Blade Runner: It’s supposed to be cult, not popular…

P1070640Well, I’m back from my holiday up in sunny (yes, really) Scotland and I’ve got my tickets booked for Blade Runner 2049 Thursday night. I was intending to wait until the following week (and I NEVER go to the cinema weekday evenings anymore) but what the hell, it’s been 35 years since Blade Runner first crossed my path, and while I’ve been avoiding reviews I have seen all those Twitter feeds last week with the hugely positive opinions of the movie. Words like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘superb’ and ‘modern sci-fi classic’ and even a few citing it as superior to the original (nonsense, obviously). So how can I possibly wait and risk spoiler apocalypse? Expect a review late Friday or Saturday, work permitting (maybe a sentence or two Thursday night).

I recall my postings on this blog back when the new film was first announced. Here we are, it is here. This is the week.

I must say, it has been a very strange past few months leading up to this week, as the film’s marketing campaign has geared up. Those three prequel shorts were a nice touch, teasing but not revealing very much. How strange it was, particularly, to see that anime short directed by Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe. Seeing those visuals so tightly entwined with those of Blade Runner, all these years later. There’s a sense of unreality to all this. I can remember late in 1982 when Blade Runner was like every sci-fi geek’s best-kept secret, and god knows back then plenty of geeks hated the film too- it really was the very definition of cult for the first few years back then. Here we are now, and we are revisiting that  future-noir world again. There’s a sense of unreality to all this that is hard to quantify. I mean, this is Blade Runner. I remember back when no-one ever seemed to know of it. Now it’s this huge new movie that everyone is raving about. Someone’s Twitter feed even suggested possible Best Picture nods come Oscar time. Heresy, surely- Blade Runner is supposed to be cult, not popular- something’s gone terribly wrong. Goodness knows how I’ll feel if this film proves a box-office hit and spawns a (horrors!) trilogy or, (even more horrific!) a franchise of prequels/sequels.

So this week, probably tomorrow or Tuesday evening, I’ll be rewatching Blade Runner again, one last time before having any further viewing shadowed by the Blade Runner 2049 experience. Good or bad, in small or significant ways, the new film is surely going to impact any future viewing experience of the 1982 film. How can it not? Shades of those Engineers spoiling the Lovecraftian mysteries of the Space Jockeys in Alien is the most obvious and worrying comparison. For the last few decades, Blade Runner‘s story has always ended with those lift-doors closing on Deckard and Rachel. After this week, we’ll always know what happened next, for good or ill.

I’ll admit to being nervous. And excited. I mean, it does sound good. At least it isn’t some pg-13, noisy, dumb cgi action-fest, and it’s clear already that this film was sincerely made, even if it fails to be great. God knows it could have been a hell of a lot worse. But  all this positive word of mouth and (apparently) glowing five-star reviews that surfaced Friday and Saturday leaves me troubled.

While I admit that there is every chance the film is indeed a better film than Blade Runner, well, a better film doesn’t necessarily mean a better Blade Runner. For me, many peoples issues with the original -the darkness, the pacing, the lack of action, even the 80s synth-drenched soundtrack- that as a film it could be criticized for actually make the film more special for me. Its this weird, blockbuster arthouse movie, a techno-noir ambient chamber piece. It isn’t supposed to be a box-office success nor a Best Picture contender.

Anyway, I’ll know on Thursday: I’m going to see the sequel to Blade Runner, more than 35 years after I first saw the original. Pinch me.

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7 thoughts on “Blade Runner: It’s supposed to be cult, not popular…

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    I have tickets for Sat 7th at the Laser IMAX, and I’m staying well clear of any reviews until then.

    But Blade Runner wasn’t meant to be a cult movie, it was supposed to be MASSIVE in its day: it was expensive and flashy and had flying cars, and it was made by the guy who’d had a huge hit with Alien. And it starred Indiana Jones!

    You could say the profile of this movie – now it’s luckily not swamped by an unfortunate summer of other excellent fantasy films, and not opening the same week as ET, for God’s sake – is what Blade Runner’s should have been. If you were arguing devil’s advocate.

    Side note: what are the odds of the home video release eventually having an alternate soundtrack option with the ditched JJ music tracks? I do hope so.

    1. Yeah I know it was always intended to be successful and popular, but it’s always (well, up to 1994, anyway) been a cult film. It has always felt strange to me, particularly after the 2007 Final Cut, for the film to be so mainstream and well-regarded. But yeah, that’s just me.

      I think the chances of ever hearing JJ’s original score (presuming it was ever recorded or dubbed into a cut of the film) are zero. I’ve read that he had to sign a NDA which explains his silence. I suppose there is a slim chance some of it might turn up on one of his albums.

      Indeed that score situation is my biggest concern/regret, but while JJ was surely giving the film a unique identity, comments by Villeneuve seem to indicate that watching the film, it needed something closer to the Vangelis original. We will see soon enough.

  2. I read one review, then decided that was probably more than enough. Not that it really spoiled anything, but I read all of two Kingsman 2 reviews and both of them spoiled multiple bits, so I figure I got lucky with that one 2049 review. But it was positively glowing, anyway.

    I’m open to the possibility that I might like it more than the original, but… well, nothing like overloading it with expectation, is there?

    1. Hype can be a double-edged sword, certainly. Often prefer going in with low expectations and getting pleasantly surprised. Your reference to reviews is spot-on. There are far too many spoilers in reviews these days, it’s like the art of reviewing has been lost. Or it reflects how marketing and trailers these days reveal too much of entire plots and reviewers seem to think anything goes. Six months down the line, sure, fine, bit a film not even released yet? I appreciate some of the effort of the people behind 2049 to keep some of its spoilerific material back but some of the reviews aren’t playing the game, as it were, so yes, I’ve steered clear other than seeing the scores and feeling the hype steadily rise.

  3. I just reserved 6 seats for tomorrow night‘s premiere (sadly… in IMAX 3D). And I just found out that the film runs for 163min. How fucking cool is that!?

  4. Matthew McKinnon

    Tonight’s the night. Got butterflies?
    I have to wait until Saturday.
    I have, however, remained totally unspoiled.
    Enjoy!

    1. Cheers! I may post a one-line great/okay/throwing myself into the canal update late tonight but I’ll keep any review back until Sunday.

      And yes, I am feeling rather nervous, it’s a feeling almost unique in all my years watching movies. I rewatched the Final Cut last night, it’s a beautifully shot film and the craftsmanship is second to none. The mood, the ambiance, it’s quite special. We really don’t need 2049 at all.

      So that’s the question I want answering tonight- is it a good film and/or a good Blade Runner film? Even if he fails at either, as long as Villeneuve aimed at the heights and tried his damnedest I’ll be happy, however the film turns out.

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