"Did you ever take that test yourself?"
I've seen the original Blade Runner at least a dozen times - it's one of my favorite movies. I finally got around to seeing the director's cut, and was amazed at how much it was improved by a few subtle differences. (This review assumes you've seen the original. If not, don't, just go rent the director's cut, immediately.)
Test audiences didn't like the original ending, so Harrison Ford was pulled from the set of Star Wars to do a quick happy ending that was tacked on to the film. It was an obvious and clumsy add-on that didn't look or feel right. The director's cut ends where it should, when the elevator door closes on Decker and Rachel.
The most important change is one new scene that lasts about a minute. It seems like a minor, almost forgettable scene at first, but turns out to be the crux of the entire movie. After his interview with Rachel, Decker is sitting at his piano, surrounded by family photographs, playing one note over and over. His mind wanders to a daydream of a unicorn running through the woods. This gives an entirely new meaning to movies final scene, where Decker finds the origami Gaff left behind. It also changes Rachel's question, "Did you ever take that test yourself?" from a throwaway line to the central theme of the movie.
The annoying voice-overs have been removed, letting the viewer figure things out for themselves. They were entirely unnecessary, and the film is cleaner and more finely crafted without them. The scene where Roy adjusts his creator's contact lenses was also cut differently. It was made a bit less gory without diminishing any of the impact. And Decker spends a bit more time falling in love with Rachel in this cut. All minor changes, but they add up to a big impact.
Rutger Hauer's short speech before he dies is one of the finest swan songs ever filmed, and it has even more impact without the voice-over explaining it to us. This was the first time it hit me how every sentence in his farewell referred to eyes, neatly tying up a theme that runs through the entire movie.
Blade Runner is a great film, a breakthrough film that launched several careers. Harrison Ford was an unknown when it was released. Daryl Hannah's role as an android was a perfect match for her acting ability. It introduced Rutger Hauer to American audiences. And Ridley Scott, still riding on the success of Alien, invented a new look and feel for science fiction movies that has since been copied countless times. The Director's Cut lets us see Scott's vision as he intended it to be seen. Comparing both versions is an interesting lesson on just how unqualified The Suits are to make editing decisions. It's also a good lesson in how much difference a few subtle changes in a movie can make. Ridley took his great movie and made it even better. Much better.