There’s a lot riding on Blade Runner 2049 – what can the filmmakers do to get fans onboard?
Blade Runner is regarded as one of the most important science-fiction films ever made – and with good reason. From the stunning production design and incredible effects to Vangelis’ iconic score, Blade Runner’s an unforgettable film that’s hard to forget, whether you like it or not.
We’ve been teased with rumours of a sequel for a long time. The project first saw light back in 1999 (yup, that makes me feel old too) but has only actually become a reality in the past few years. When Ridley Scott’s attachment was confirmed, the prospect of finally seeing a return to the world he’d helped to create in the early ‘80s became a reality.
Of course, he’s on-board as the producer rather than the director, leaving acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve (whose latest project, Arrival, has been winning great reviews all over) to sit behind the camera instead. He’s clearly blessed with a strong eye, so it’s likely the Los Angeles of 2049 will be a feast for the eyes.
Hampton Fancher, who adapted Philip K. Dick’s formidable Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (before David Peoples was brought aboard to rewrite him), has co-penned the screenplay with Michael Green – another reason to get us fans all hot and excited.
Next, rumours of Harrison Ford’s return as bounty-hunter Rick Deckard turned out to be true when he signed on the dotted line, surprising most of us.
So, Blade Runner 2049 has plenty of credibility and some fantastic talent attached, but it’s set to face a difficult ride. Even if the entire filmmaking process goes smoothly (which it surely will), fans have been awaiting this sequel for 35 years – and many of us thought it would never happen at all.
Other classic films have been given belated sequels in the past decade, and their resurgence has been … well, hit and miss (Tron Legacy, Independence Day: Resurgence, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Without doubt, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World have been the most successful unexpected continuations, though even these has their detractors.
In short, Blade Runner 2049 has lots to live up to, and has to work hard to satisfy fans who’ve fantasized about potential sequels for the past few decades. As the Blade Runner 2049 release date gets closer, we have to ask: what does it need to do to put a smile on our faces?
Give us a Los Angeles We Recognize
Without doubt, one of Blade Runner’s strongest features is its look: the neon-soaked streets, the shadowy interiors, the mix of old and new architecture. Even if you can’t get into the story or the characters, the visuals are beautiful and unique enough to keep you watching – and Scott’s sharp eye means it looks just as gorgeous today as it did back on its first release.
Blade Runner 2049 is set thirty years after the original, which means some changes are inevitable: Villeneuve has talked about how the world’s climate has ‘gone berserk’, but will it look like a totally different environment?
Villeneuve is sure to know just how beloved Blade Runner is, and the amount of anticipation fans feel. On the one hand, he needs the freedom to make the film he wants to make, but he’ll also be facing pressure from the studio – and Scott himself.
With its budget of £120m (roughly $146 million, not including marketing spends), there’s a lot of money riding on this. When Scott returned to another universe he helped to create with Prometheus, it wasn’t exactly the masterpiece we all hoped for. Still, perhaps Scott’s taking a back seat will work out for the best here: a younger director with a different background will have their own vision, but still have Scott’s invaluable input too.
At the very least, Blade Runner 2049 will look fantastic – we just hope it’s not too different to the world we’ve all been fascinated by for so long.
Tread Carefully with the ‘Deckard Situation’
Even though Ridley Scott has gone on record saying Deckard is a Nexus-6 replicant, this is left ambiguous in the original film. As a result, it’s been a source of vibrant debate for years.
The Final Cut’s restored unicorn-centric dream sequence helped to make the theory of Deckard’s synthetic origins more believable (given its relation to Gaff’s origami model at the end), but the question surrounding Harrison Ford’s character works best as a mystery. If a definitive answer is given within the context of a film (i.e. not out of Scott’s mouth), then part of the original’s mystique will be destroyed.
Again, Villeneuve, Hampton Fancher, Scott, and even Ford are all well aware that this mystery is integral to Blade Runner. We’ve got no reason to believe they won’t tread carefully, but a misstep could not only ruin the sequel for many fans, but also taint their subsequent viewings of the original (as extreme as that may sound).
So far, we know that Deckard will only appear in the film’s third act, and that the ambiguity surrounding his origins will be at play. Clearly, if Deckard is a replicant, he’s far outlived his lifespan by decades.
The filmmakers are in something of a catch-22 situation: if they address this matter, they’ll confirm he’s created by the Tyrell Corporation after all; if they don’t, then we’ll be left to assume he’s human.
Having Deckard appear in the film puts the filmmakers in a real bind: Harrison Ford’s presence is a no-brainer and is clearly supposed to lend credibility to the film, but it also increases the risk of disappointment.
A Powerful Score to Rival the Original
Now, let’s be honest: the odds of Blade Runner 2049’s score topping Vangelis’ iconic, unique, influential work aren’t great. Even though Johann Johannsson, who worked with Villeneuve on Arrival and Sicario, is a terrific choice, he too has a lot to prove.
Vangelis’s score is the perfect accompaniment to Scott’s visuals and Fancher / Peoples’s screenplay – measured, low-key, atmospheric, bold, melancholic. It really is a masterpiece.
If the sequel is to feel like a seamless continuation of Blade Runner, the whole package has to echo what came before. Even though we’re getting a lot of new blood with proven chops – Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista – this is a world we all know incredibly well, and making it feel right is crucial.
As with Villeneuve’s directing, Johannsson has to be free to create his own work, but he also has to produce a score that can sit alongside Vangelis’ as belonging to the Blade Runner ‘sound’.
It looks like 2017 will be the year time travel makes a comeback. I mentioned the recent popularity of the time travel genre in books, but it appears to be bleeding into movies and television as well.
This is the first of a series of 5 articles letting you know what cool sci-fi stuff is coming out in the next year, so check out the biggest, baddest, most awesome sci-fi films you can expect next year!
Give us a Standalone Story
Like the book it was based on, Blade Runner never needed a sequel. Even though three novels were written as continuations, the film itself is a self-contained story, able to stand on its own without demanding a follow-up.
Shared universes are highly-fashionable today, as is laying foundations for sequels rather than letting stories be self-contained. It’s unlikely that Blade Runner is being brought back to screens without the hope of a franchise motivating the money-men. However, while this is a world of flying police cars, advanced robotics, and space exploration, Blade Runner is not an action film – it’s a detective story in the film noir tradition.
If the film turns out to be a major success, sequels are sure to follow. To secure much-needed revenue, the studio will clearly want the film to be as exciting as possible – does this mean we should expect lots more shootouts, fighting, and stunts than we got first time around?
It’s a possibility.
Too much deviation from the original’s slow-burning style will likely put long-time fans off. Would a more dynamic, action-focused approach designed to entice newcomers be worth the risk of alienating those of us who love the original?
Only time will tell.
The Blade Runner 2049 release date is October 6th, 2017 (just two years ahead of Blade Runner’s setting), but within the next six months, we’ll get to see and learn a lot more of the film. Here’s hoping it’s everything we want it to be.
Featured Images: Warner Bros.