Blade Runner 2049 is a curious sequel in that there are multiple versions of the original movie, leading many to wonder which one serves as the real original leading up to this sequel? Negative responses to preview showings of Ridley Scott’s 1982 original led to Warner Bros. forcing some changes for the theatrical release, including that infamous narration. But after positive responses to Scott’s original workprint version at arthouse theaters, Warner Bros. approved the release of that version as a “director’s cut.” And then there’s The Final Cut, which was released in 2007 and is the only version of the movie over which Scott had complete editorial control.
So, between the theatrical cut, “director’s cut”, and final cut, which version of Blade Runner should you see before watching Blade Runner 2049? Co-writer Michael Green was asked by io9 if they had to choose which version he and co-writer Hampton Fancher were writing a sequel to, and his answer may surprise/frustrate you:
“No, it’s one of the great ideas of the film—that the subject of subjectivity is woven through the story. That the search for authenticity is the character’s journey, and it is also the journey of a fan. So, going into a potential sequel was just a recognition that those are chief among the themes at play.
And after that, you get to fanboy out amongst everyone else working on the film, learn what their favorite version is and why. I got to ask Ridley Scott that. I got to ask Denis [Villeneuve, the sequel’s director] that. I got to argue with Denis about that—and he respects opinions, because there’s no right or wrong. People ask often, ‘Which version should I watch if I haven’t seen it?’ I say the easiest answer is, ‘Whichever you can watch tonight.'”
So in the end, Green says in preparation for Blade Runner 2049, it’s dealer’s choice as far as which version of Blade Runner you watch:
“The truth is, it doesn’t matter. They’re all interesting in their own right. I think, unfortunately, some people have told me they haven’t watched it because the fear what they’re viewing is not “correct.” It’s unfortunate because any of them are worth seeing. But also because, by not being sure, you’re entering into the conversation of Blade Runner.”
For what it’s worth, Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve told us back in 2015, just as he was gearing up on the project, that he was partial to the first and last cuts of the movie:
“The movie will be autonomous and at the same time there will be some link, but I cannot talk too much about it. The only thing I can say is I was raised with the original cut, the original version that Ridley doesn’t like. That’s the Blade Runner that I was introduced to at the beginning and that I loved for years, and then I must say that I’m someone that appreciated the very last cut, the [Final Cut] version. So between all the different cuts, for me it’s the first and the very last that I’m more inspired by.”
So this is all a long-winded way of saying, if you’re looking to prepare for Blade Runner 2049, there is no “wrong” cut of Blade Runner to watch. And based on early reactions, this is definitely a sequel that stands alone.