Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007)
Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty), Sean Young (Rachael), Edward James Olmos (Gaff), M. Emmett Walsh (Bryant), Daryl Hannah (Pris), William Sanderson (J.F. Sebastian), Brion James (Leon Kowalski), Joe Turkel (Dr. Eldon Tyrell), Joanna Cassidy (Zhora), James Hong (Hannibal Chew)
"Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase - a being virtually identical to a human - known as a Replicant. The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them. Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets. After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Offworld colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth - under penalty of death. Special police squads - BLADE RUNNER UNITS - had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicant. This was not called execution. It was called retirement." - opening text crawl.
After 25 years Ridley Scott finally managed to release the cut of Blade Runner the way he wanted it. For a refresher, the studio famously cut the theatrical version of the film and added an opening text crawl, a bunch of bad Harrison Ford voice-over, and a goofy ending. The Director's Cut was picked by Scott but assembled by a different person because Ridley Scott was busy making Thelma and Louise. So this is the version that Ridley Scott feels needed to be seen above all and it's not that different from the other two cuts.
For those wanting a frame-by-frame comparison of the Final Cut and Director's Cut, you can find it here. But as you can see, all The Final Cut really does is ad a few incidental shots, fix some continuity errors, show some of the gorier bits that were trimmed for the US theatrical release, and feature more of that stupid unicorn. There's also some coloring issues that drive the AV nerds nuts but I didn't find annoying enough to be bothered by.
The big point with this cut of the movie is that this is supposedly the cut that confirms without a shadow of a doubt that Deckard is absolutely a replicant because of his unicorn dream and the origami unicorn that Gaff leaves in the hallway of Deckard's apartment building as a sign that Gaff has seen this dream and thus knows that Deckard's memories aren't real.
You can see my review of the director's cut for why I don't think the answer to whether Deckard is "real" or not is important and how focusing on that aspect of the plot actually tromps all over the point of the movie but since Ridley Scott is weirdly fixated on this insignificant plot point to this movie let's dig into why it doesn't make sense that Deckard would be a replicant.
The film is fairly nebulous on how exactly replicants work but we can look at a few things to show characteristics that Deckard does not share. First of all, the replicants have a great deal more strength than humans. We see Batty and Leon in particular punch through walls with the relative ease and Pris seems to have strength and agility that surely wouldn't be much of a boon to her as an android prostitute so it would seem that all replicants share this strength. Similarly we see both Pris and Leon have a high pain tolerance (Leon reaches into a vat of liquid nitrogen, Pris into boiling water) and Batty shrugs off a pipe to the face. They're also good at what they do, even Rachael manages to peg Leon in the head with a bullet from a pretty good range despite the likelihood that she's never shot a gun.
Conversely, Deckard is out of shape, weak, and pretty awful in a fight. Seemingly his only trait that makes him a master Blade Runner is that he's a good detective and that he's dogged in his pursuit of replicants. Of course Tyrell himself said that their goal with the Nexus-6 models like Rachael was to be "more human than human." So it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibilities that they made a bumbling, fallible, flawed replicant so that he especially wouldn't realize he's not human.
But then there's the Voigt-Kampff test. It's not elaborated on heavily but in the book it's explained that the Voigt-Kampff measures empathetic reactions in the iris because replicants have only an intellectual understanding of empathy. They care for others only in so much as it helps them. We can see this in the scenes between J.F. Sebastian, Pris, and Batty. They're sympathetic and kind to him only so long as he can help them, even Rachael shows no actual concern for Deckard. Her love for him seems to be based entirely around the fact that he's in love with her, which is in line with how their relationship works in the book, except the book reveals how one-sided this relationship is whilst the movie decides to play it at face value.
Deckard, on the other hand is dense with empathy. He's clearly bothered by the process of retiring androids and only takes on the case because he knows he doesn't actually have a choice. This could be another more-human-than-human trait but the temerity of that claim is eroding.
But what about the unicorn? Deckard has a unicorn dream and then Gaff leaves an origami unicorn at the end. That means that Gaff knows that Deckard's a replicant, right? I've got some thoughts on that but first I want to point out that the movie actually has three unicorns.
That unicorn even looks almost exactly like the one from Deckard's dream. So does that mean that Sebastian makes the replicant's memories? He says he does genetics work so it's not implied that he does anything to their brain. So does that mean Sebastian is also a replicant or that Deckard has Sebastian's dreams?
As a commenter pointed out on the last article, maybe Gaff is the replicant. He's being trained as Deckard's replacement so maybe he was given Deckard's memories. He's certainly as emotionally distant as any of the other replicants in the movie and his origami habit seems a bit too much of a man-made tic. Maybe Deckard's knowing smile upon seeing Gaff's origami unicorn is a realization that Gaff let Rachael live because he's a unicorn and his allusion to Deckard's dream is a signifier that he has some of Deckard's memories in his head. Or maybe Gaff, Sebastian, and Deckard are all replicants. Maybe Tyrell's a replicant. Maybe the human race died out ages ago and it's all just replicants masquerading as humans subjugating replicants who are known to be replicants.
But that's only if you assume that any of the unicorns mean what the prevailing theory says. One of the details left out from Phillip K. Dick's books was a weird religious ritual where people entered a sort of virtual reality of a man named Mercer walking up a long hill as unseen people throw rocks at him. This is a ritual meant to promote humbleness and empathy among human beings, late in the book it's revealed that Mercer isn't real and that the man walking up the hill was an actor in a simulation. But as Deckard enters the building to deal with the last few replicants he encounters Mercer in a moment of magical realism where the messiah figure reveals that though he's fake he's also real because he represents a real thing. Its a slightly ham-fisted message on how humans have a complicated relationship with empathy and androids seek to destroy it because they don't understand it. I don't know what Ridley Scott added to the movie and what was in the script but I kind of get the impression that the unicorn motif was maybe the analogue for Mercer in the movie and all the relevant bits got cut out until Ridley Scott decided it meant that Deckard was a replicant
It doesn't really matter though. The film is meant to evoke questions in the viewer and for better or worse it's doesn't provide any real thoughts or answers in regards to those questions. And that's fine because the answers are dumb, it doesn't matter if Deckard is real or not he thinks he is and that informs his actions throughout the film. I'm not really surprised Ridley Scott thinks otherwise, he clearly has no understanding of what dose and doesn't work about his movies.
Having seen all of these versions I can fully and definitively say that it could not matter less which version of Blade Runner you watch, the added footage doesn't radically change the message of the movie and so long as you can tolerate Harrison Ford's snotty voice-over and some random stock footage then there's no compelling reason to avoid the theatrical version.
Of course this is the only cut of the movie that is easily available so it's likely the one you'll be watching. Everybody's got their favorite cut of this movie for very specific reasons but while I feel the "is Deckard a replicant" question is missing the forest for the trees I do feel this is the most complete cut of the movie and I don't feel compelled to seek out the other cuts when this one is readily available.
Next Time on Doomsday Reels
" Your men... are obsolete."