Movies

Blade Runner 2049…Do androids still dream of electric sheep?

If you were self aware at all in 1982 you would have probably found yourself watching the now Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner.  Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, the film starred Harrison Ford and was directed by Ridley Scott.  Scott who was somewhat well known in the genre from directing Alien (1979) and Ford was already a Hollywood A-Lister thanks to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark would create one of most appreciated Sci-Fi films of all time.

The film has been the subject of academic interest over decades.  Academia began writing analyses of the film almost immediately, in particular the narrative’s focus on dystopian aspects, its questions regarding “authentic” humanity versus artificial intelligence and its eco-feminist aspects.  Intellectual curiosity aside, it wasn’t universally praised by film critics, many whom thought the film too plodding and the characters unimpressive.

In spite of the early criticisms, the film has aged very well over the years, in fact many critics who weren’t enthused at first would go on to reexamine their opinions.  Roger Ebert who originally found the plot thin and the human story clichéd, would later go on and add the final cut to his “great movies list”.

The aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes currently reads, “Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott’s mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.”

So here we are now 35 years later and the sequel, titled Blade Runner 2049, is set for release October 6th of this year.  Lets take a look a some of things we know about this new release.  As always, this may contain mild spoilers so be warned:

Director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) was brought on board to direct in February of 2015 after Ridley Scott dropped back to just a producing role.  Scott had planned on returning to the directors chair but stepped aside after Alien: Covenant became a reality quicker than expected and schedules couldn’t balance.

Villeneuve, who’s known for having a unique and appealing brand of visual story telling, noted that he’s fully aware of the immense pressure he’s under and how hardcore fans of the original view the prospect of a new film:

“I know that every single fan will walk into the theater 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.”

A fan of the original and subsequent cuts, Villeneuve hesitated at first to tackle a project that he loved but after speaking with Scott and seeing the script he decided he was in good company:

“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 too much, so I said, ‘Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'”

Villeneuve’s strength is clearly exploring a film’s motif through an esoteric visual esthetic, but he also employs a technique that will serve him well in Blade Runner.   He creates a sense of intrigue by restricting the perspective of his films to the main characters (see Prisoners) so that many of his characters are searching for answers along with the audience.  This collaboration helps keep the audience engaged whereas a traditional “third person” perspective sometimes does not.  You’ll see why when we discuss the plot.

Writing, Cinematography and Score

This new film marks the first time original Blade Runner Cinematographer Roger Deakins will be shooting a sci-fi film since the film 1984, and according to director Denis Villeneuve, the cinematographer was more than eager to make a return: “Roger was dreaming to go back to sci-fi since it’s been a long time, and to convince him to do Blade Runner 2049, it took me maybe 2.5 seconds.”

blade-runner-2049-6

For the screenplay, Scott brought back original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Fancher and also writer Micahael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant) to draft a script based on an new idea by Fancher and Scott.   Denis Villeneuve said in an interview on September 11, 2015:

“Hampton Fancher, Ridley Scott and Michael Green did a fantastic job on the screenplay. It’s a very powerful screenplay. And I felt that it made sense to me and I had the Ridley Scott blessing.”

Initially, Villeneuve was against the concept of a sequel as he felt it could violate the original. But after reading the script, which he and Harrison Ford have described as “one of the best” they have ever read, he was committed to the concept.

For the musical score, Villeneuve chose Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, who has previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival.  Johannsson, who is 2 time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner for Theory of Everything was brought on board very early in the process.  He praised composer Vangelis for his work on the original film and that it will be “an enormous challenge of mythical proportion”.

Casting

Blade-Runner-2049-01

Ryan Gosling as been cast as the lead character, playing new blade runner LAPD Officer K.  He confirmed his casting in November 2015, citing the involvement of Villeneuve and Deakins as factors for his decision to join the film.  Along side him are other newcomers Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis and Dave Bautista.

Along with returnee Edward James Olmos, Harrison Ford is reprising his role as Rick Deckard who despite rumors, was on board from the very beginning.  And as you can see from the trailer has an important part to play in the plot, specifically in the third act.  Whether or not he’s still a blade runner or why he disappeared we just don’t know yet.

As for Sean Young, she does not reprise her role as Rachael from the original Blade Runner even though at the end of the “happy” cut Deckard states she has “no termination date”.  After being very vocal in her reactions to the new film, she told The Guardian newspaper: “I saw Ridley a month ago, and not a peep was uttered from his mouth about it, and so I left it alone.”

Plot

The official synopsis from Warner Bros. reads:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Regarding Ford’s role, Scott would go on to say:

“We talked at length about what it could be, and 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 part of this one, but really it’s about finding him; he comes in in the third act.”

There are similar elements to Fords other Sci-Fi franchise, Star Wars, in particular Episode VII:  The Force Awakens.  They both take place 30 years after the previous story and follow new protagonists in search of a former one who disappeared.  I’m sure this is purely coincidental as it somewhat imbues elements from the Hero’s Journey formula which is widely used in film and has been since 1949.

And for the long standing argument about whether or not Ford’s character Deckard was a Replicant, Villeneuve was concerned about changing the context of the original film with any exposition they may present in the sequel.  Regarding the Replicant debate…

 “The thing I must say is that I love mystery. I love shadows. I love doubts. I would just want to say to the fans that we will take care of that mystery. I will take care of it.”

For the record Scott and Ford have both commented on this issue, Ford saying that Deckard is human while Scott maintains he is in fact, a Nexus-6 Replicant.

So, that’s the skinny.  Obviously there are many holes to fill in and I suspect Villeneuve and the marketing department will keep it that way.  One big question would be is the Tyrell corporation still involved with the production of Replicants? Like I said, Villeneuve toils in the mystery, the journey of his lead characters experiencing edification through shared experience.  But be assured, one theme from the first film that will hang over this one and starts off the teaser…

“…Replicants are like any other machine – they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” – Deckard

This one’s going to be something.

Till next time…

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