Well, 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….