sequel, Blade Runner 2049, is just over three weeks away and is set to plunge us back into a nightmarish future world.

Harrison Ford returns alongside Ryan Gosling for Arrival director Denis Villeneuve's follow-up to the 1982 Ridley Scott masterpiece.

We're counting down the days until the sequel's release by breaking down eight aspects of the Blade Runner universe. This week we're looking at the multiple cuts of Scott's original movie – yes, there's more than one...

1. The 1982 workprint

Previewed to audiences in Denver and Dallas, the negative responses to this initial edit led to the modified domestic American release. Changes include a lack of an opening title sequence with its subsequent explanation of replicants – the humanoid robots that provide the crux of the storyline.

However something positive did come out of this initial edit: when it was shown again in 1990 and 1991 to positive reaction, it prompted studio Warner Bros to look into the eventual director's cut of the movie.

2. The 1982 domestic cut

As recapped in our previous Blade Runner feature the movie had a tense and troubled production, with a particularly fractious relationship between Ford and Scott.

A particular bone of contention for the actor was the hardboiled voiceover narration forced upon him for the movie's American theatrical release.

The device was a financial decision that arose after test audiences complained that the movie was too hard to understand, leading to an over-explanation of its cryptic atmosphere. Ford reportedly hated recording the voiceover and his lack of enthusiasm is apparent in the delivery. (He's even said to have deliberately sabotaged the line readings in the hope the studio wouldn't use it.)

This version also features an equally controversial happy ending whereby Ford's character Deckard escapes with replicant Rachel (Sean Young) into some sort of wooded, bucolic paradise, the aerial shots actually unused footage from Stanley Kubrick's classic horror The Shining.

3. The 1982 international cut

Similar to the American domestic cut but with additional scenes of violence, this version was distributed in Europe, Asia and Australia both theatrically and via Laserdisc (an ancient precursor to the DVD – Google it).

It was later released on VHS and Criterion Collection laserdisc in North America, and re-released in 1992 as a 10th-Anniversary Edition.

4. The 1992 Director's Cut

This was arguably the moment where Blade Runner's reputation as a contemporary classic was secured. It also took the mythology of the movie into ever-more divisive and thought-provoking areas.

Ditching both Ford's infamous voiceover and the so-called happy ending, this version's most notable addition was that of the unicorn, which appears in Deckard's dream and really opened up a can of replicants.

As seen throughout the movie, the mysterious Gaff (Edward James Olmos) leaves an origami unicorn on display during the movie's climax. People have taken this to mean that Gaff is aware Deckard's memories are implanted, and that he is therefore a replicant like Rachel.

Controversial? That isn't the half of it: Ford and Scott still don't agree on the issue of whether Deckard is a human or replicant. 

This edit was met with acclaim and helped prompt a slew of director's cuts in future years. It's hard to imagine the extended versions of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, for example, without the director's cut of Blade Runner having set a precedent.

Nevertheless Ridley Scott wasn't entirely happy with it. There was still work to be done...

5. The Final Cut

Given a limited theatrical release in October 2007 and released as part of the lavish DVD collector's set that same year (which also included all the above versions of the movie), this was the moment where Scott finally nailed down his vision.

Visually restored from the original film negative and with a cleaned-up soundtrack, the Final Cut also made subtle but significant cosmetic changes.

In the sequence where Replicant Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) is 'retired' by Deckard and crashes through a series of windows, the earlier edits made it quite clear that a stuntman had taken the actress's place.

For the Final Cut, Scott was finally able to make things right, getting Cassidy back (reportedly at her suggestion) and editing her into the sequence.

Such meaningful yet impactful changes meant that finally after 25 years, Ridley Scott had the version of the film that he originally intended. 

Blade Runner
was finally complete... but that's not to say the story ends here... Check out the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, due out on 5th October.

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