Blade Runner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Always a great-looking film, this UHD version brought out the image better than ever.
Sharpness usually seemed immaculate. Despite the challenging, complicated nature of the image and all the wide shots, the movie appeared crisp and well-defined. The only signs of softness came from the source photography. The slightly vague shots – like when the camera tracked to show Deckard’s arrival in his boss’s office - were inevitable, as that’s how they were recorded.
Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and no signs of edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws also were absent. The film looked devoid of specks, marks or other concerns; it was a splendidly clean image.
With its often bright neon palette, the colors of Blade Runner excelled. The hues really lit up the screen, as they provided dazzling tones throughout the film.
More subdued sequences looked just as good as the bubbly street scenes. Those sections may have lacked the same “dazzle factor”, but they demonstrated equally full, rich colors.
Blacks were tight and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. The film came with quite a few dimly-lit scenes, and they all demonstrated excellent delineation. After 35 years, Blade Runner continues to offer a stellar, involving visual experience.
While not quite as stunning as the visuals, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Blade Runner also worked very well. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the soundfield favored environmental elements, which made sense given the nature of the story.
Though the film offered a smattering of action beats, it usually went with a more “subliminal” feel. The movie’s ever-present rain filled the room in a satisfying way, and the thunder added oomph to those scenes. Vehicles zipped from spot to spot well, and the whole package created a smooth, immersive impression.
The Vangelis score poured from the speakers in a warm, inviting manner. The music’s presentation never felt gimmicky or awkward, as the music helped involve us in the movie. Though the soundfield rarely dazzled, it served to accentuate the film in a very pleasing manner.
While the audio quality occasionally showed its age, the material still sounded quite good. Speech probably demonstrated the weakest link, as some of the lines appeared a little edgy. However, dialogue stayed perfectly intelligible and was usually more than acceptable in terms of natural qualities.
Effects also sometimes minor weaknesses, mostly due to a smidgen of distortion for some bits. Those occurred infrequently, though, and the effects sounded pretty good for the most part.
Despite those occasional examples of mild distortion, the effects came across well. They usually seemed full and dynamic, with really good impact in the louder sequences.
Speaking of nice range, the score benefited most of all from this track. The music consistently sounded rich and warm, with crisp highs and firm lows. I felt the score added immeasurably to the movie, especially when it sounded so good.
Wrap up all of that and you find a very positive soundtrack. The mild edginess and distortion almost knocked my audio grade down to a “B+”, but I thought too much of the film sounded too good too often to rate below an “A-“.
How did this 4K UHD version of Blade Runner compare to the 30th anniversary Blu-ray from 2012? Audio showed a bit more spread and involvement, while visuals appeared tighter and had stronger color reproduction.
While I didn’t think the 4K blew away the Blu-ray, it did offer the superior rendition. Blade Runner has always offered primo “eye candy” and the 4K took advantage of those tendencies.
The 4K UHD package includes many extras from the old releases. The UHD disc itself begins with an introduction from director Ridley Scott. In this 35-second clip, Scott tells us a little about the restoration. It seems painless but it doesn’t really add anything.
We also find three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ridley Scott, as he gives us a running, screen-specific look at his film.
Scott discusses the film’s opening sequence and its various cuts, the score and audio, different effects and other visual elements, storyboards, costumes, set design and locations, themes, interpretation, cast and performances, and a few other subjects.
In other words, Scott tells us at least a little about almost everything involved in the flick. That doesn’t mean that the commentary proves exhaustive and complete, but it sure does offer a nice overview of the different areas.
At times I think Scott waxes a little too philosophical, as I’d prefer a bit more focus on the actual filmmaking processes, but that’s a minor complaint. Overall, he presents a very informative and compelling chat.
For the second track, we hear from executive producer/co-writer Hampton Fancher, co-writer David Peoples, producer Michael Deeley and executive producer Katherine Haber. The writers sat together as one pair and the producers chatted together as a second pair; the two running, screen-specific pieces were then edited together into this result.
The track looks at budgetary issues and problems during the shoot, adapting the original work and script/story-related subjects, altered/dropped segments, sets and locations, the movie’s reception and legacy, cast and performances, and a few other production topics.
To my surprise, the producers’ side of things works better. Usually producers tend to play it safe while writers provide more insight, but that doesn’t occur here. For the most part, Fancher and Peoples do little more than bicker about who wrote what as well as praise various elements. They do provide a smattering of good insights, but they don’t add much to the proceedings.
Haber and Deeley don’t excel either, but their remarks prove more informative. They throw out some nice details and help make the commentary decent.
Unfortunately, it remains a lackluster chat. It only sporadically engages and sheds less light than I’d hoped it would. It merits a listen, but keep your expectations low.
The final commentary features visual futurist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder, and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. They sit in various screen-specific groups for another edited track. We learn about locations and set design, various effects, visual choices, props, and other technical topics.
Although the material could become dry, the participants keep things pretty lively. They cover the different topics in a thorough manner and let us learn a lot about the creation of the various elements. The situation rebounds after the disappointing writers/producers track to provide a nice look at the technical side of the production.
The 4K disc ends with a trailer for the UHD version. It’s a decent promo for the package we already own.
The rest of the package reproduces the first three platters of the 2007 5-Disc Set. That means it includes a Blu-ray disc that features the “Final Cut” as well as the same commentaries and introduction I just mentioned. Of course, it lacks the trailer for the 4K release.
