An IMAX Experience Worthy of ‘Blade Runner’

Something I’ve stated before in pieces such as this is the rather distinct feeing of euphoria that comes from experiencing the classics on the big screen. The best ones have the capability to “transport” their audience back to the days of original release, granting new generations of audiences a taste of what past audience members felt and experienced back when. And then, every once in a while, there’s the experience that transcends what came before. For one night only – the night of Wednesday the 20th, to be precise – a rather small handful of IMAX theaters around the country, including Hollywood’s historic TCL Chinese IMAX (where this “humble” cinephile ), ran what was advertised as a “one night only” IMAX projection of the “Final Cut” edit of Sir Ridley Scott’s seminal Blade Runner, both as a tribute to the film on its 35th anniversary and to give the audiences a refresher course in the weeks leading up to the release of Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated ‘Blade Runner 2049‘.

* an added bonus for ticket-holders was a mini-poster for one of legendary concept artist Drew Struzan’s many poster designs for the film, the art currently used for all releases of the Final Cut.

Experiencing the influential sci-fi/neo-noir epic about a disillusioned gumshoe (Harrison Ford) forcefully reinstated to pursue a group of dangerous Replicants (Daryl Hannah, Brion James and Joanna Cassidy) and their charismatic leader (Rutger Hauer) through the futuristic dystopia of 2019 Los Angeles is a truly special case (a lesson I wish I could go back in time and impart to my adolescent self, who thought very little of the film upon first seeing it theatrically at nine years old), especially when taking its history into account. Of all of Sir Scott’s films to be revisited with multiple edits (ranging from 1979’s Alien to 1985’s Legend to 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven to… 2010’s Robin Hood [yep, even Robin Hood has a director’s cut approved by Sir Scott]), none has seen the inside of an editing bay the way Blade Runner has; in fact, with how many edits of the film exist, the footage may as well have taken permanent residency from the spring 1982, when the first workshop print was screened in Colorado and Texas, to the winter of 2007, when Sir Scott finally got to deliver to audiences the Blade Runner he always intended for its 25th anniversary. So knowing the history when going into the the theater adds some context to the importance of this specific edit’s existence.

Of course, a film’s history is great to know, but how does the aforementioned 35-year old film look in a medium like IMAX Laser?

There’s honestly no way to replicate in words exactly what the opportunity to experience such a visual film in IMAX on one of the world’s largest screens is like. But I’m gonna try my damnedest to. The projected picture showcased perhaps some of the finest looking images from a classic film converted to digital and upgraded to IMAX, giving cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s iconic images a brand new “lease on life” (specific examples that should bring tears to one’s eyes include the opening and numerous panning shots of Los Angeles and the Tyrell Corporation’s pyramid-like headquarters, the interrogation of Replicant Rachael (Sean Young) and the way her cigarette’s smoke dangles in the dimly lit air with each puff and the pursuit of the Replicant Zhora (Cassidy) through the wet, neon-lit streets of Chinatown). Even the Oscar-nominated production design and visual effects looked completely state of the art, putting many of its contemporaries to shame. Surpassing the components making up the imagery was the remastered 12-channel surround sound. One has not experienced the music of Vangelis until they’ve been completely encompassed by his compositions. As someone who believes in experiencing the classics in the best format possible (preferably prints), Wednesday’s presentation of Blade Runner: The Final Cut made an unusually strong argument for digital being equal to celluloid.

On the Wednesday right before Blade Runner 2049’s release on October 6th, a number of theaters have begun announcing screenings of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. If any of the theaters happen to be an IMAX theater, it should be imperative for you, the reader, to rush to your local theater, find the best seat in the house and experience what I saw for yourself. Regardless of whether it’s seen in IMAX or viewed in standard DCP, if one considers themselves a Blade Runner aficionado or simply excited to see what Mr. Villeneuve does to expand the Blade Runner mythology, they must make the effort to check this out so experiences like this ultimately “aren’t lost in time, like tears in rain,” to quote Mr. Hauer’s iconic final monologue.

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