Blade Runner 2049 is set to be released later this year on October 6th. While many fans of the original Blade Runner are excited, many other fans have voiced doubts as to whether the franchise ought to be resurrected. As it will be the first sequel to the 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner 2049 will come out 35 years after the original. This in and of itself isn’t a problem. But what worries fans is that this sequel will join a growing pile of half-baked reboots that ride in on the coattails of their illustrious predecessors without adding any style or substance.
Let’s be clear: the original Blade Runner is a masterpiece. While it underperformed in theaters and divided critics, over the decades it has come to be recognized as one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. Every element of the film was crafted with care, from the script to the soundtrack to the set design to the cinematography. People hold it in such high esteem that it seems very unlikely that a sequel could ever possibly live up to audiences’ expectations.
Blade Runner shouldn’t get a sequel. It is too removed from the original context and creators.
First of all, you have to understand the context in which the original movie was made. It is set in the year 2019, and represents what people in 1982 genuinely thought the future might be like. It represents a dystopian Los Angeles dominated by Japanese megacorporations, rife with crime, and full of strange biotechnology. The American social climate of the real 80’s shook with paranoia about crime, unregulated corporate power, Japanese economic expansion, and environmental pollution. All of these very real fears were integral to how the unique aesthetic of the film was developed. Living in the real 2017, we can be thankful that life didn’t turn out to be that interesting. But the result is that we no longer share the same vision of what the future will be like. Our society might still have fears about corporate power and pollution, but we think about issues in a very different way than people of the 80’s did. The creators of Blade Runner 2049 might want the movie to have an atmosphere just like the original, in which case it will just be trying to parrot ideas that were presented much more sincerely and relevantly in the original film. Alternatively, it will have a creative futuristic take on the problems of this decade. But if that’s the case, it wouldn’t make sense to have it take place in the Blade Runner world. Why couldn’t it be an original concept?
Not only is Blade Runner 2049 removed from its original context, it is also removed from the original creators. The only people returning to the project are both elderly men: Harrison Ford and one of the writers, Hampton Fancher. Ridley Scott will not be directing, Jordan Cronenweth will not be doing the cinematography, and Vangelis will not be doing the score. Most important of all, the new movie will not be based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. These were the men who made the original film such a work of art. The fact that none of them are working on it means that the new project is not in safe hands. What sort of reality do we live in where a sequel to Blade Runner won’t have a soundtrack by Vangelis?
I believe the new filmmakers will only disappoint fans because they will never be able to replicate the special moments of the original. Can you imagine anything with the emotional weight of the “Tears in Rain” speech in the new film? They would be fools to try—Rutger Hauer will never be outdone! The result will be that the new film will seem emotionally shallow compared to the original. Or, they will try to ape the first film the same way Star Trek Into Darkness aped The Wrath of Khan. It’s a lose-lose situation, either way.
There is some hope. Ryan Gosling is a great actor and Denis Villeneuve is a great director. But for all other reasons, Blade Runner 2049 seems destined to just be another entry in the slew of passable reboots we’ve received in recent years. Who cares about the new RoboCop, the new Total Recall, or the new Ghostbusters? Will this just be another sequel made only with the hope of cashing in on the intense feelings people have towards the original film?
The kinds of movies that should be getting reboots and sequels are the bad movies with good ideas. Blade Runner was a masterpiece, with its beautiful 80’s graphics and ambiguous multiple endings. It didn’t need anything else. To add a sequel isn’t just pointless: I’m afraid that it might ruin some of the mystique of the original. But, nevertheless, Blade Runner 2049 is what we will receive in October. Who knows? It could be good.