Over on Disc Two, the main attraction comes from a new documentary called Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. This program runs a whopping three hours, 33 minutes and 56 seconds as it combines movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Scott, Deeley, Trumbull, Fancher, Mead, Peoples, Snyder, Haber, Paull, Dryer, Yuricich, Future Noir: The Making of “Blade Runner” author Paul M. Sammon, author Philip K. Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett, The Anubis Gates author Tim Powers, Ridley Scott’s sons Jake and Luke Scott and daughter Jordan Scott, associate producer Ivor Powell, Ladd Company president Alan Ladd, Jr., financiers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio, Heavy Metal publisher Kevin Eastman, casting director Mike Fenton, production illustrator Tom Southwell, vehicle fabricator Gene Winfield, assistant art director Stephen Dane, key grip Cary Griffith, director’s brother Tony Scott, script supervisor Ana Maria Quintana, lighting gaffer Dick Hart, cinematographer’s son Jeff Cronenweth, makeup artist Marvin G. Westmore, marketing consultant Jeff Walker, stunt coordinator Gary Combs, first assistant cameraman Mike Genne, supervising editor Terry Rawlings, matte painters Michelle Moen and Rocco Gioffre, chief model maker Mark Stetson, model maker Bill George, lead model painter Ron Gress, EEG still lab Virgil Mirano, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Joseph Kahn, Mark Romanek and Frank Darabont, film critic Kenneth Turan, restoration producer Charles de Lauzirika, veteran visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and actors Daryl Hannah, Harrison Ford, Joanna Cassidy, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Morgan Paull, Stacey Nelkin, Joe Turkel, James Hong, and M. Emmet Walsh.
With more than three and a half hours at its disposal, one might expect “Days” to offer a thorough examination of the production of Blade Runner. And one would expect correctly, as it leaves few stones unturned.
The show looks at the adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story and script issues/rewrites, the project’s development and path to the screen, how Scott came onto the project, visual influences, abandoned concepts, and various forms of production preparation.
From there it digs into casting and performances, conceptual art, sets and locations, prop and visual design, Scott’s behavior on the set and connected conflicts, various problems and issues during the shoot, and stunt work.
Once production finally ends, “Days” gets into visual effects, editing and cut scenes, reshoots, the voiceover and the 1982 theatrical edition of the flick, the score, the film’s initial reception and subsequent opinions, and its legacy.
Most documentaries of this sort ladle out lots of praise and happy talk. “Days” isn’t one of those programs. Of course, it does present positive reflections on the film at times, but it also hands out lots and lots of honest appraisal of all the production’s difficulties. This makes it a pretty objective piece, right down to pro-voiceover remarks from del Toro and anti-voiceover comments from Darabont.
Plenty of great visuals help flesh out the comments. There’s surprisingly little repetition here after all the commentaries, and even some of the more commonly known issues like the problems with the dove get a boost from the outtakes. It’s one thing to hear that the bird wouldn’t fly, but it’s much more fun to actual see the little guy hop around after Hauer releases him.
We also get great elements like unused voiceover recordings and other fine archival pieces. “Days” presents a truly terrific documentary that gives us a thorough and engaging view of the flick.
In addition, Disc Two includes some trailers. We find promos for I Am Legend, Fracture, Invasion and Superman: Doomsday.
Disc Three contains three different versions of Blade Runner. These include the original 1982 US Theatrical Cut (1:57:18), the 1982 International Theatrical Cut (1:57:34) and the 1992 Director’s Cut (1:56:31).
The first two are essentially identical; the main difference comes from a little more graphic violence in the International Cut. Both feature the narration and happy ending that were part of the flick for its first decade.
1992’s “Director’s Cut” made substantial changes. Not only did it drop both the happy ending and the narration, but also it gave us a few other elements like Deckard’s infamous “unicorn dream”.
Blade Runner becomes a moderately different movie in this form, though the current Final Cut largely resembles it. The biggest changes came between 1982 and 1992, while I see the 2007 Final Cut as being more of a refinement of the 1992 edition.
Earlier I indicated that the Final Cut is probably the best of the bunch, and that opinion hasn’t changed in the intervening period. Does that mean the others are nothing more than curiosities here? No, I think they’re worthwhile on their own, and I expect that I’ll occasionally watch one of the 1982 cuts in the future. That’s the Blade Runner I grew up on, and I’m happy I can still experience it.
For me, the Director’s Cut becomes the odd man out, as I can’t imagine I’ll ever want to watch it again, but I’m still pleased that it’s here. I really like that this set allows us to choose which version of the flick we prefer and doesn’t force us to stick with only one.
In terms of picture and audio quality, I didn’t think these versions looked and sounded quite as good as the Blu-ray’s Final Cut, but they came close enough to make me happy. It’s clear that the Final Cut got the bulk of the restoration attention.
That said, the quality of the other versions seems more than satisfactory. They offered very strong picture and audio, so they should please fans.
Though this 4K package includes a slew of extras, it drops many from the prior Blu-ray iterations – including the alternate “Workprint” version of the film. I don’t know why Warner Bros. fails to port over everything from prior packages – it seems odd to include so much of the other releases but leave off so much material.
Blade Runner remains a seminal science fiction piece that only seems to improve with additional viewings. Its place within the annals of film appears secure. The 4K UHD disc boasts excellent picture and audio as well as a long roster of supplements. Because it drops features from the prior Blu-rays, the package can’t be called “definitive”, but it becomes the strongest reproduction of the film itself.
To rate this film visit the Final Cut DVD review of BLADE RUNNER