I was a sceptic. I didn’t want a Blade Runner 2. I thought it was a bad idea and a cynical attempt to capitalise on both the success of the Final Cut release and, following its long road from box-office and critical failure in 1982, its eventual reappraisal as a classic. I felt justified, as a fan of the film since I saw it in September 1982 who witnessed its fall into obscurity and later eventual rebirth, to voice my opinion that the world didn’t need a Blade Runner 2. Leave it alone. But slowly as news has developed about the BR2 project, I’m becoming, much to my own surprise, a Believer. Ridley, you old bastard, you’ve got me converted. But can you pull it off?
(God, I’d love to sit down with Ridley just for an hour…! Seriously, I don’t consider myself a geek but as an original fan of the film (it’s been my favourite film ever since it blew me away back on that September afternoon and I’ve championed it ever since) I feel almost entitled to feel a sort of ‘ownership’ of it (ridiculous I know). I love the film,damn it. Just to sit down with Ridley and get some idea of where he’s going with it. I don’t want it spoiled, I really don’t even want to know anything detailed about the script, but.. but Ridley.. where are you going with it. It feels like that scene in Marathon Man– with me asking him, is it safe?)
Back in December last year I wrote regards the confirmation that Blade Runner 2 looked to be inevitable, and over the last several months pieces of information have come to light about the project, and I think its a good time to sum up some of those developments, particularly following the press interviews for Ridley Scott’s latest film The Martian, during which Scott has been a bit more candid about the project.
So what do we know? Well, the script was developed by Ridley Scott with original writer Hamption Fancher. So that has to be taken as a good start, with a cautionary note that some of the best moments of the original script were attributed to the rewrite by David Peoples, who has no involvement at all with BR2. But yeah, if you had to name the original ‘parents’ of Blade Runner (considering it as a wholly independent entity to Philip K Dicks original novel) then it would be Fancher and Scott. So the lineage is there. And by all accounts the script for BR2 is very good. Following recent reveals by Scott, it’s apparent that the film is set some decades after the original. Ryan Gosling is apparently signed-on to star and his age seems to have some impact on the exact date, with Scott suggesting 2037 or 2040. There are inevitable invitations to wild speculation here- perhaps Gosling’s character is a child of Deckard and Rachel (which is a bit of a stretch considering Rachel was a Replicant and possibly even Deckard too), or, perhaps more likely, he’s a contemporary Blade Runner who in his duties has to track down Deckard (who went on the run with Rachel at the end of the original film). Scott has already said that Harrison Ford, although he has signed on to the film, will not feature largely in it; “...we…came up with a pretty strong three-act storyline, and it all makes sense in terms of how it relates to the first one. Harrison is very much a part of this one, but it’s really about finding him; he comes in in the third act“. So it would seem safe to assume the date the film is set is largely due to Ford’s real age/the aging of him over the years since 1982. I don’t know where that leaves the debate about his character being a Replicant or not; do Replicants age? Maybe Deckard was a Nexus 7 or something, no set termination date, built to age naturally. I wonder if Tyrell has any part to play in this movie. Hell, its like falling into the rabbit hole thinking too much about BR2.
Ryan Gosling by the way seems a particularly fine piece of casting. He’s one of the few modern-day male actors who can emote visually rather than through dialogue, and has a silent real-world/tough guy presence much like Ford had back in his Raiders/Blade Runner prime or the likes of old-style Hollywood leads like Steve McQueen. I’ve enjoyed his work in films like Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines and I think he could carry a BR2 movie, it seems a natural progression for him.
Confirmation came that Ridley wasn’t going to direct BR2. Firstly, I have to admit that the director appointed to the film, Denis Villeneuve, was someone unknown to me when the news broke that it would be him helming the film rather than Ridley Scott, who was stepping back into a producer’s role. To be honest, I felt relieved about Ridley stepping back, it was likely a difficult decision for Ridley to make as Blade Runner is possibly his most personal film, and the film he is most famous for. It must have been so tempting to shoot BR2 himself, but the pressure… the expectation… I think the experience of making Prometheus and all the hype it received, and yes, much of the flack after release…. I expect it had much to do with Ridley’s decision, I do think it was the right thing to do. If the sequel gets screwed up, at least he can say it wasn’t down to him, and his original will always stand for itself.
So anyway, curious about the choice of (the unknown to me) Denis Villeneuve, I streamed Villeneuve’s most recently-released film, Prisoners, and was hugely impressed by it. Its a very, very good film, a tense and brutal thriller, technically very accomplished but also blessed with great performances from its actors. It also looks incredible, with beautiful photography by famed English cinematographer Roger Deakins (some of the night photography in the rain, lit by neon and torchlight had obvious connotations with Blade Runner), When news broke that Deakins, who seems to have a great rapport with Villeneuve, had also signed on to work on BR2, well by that point I was getting excited. A talented director and one of the most accomplished cinematographers, working on BR2? Hell yeah. We have great script, a great leading man, the return of Ford, Ridley overseeing production, a gifted director who is a big fan of the original, and a fantastic cinematographer. It’s all looking good. Villeneuve’s latest film Sicario has been getting great reviews too. He’s looking to be an excellent choice.
