Which version of Blade Runner to watch first?
January 9, 2009 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Which version of Blade Runner is the best to watch for somebody who has never seen it?

I have in my possession the Blade Runner 5 Disc Complete Collector's Edition Blu Ray set that include US Theatrical, International Theatrical, 1992 Director's Cut, Final Cut, and Workprint versions. For somebody who has never seen it, which version would you recommend to watch? (or if multiple, what order to watch them in? Please no spoilers, obviously.
posted by stovenator to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I vote for U.S. theatrical, followed by '92.
posted by Kirklander at 5:00 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: I would say the Theatrical or the Final cuts.

The main difference is that there's a lot of noirish voice over narration the main character gives in the theatrical cut. I personally like that (maybe because that's how I first saw it?) but it's not universal. I don't know what's up with the international or workprint versions. The Final Cut pretty much just cleans up some stuff from the 1992 cut,. Nothing jumped out at me as different when I saw it, but going online and reading up on the differences, I think it would be hard to make a good case for watching the 1992 cut for any reasons but historical ones.
posted by aubilenon at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2009

Final, probably. The US theatrical has the pointless voiceover and a different ending.
posted by dogwelder at 5:04 PM on January 9, 2009

Final Cut is the one I rewatch. Just for the sake of immaculate conception I'd vote for either (two?) of the narration-free versions first.
posted by rhizome at 5:05 PM on January 9, 2009

I wouldn't go for U.S. theatrical first. I find the voiceover narration to be pretty grating. What are your thoughts on expository narration in general? What did you think of Lynch's Dune? FWIW, it's not as grating as it is in Dune.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2009

I've seen all three and I say go with the Final Cut. The narration in the theatrical ruins the experience. The film's so much more immersive without it.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 5:10 PM on January 9, 2009

Final is the best, followed by 1992 Director's. The delta between these however isn't huge compared to the yawning chasm between Director's and US Theatrical.
posted by zippy at 5:12 PM on January 9, 2009

Absolutely not Theatrical.

I haven't yet seen Final, but the Director's Cut is so much better than the Theatrical Cut it's a testimony to the absurdity of studio overreach.

I say this as someone who loved the Theatrical Cut prior to the existence of the Director's Cut.
posted by Flunkie at 5:16 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Final Cut. That's what it's for.

Anything but Theatrical, really.
posted by Jairus at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2009

Nthing Final Cut first...

Then you may as well follow the order in the set. I'm currently making my way through the DVD version, taking a gap of a few weeks between each one as (apart from the Theatrical) they are all very similar to each other. (But then it's probably my favorite film of all times and I've lost count of the number of times I've already seen it).

The commentaries and other extras are excellent as well, so even if you don't normally check out that sort of thing, I'd give these a go.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, I just watched Blade Runner for the first time ever not too long ago. I watched the theatrical version first then final cut. If I could do that over I'd just watch final cut.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:32 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: The Final Cut is the only version that Ridley Scott had complete artistic control over. It's the one to watch, especially in all its meticulously-restored/remastered hi-definition glory. It's gorgeous.
posted by prinado at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A contrary view: watch the Theatrical Cut. It's the one that changed so much back when it was released in 1982. In the later versions Scott tries to remove inconsistencies and ambiguities, to create a conceptually purer version of the film. However these would-be improvements end up flattening it out somewhat, and they don't really make that much sense themselves.

If you start watching the Theatrical Cut, and the noir voiceover really bugs you, go ahead and watch a voiceover-less version instead. But to get glimpse of the Blade Runner that made its mark on the world, you need to look at the messier, less directorial Theatrical version of 1982.
posted by washburn at 5:56 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Final Cut. The errors are mostly worked out, the print is cleaned up, the sound is awesome.

Seconding anything but Theatrical. The voiceover and ending were tacked on in post-production by the producers, and they detract from the film's greatness.

If you like the film, watch the brilliant documentary Dangerous Days, which is part of your 5-disc set.

If you really like the film, watch the Theatrical and the Workprint for completeness.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2009

to get glimpse of the Blade Runner that made its mark on the world, you need to look at the messier, less directorial Theatrical version of 1982.
Eh. Sure, if stovenator wants to do some sort of historical investigation, maybe he should watch the Theatrical Cut first.

But if he wants to watch a movie, no.
posted by Flunkie at 6:12 PM on January 9, 2009

Jumping on the "absolutely not the theatrical" bandwagon, that's the important decision. Might as well go with final cut.
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:19 PM on January 9, 2009

Another vote against the theatrical version -- the running voiceover is annoying and unnecessary, but the biggest issue is the different (and hokey) ending, which was a studio decision, rather than Scott's.

I'd vote for the final cut, since it is the only version that Ridley Scott had complete artistic control over.
posted by susanvance at 6:58 PM on January 9, 2009

Final cut.
posted by arimathea at 7:09 PM on January 9, 2009

Not the theatrical version, which has bits that don't even make sense because of the changed ending, if I recall correctly.
posted by grouse at 7:17 PM on January 9, 2009

Final, though watching a scratchy old print of the Director's Cut in a proper cinema was mesmerising. And I'd even take the voiceover version in on a big, big screen if the other versions were only available on a small screen.
posted by holgate at 7:20 PM on January 9, 2009


Ridley Scott had complete control over that one.

