Replicants Replicated on DVD
Blade Runner embraces
the new medium
by Jim Bray
Blade Runner has gone down in contemporary movie history as one of the
finest - and best looking - science fiction films of our time. Even in
its original form, with Harrison Ford's obtrusive narration and the tacked
on "happy ending," the film is a powerful experience.
Cut" of Blade Runner puts this film back into the form in which it
should always have been - and the DVD format shows the film to its best
advantage. Scott went back and scrapped the narration and the happy ending
and made a couple of other minor changes that in my opinion make this
the best version of the film available
narration lets the ambience seep over you - and instead of listening to
Ford tell you what's going on, you get the opportunity to figure it out
for yourself, through the background commercials, sounds etc. This makes
Blade Runner a more intelligent and satisfying film - and I had always
thought it was intelligent and satisfying before the
Director's Cut was made available.
But on to what
the DVD format does for this movie.
The single disc
gives you both widescreen and pan-and-scan versions, one on each side.
This is fine but, as with other DVD releases, the labelling of the versions
is in tiny print around the spindle hole - and it really makes you squint
to read it. Again, though, this isn't only a problem with Blade Runner,
but rather with most of the DVD's we've seen. Perhaps colour coding the
sides would be a better way to do it, with red letters indicating the
widescreen version and the white letters denoting the pan-and-scan. This
way you wouldn't have to read the little letters - you'd only have to
tell the difference between red and white.
To be fair,
the "widescreen" label is in a different colour, but it's too
small; if they'd use red letters for all the text it would be easier to
Of course this
won't help the colour blind, but it would be better for the rest of us.
aside, the video quality of Blade Runner is nothing short of superb. The
Scott film looks terrific to start with, but thanks to the high resolution
and rich colours allowed by the digital DVD format, this video looks more
like film than a video transfer. And that's great! The picture positively
leaps off the screen and becomes even more involving than before. Well
the audio isn't as well done. I found the soundtrack transfer to be at
a low volume compared with other discs, which resulted in my having to
crank the stereo to a higher level than I should have. Digital technology
allows you to have a very high signal-to-noise
and dynamic range, but it's not
used to its best capability here. Too bad; the Vangelis score sets a perfect
mood for the piece, but you almost have to strain to hear it properly.
the background and ambient sounds, like the commercials that blare from
the overhead blimps, are even harder to pick up, and as mentioned above
they do a lot to set the scene and let you know what's going on. A soundtrack
with a little more "oomph" would have gotten around this easily.
This is a fairly
minor criticism, though, and the fact that our test viewing was performed
on a DVD-ROM drive running into a home theatre may have skewed the test
somewhat, because we noticed the same problem with our copy of "Contact"
when we viewed it the same way. However, we've noticed over the years
that audio volume on laserdiscs (the closest analogy we have to DVD) can
be all over the map - something we hope won't be continued with DVD technology.
I can't imagine
getting all this movie's subtle aural details off this disc if I were
only listening to it through my TV's speakers, which makes me feel sorry
for those who haven't yet married their audio and video systems together.
- and this one is also shared by many other DVD titles - is the clumsy
user interface. You're allowed to jump to certain scenes the manufacturer
has deemed, and there's other extra information included on the disc as
well, but it's not particularly convenient getting at them. The DVD industry
needs to make their products as user friendly as the laserdisc or the
audio CD, with track and feature access that works easily and with no
Still, I'd rather
have Blade Runner - the Director's Cut on DVD with its tiny labels and
clumsy inteface than have it on videocassette or even laserdisc. The improvement
to the picture is worth the price of admission alone - and those used
to watching the film on laserdisc will like not having to flip the thing
over half way through.
- the Director's Cut, from Warner Home Video.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think