The Doom that came to 2049

br2049aWell, actually, BR2049 doesn’t really deserve that Lovecraftian post title- yet. The film has stumbled to a global box-office total of $240 million this week, and while that still entails something of a failure and loss of money for the film’s chief backers, Alcon Entertainment, it isn’t really too bad at all for a near three-hour sci-fi tone poem about humanity rated R in the States and a 15 here in the UK. It was hardly a feel-good high-octane blockbuster for the masses, after all. My main concern over the box-office tally is that if the film is deemed a failure this will impact on the film’s success during Awards season, because, rest assured, this film deserves awards and it would be a worse crime that it gets shunned at Awards season than the audience apathy at the box-office. If ever the film fails to get the artistic and technical consideration awards-time that it deserves, that really would be a Doom of Lovecraftian proportions. I can feel my blood-pressure rising already.

But what a miracle that we got a sequel to Blade Runner at all and that, beyond all hope, it turned out to be a masterpiece almost equal to the original. Indeed, I’ve heard some say they feel 2049 is superior to the original and while I don’t personally feel that way myself, I can understand such sentiments from viewers. It’s a great film.

Certainly, it can be argued it’s a more polished film than the original, at least comparing their initial releases; BR2049 feels fully-formed, complete, while Blade Runner back in 1982 was always flawed.  It’s curious to compare the release of the two films. Alcon gave Villeneuve final cut, let him spend a big budget and let him deliver it at near-three hours. They didn’t insist on preview screenings that would have instilled a panic such as the original film was subjected to- so we didn’t get it shortened or tacked on with narration or explanatory dialogue reshoots or a happy ending, all of which the film might well have been suffered. The original Blade Runner in 1982 should have been pretty much the 2007 Final Cut (compare the workprint to the Final Cut and they are pretty much identical), as it was it took decades to get there, whereas with BR2049 we got there first time. BR2049 is a final cut, and yes, its bloody brilliant.

(We don’t need any recuts and we won’t ever get any, but I would love to see an even longer cut someday- well, some of us are never happy, eh?).

Of course some might argue that previews and resulting edits, maybe even a lower age rating, may have ramped-up the pacing and resulted in a more ‘audience-friendly’ film and more success at the box office… but that wouldn’t have been BR2049, would it?  It would have been, oh, something else.

So anyway, here we are just over a month after its release. I’ve seen the film three times at the cinema. Three times. Well, had to do my bit for the box-office, and the film will be a long time on disc/television and rarely on the big screen, if ever again (over the years, I’ve seen Blade Runner five times at the cinema, but I doubt I’ll get such opportunity with BR2049). But yes, it’s been just over a month and I’m just getting my head around the very existence of the film and that it turned out so good.  What can I say? It swept me up. I expected it to look pretty (most films do, these days) but what surprised me was the depth to it, thematically, visually, artistically. The kick in the chest I felt when Rachel returned. The haunting pace, the great performances, all the stuff it left rattling around in my head, which dragged me back to that second and third viewings, and I have to hold myself back from going to a fourth showing. The home release is coming about February, by all accounts, just in time for my birthday, so I can hold out until then.

I do hope that the unfair box-office of BR2049 doesn’t translate to it being ignored come awards season, or that it will somehow impact negatively on Villeneuve’s next project, the much-anticipated Dune. Can you imagine how good that film might be, if he cracks the script and is given creative freedom somehow in spite of what happened with BR2049?  One can only hope that the industry recognises the critical successes of the film, and its technical and artistic accomplishments, rather than dwell on perceived failures financially. It might not have been a huge global success but you’d have to expect that given time, looking at its long-term prospects, BR2049 will have plenty of life in it for years to come, and draw audiences to its charms long after most films released this past month or two are forgotten and consigned to the bargain bin.

Quality wins out, eventually. Time enough, as Batty said….



6 thoughts on “The Doom that came to 2049

  1. Yes! There’s so much more to a film’s success than its box office receipts. I get that those numbers are easier to report, but there’s so much more to Blade Runner 2049 on a technical and emotional level that it kinda breaks my heart to see headlines dubbing the film a failure. Because for me it’s far from one. I know for sure it’s gonna get awards recognition (especially in cinematography) and any Oscar mention tends to draw audiences. My hope is that more people will appreciate the film and show studios that we don’t want more “cinematic universes,” we just want more films like these. Great post.

    1. Cheers. I feel better about this film than I did the original back in 1982. It was a flop and it didn’t get any love from the critics- most hated it. At least 2049 has them won over, so I hope Joe Public catches on with time. I do earnestly believe that quality wins out in the end, but just imagine if this film had been a bigger hit, what films might have followed.

      1. It’s funny how, especially in this blooming age of “cinematic universes” and ongoing franchises, audiences are so worn-out that we clamor for more serious fare. And when serious fare arrives, the audience is nowhere to be seen. 2049 was never going to open to the tune of $100 million on opening weekend, but we definitely NEED to show up for these films and clue in studios on the kind of quality we want. Otherwise, another cinematic universe is right around the corner.

        I am honestly fine with Blade Runner’s story ending here. I can live with not having a trilogy. There’s something about BR and 2049 that just feels complete to me. Then again, I didn’t think there was gonna be a sequel in the first place so we’ll see.

  2. Did you see the reports that they at one stage considered splitting it into two films? I think it’s definitely for the best that they didn’t (artistically, at any rate), but it’s an interesting notion. I don’t think we’ll ever see a different cut of the film because Villeneuve is adamant this is his director’s cut, but I’d like to see the two-part version just for curiosity’s sake.

    Villeneuve is still working on Dune (someone asked him about directing the next Bond film and he specifically said he’s probably too busy with Dune), so at least BR2049‘s box office hasn’t completely ruined that (yet…)

    1. God, yeah, when news began to surface about the box office woes I figured “shit, that’s Dune done for” but it still seems to be on. On the one hand, everyone in the business knows BR2049 is a quality film loved by critics and that sometimes audiences and box office is a crapshoot. But it may impact on a final cut or put some pressure on Villeneuve. We’ll maybe get a different Dune than what we might have, had 2049 been a success. After all, Villeneuve himself won’t want another film with bad box office behind him.

      1. I presume Dune will get either a tighter budget (no idea what it was before, but surely they’ll look to keep it within whatever BR2049 earns) and/or more action sequences to sell it to the masses. Goodness knows about the running time, though — presumably they’ll want it shorter after BR2049‘s length took so much of the blame, but it’s a big book and, as previous adaptations have shown, it needs that time.

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