That's the way it's supposed to be seen.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:41 PM on January 9, 2009

Another vote for Final Cut.
posted by theantikitty at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2009

When I check the five-disc collector's edition on amazon, I see that the Final Cut is on disc one. I think this tells you which order to watch them in. Also, I agree that final cut is the one to watch first :)
posted by Joh at 8:24 PM on January 9, 2009

Final Cut.

For some reason, SciFi channel recently aired the theatrical version with the god-awful voice-over. I'd forgotten how distracting and plain bad the voice-over is. Harrison Ford does the voice and he's horrifically wooden at it.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 PM on January 9, 2009

posted by dubitable at 9:37 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: If it doesn't have unicorns, it's not worth watching.
posted by mkn at 10:26 PM on January 9, 2009 [8 favorites]

Final cut.

I took a sci-fi/fantasy lit class in high school, and the theatrical cut was the one we watched. The teacher later told us that supposedly the Harrison Ford voice over track was insisted upon by the studio, but was vociferously opposed by both Ford and Scott; in defiance, Ford suggested to Scott that he record the studio's voice over, but would do so extremely poorly and with as much deadpan as possible so as to make it unappealing to include...which the studio naturally proceeded to do.

I can't corroborate the story, but if you've seen the theatrical cut it's pretty easy to believe.
posted by baphomet at 10:48 PM on January 9, 2009

Ah, from Wikipedia:
Apart from friction with the director, Ford also disliked the voiceovers: "When we started shooting it had been tacitly agreed that the version of the film that we had agreed upon was the version without voiceover narration. It was a f**king [sic] nightmare. I thought that the film had worked without the narration. But now I was stuck re-creating that narration. And I was obliged to do the voiceovers for people that did not represent the director's interests."[14] "I went kicking and screaming to the studio to record it."
Interestingly, another fantastic, but less canonical, sci-fi movie which shares several thematic elements with Blade Runner, Dark City (1998), was similarly hampered upon initial release: the studio insisted on the addition of voice overs to supposedly improve cohesion, which first-time director Alex Proyas felt pressured to include. The film was released with the voice over, in my opinion to its detriment. Like Blade Runner, the film was re-released as a Director's Cut without the voice over as originally intended. If you've not seen Dark City, I highly recommend it as a companion piece to Blade Runner. For bonus points check out Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), which inspired much of Dark City's cityscape cinematography.
posted by baphomet at 10:54 PM on January 9, 2009

Response by poster: I should have probably marked every answer as "best", but the one's with more poignant insight got marked best (including washburn's watch and switch if it's annoying). It's clear that the Final Cut should be watched first.
posted by stovenator at 11:04 PM on January 9, 2009

I have a big problem with the final cut. Scott digitally added those unusual reflections to certain character's eyes, to suggest that they are replicants. The problem? It renders the Voight-Campf (sp?) test completely useless - you could easily find out if someone's a replicant or not by simply shining a flashlight into their eyes.
posted by hnnrs at 1:47 AM on January 10, 2009

The voice narration, while grating and sophomoric, is pretty useful to viewers who lack basic Science Fiction underpinnings and are unfamiliar with the source material.

Either that or expect to be asked, "Wait... what just happened," every few minutes.
posted by wfrgms at 2:42 AM on January 10, 2009

hnnrs: The glowing eyes are in all versions of the film. It was originally intended.

Oddly enough, the original Philip K. Dick novel has the same problem you mention -- Deckard rigs a device to detect replicants in the final showdown, which of course negates the Voigt-Kampff test entirely. Oh well!

As long as I'm posting, my two cents: Director's Cut is a good enough version, but the DVD is horrible (since it was one of the first DVDs ever) -- best to go with Final Cut (which tightens up the editing, fixes some continuity gaffes, and generally makes for a better experience) . Theatrical version is unacceptable with the Final Cut available.
posted by neckro23 at 3:02 AM on January 10, 2009

When the reflection appears in Deckard's eyes, it was just a happy accident that occurred on set because of the lighting used, and the mark Ford hit. Scott claims that he was watching it and thought, "Hmm, we can use this!" This is covered briefly in one of the documentaries or one of the commentaries on the latest DVD/Blu-ray release.
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:26 AM on January 10, 2009

As long as I'm posting, my two cents: Director's Cut is a good enough version, but the DVD is horrible (since it was one of the first DVDs ever)

Agreed, although I should point out that a huge part of the reason the original DVD version of the Director's Cut looks really shitty was because it was just a DVD port of the laserdisc transfer, which was done extremely poorly. I'm not sure what impact the generation of the DVD has on the quality, though it probably has something to do with it, but I'm pretty sure most of the reason that version blows is the shitty LD transfer. My understanding is that all of the versions of the film contained in the box set the OP has access to are all brand-new re-transfers. I might be wrong about this, but if that's the case then the Director's Cut version on that DVD should look significantly better than the original DVD of the Director's Cut, so we should be able to debate the cuts assuming the technical quality of the transfer is about equivalent for all of them, which is to say very good.
posted by baphomet at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2009

You should watch the final cut first and then the US theatrical version. I wouldn't bother with any others.
posted by PueExMachina at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2009

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