They aren’t racing to get it done either. No release date seems to have been set, with filming arranged late last year for summer of 2016 you’d have to expect a release date in late 2017, maybe mid-2018 depending on how long post takes (2019 would be a perfect date for obvious reasons but lets not wait that long!). The shooting date may well have been dictated by the appointment of Villeneuve, who had Sicario in progress and has just finished shooting another film after that- his schedule now apparently cleared up, BR2 awaits. I think its healthy to have a long pre-production for these kinds of film anyway. Too many films race into production and suffer for it.
Regards the music, well, Vangelis’ score was such an integral part of Blade Runner, it was like another character. Fans may have anticipated a return for the synth maestro but I would imagine that’s now very unlikely, particularly as Ridley has stepped back from directing. Just as Villeneuve has a continuing professional relationship with cinematographer Deakins, he also seems to have a partnership with Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, who composed the scores for both Prisoners and Sicario. Johannsson is himself a rising star in the business (he recently also scored The Theory of Everything). He comes from a experimental/classical background and I was already familiar with his work prior to him moving into film scoring. His works IBM 1401: A Users Manual and Fordlandia are wonderful pieces of modern classical composition (check them out on Youtube), and I expect he’ll be announced as the composer for BR2. This would be a great choice and reassuring has he already has a history of working with Villeneuve. It will be interesting to see if he references the Vangelis score or makes it a wholly original composition- if the latter, then it will further position the film as more its own thing.
In September Variety spoke to Roger Deakins about Blade Runner 2. “..there’s a lot of anticipation, which is interesting. I mean I love the original but I’m surprised at how much interest there is when the original actually wasn’t commercially very successful and wasn’t critically very successful as well. So that tells you a lot about a movie’s staying power… .” Referring to the style and ‘look’ that the original has, Deakins was asked if they intended to replicate (sic) it in the sequel. ” I remember distinctly when it came out and how strong that look was when compared with other movies that were around at the time. We’ve had little conversations. I mean the film we’re going to do is going to stand by itself but it’s obviously the same world 30 years on. I mean but it doesn’t have to look the same. Thirty years on we can do anything we want, really.”
I certainly welcome this approach. I think its great that they seem to be referencing the original but are keen to distance themselves from it, likely conscious that they must visually do their own thing and give the sequel its own identity. Unfortunately the realities of modern film-making seem to have been hinted at in an interview shortly after, in which Deakins commented he would soon be working with (director) Villeneuve on a film that would be converted to 3D (evidently a reference to BR2); “…I’m not even into 3D actually… I’ve been offered it. I just don’t want to… (it will) be made into 3D eventually, but it won’t be shot in 3D.” Thank goodness the film will be at least shot in 2D. I can take (and ignore) a 3D conversion, but if it’s shot in 2D there won’t be too many of those irritating ‘pop-out’ moments in the film.
As he wraps up his other projects and turns towards BR2, he is naturally reticent to go into any specifics, but Villeneuve has started to comment on his own thoughts approaching the project; “I’m totally aware of the huge challenge. It’s a risk I know that every single fan who walks into the theater will walk in with a baseball bat. I’m aware of that and I respect that, and it’s okay with me because it’s art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks. It’s gonna be the biggest risk of my life but I’m okay with that. For me it’s very exciting; it’s just so inspiring, I’m so inspired. I’ve been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said ‘no’ to a lot of sequels. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to Blade Runner. I love it to much, so I said, ‘Alright fuck it, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.’”
You know, I think he gets it.
But what will BR2 be called? The Independent newspaper here in the UK recently ran a story about domain names being registered by Warner Bros.; bladerunnerandroidsdream.com and androidsdreammovie.com, with natural ensuing speculation that the film may be titled Blade Runner:Androids Dream or just simply Androids Dream. While such a title may well nod back to the original PKD novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep, in the movie the term ‘Androids’ was replaced by ‘Replicants’ so I’m not sure how probable those choices are. Likely they are domain names for the films official websites but I don’t imagine the film will be titled like that. Personally I always rather liked one of the original titles the original film had before Blade Runner was chosen- Dangerous Days. So some variant like Blade Runner: Dangerous Days seems ok to me. But obviously extremely unlikely! We’ll see.
If I had the opportunity to speak to them, my message to the makers of BR2 would be this: please, be honest to the original. Don’t pander to the fans, don’t think about what we want, but please, just be certain you are maintaining the integrity of the original. Go do something new. Blow us away, just like Ridley and his team did back in 1982. And please for Gods sake don’t consider the word ‘Franchise’; don’t make this film with an eye to a Blade Runner 3. Make it a single experience with a beginning, middle and an end. Maybe a third film will follow, I guess it has to be a consideration, its a part of the industry thinking these days but don’t make that integral to the second film. Just go and make a great film, no sequel thinking attached. That worked for Blade Runner after all. Just make it good.
Well. Lets give it several more months and see what happens…one thought does spring to mind, though: when the first teaser gets released… dare I even watch it?