The new Blade Runner must hit the mark between nostalgia and originality.
One of 2017’s most anticipated new films is Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. How did a film as commercially unsuccessful as Blade Runner ever do enough to earn a sequel over thirty years later? Even with a big name star like Harrison Ford, Blade Runner was a decidedly different kind of action movie. Those elements are what has strengthened its reputation over the years and it’s vital Villeneuve doesn’t forget what made the original tick.
Recently there has been a trend to go back to older franchises and create a new entry. Coined appropriately, a Legacyquel, films like Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are prime examples of this formula; bring a mixture of classic characters and music back with new cast members. A little bit of the familiar while trying to create something new to build off of. Blade Runner 2049 will hope to do this with bringing Harrison Ford back as Rick Deckard, while also creating a new lead character with Ryan Gosling.
We’ve finally seen glimpses of Blade Runner 2049 from a brand new trailer and images, there are still plenty of questions regarding what direction this new entry will take. If there was one thing that hurt Blade Runner’s initial release, it was studio interference. Over the many year’s that the film has existed there have been multiple different cuts. The one many theatrical audiences experienced had a voice over included in the opening credits that thankfully doesn’t exist anymore. With Ridley Scott as executive producer and Villeneuve’s reputation there’s hope that they can get the film delivered with their preferred cut intact.
Blade Runner was always a bit of an odd film. Even though Harrison Ford was cast as the lead, his role is more of an auxiliary performance compared to the Replicants. The posters and original marketing would have you believe it is a intense science-fiction action movie, but while it does have its moments, Blade Runner is more concerned with intellectual ideas. The most memorable sequences are when the characters question the ideals of life itself; not many action movies end with an introspective monologue from the antagonist.
Given Denis Villeneuve’s filmography, intellectual science-fiction seems to be his strong point. Fears that Blade Runner 2049 will turn into that all-out action extravaganza should be relieved. There is little doubt that Villeneuve is the right man for this job and what originally was a reluctant departure from Ridley Scott, now is the most inspired choice they could’ve made.
Ridley Scott always had a vision for how Blade Runner would look; extremely dark and invoke the styling of Film-Noir. Although the darkness was wanted, Scott hired cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth to bring just the amount of light to the film. Many of the most iconic sequences of Blade Runner, have just a touch of xenon light to accentuate the scene. Another positive hiring choice for Blade Runner 2049, cinematographer Roger Deakins, will be taking charge of the cinematography this time around. He has worked on many of Villeneuve’s films before, including the Oscar nominated Sicario. That film also specialized in the usage of low light to extreme effect. Again this is the case of perfect person for the job and it’s exciting to see what touches Deakins will bring to this world.
Another one of the aspects that made Blade Runner truly unique was the musical score from Vangelis. It’s unfathomable to imagine the world of Blade Runner without that synth-heavy score. Even though Vangelis was not asked to reprise his role as composer for the sequel, he believes “It’s only once in a lifetime. It’s like doing another Chariots Of Fire. It’s impossible.” Jóhann Jóhannsson, the composer for Arrival, will be in charge of the music for Blade Runner 2049 and he seems to understand what is at stake. When talking to LRM, he stated:
“It has to be music that exists in the world of Blade Runner, but it’s Blade Runner thirty years later. It’s not a remake, it’s a sequel, so a lot of time has passed and things have changed. I think that will be reflected in all elements of the score and the film. Obviously, Vangelis’ music played a huge part in creating that world, and Vangelis’ score to Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorites. It was a huge part of why that film is so strong, so yes, it’s something that I’m very aware of, but as I said, this is a sequel, not a remake, so we’re doing something that exists in the world but is new as well.”
The newly released trailer used a piece of Vangelis’ original score, so it won’t disappear entirely from the sequel. Music helps tie films together in a way far different than just casting original characters; it creates a relationship between them almost effortlessly.
Blade Runner 2049 is well on its way to capturing a lot of what made the original film so special. When it was first announced there was a lot of hesitation to go back to a film as iconic as Blade Runner and continue that story. Ridley Scott had disappointed with his Alien prequel, Vangelis has moved on from film composing, and Harrison Ford isn’t quite as sprightly as he used to be. With Villeneuve and his team at the helm, there’s optimism that this was a project worth endeavoring. Hopefully he will be able to take the material in an exciting new direction, while maintaining many of the elements that made the original so iconic. There’s a reason audiences have been fascinated with Blade Runner for over thirty years and recreating that is the challenge.