Blade Runner is one of the most iconic films ever. Not even as simply a science fiction film, but all film. So, it isn’t surprising that in this reboot/sequel happy era that we live in, that Blade Runner would find itself in the sequel mill. It is one of those films that simply doesn’t need a sequel. It stood firmly on its own for 30 years. But from what we’ve seen so far, Blade Runner 2049 may be a worthy successor to the original film. The official synopsis is:
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan 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 (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Neon Dystopia, of course, had to take the opportunity to react to the trailer for the sequel of possibly the most loved movie in the cyberpunk catalog.
Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas):
My first viewing of the new teaser for Blade Runner 2049 swept over me with a wave of nostalgia. Everything simultaneously felt so right, from the visuals to the score (by Jóhann Jóhannsson). After watching the trailer through a few times, I was able to shake off the nostalgia and really dissect it for the interesting bits. We open with a quote from the first film, read by the veritable Harrison Ford, reprising his iconic role as Richard Deckard:
Replicants are like any other machine. They are either a benefit or a hazard. If they are a benefit, it’s not my problem.
Deckard’s quotation suggests that the plot of the film will once again deal with hunting down a “hazardous” replicant(s). Based on the context of the trailer, we can assume it’s not Deckard, and the director, Denis Villeneuve of Sicario and Arrival fame, has stated that they will not be answering the age old question about whether or not Deckard is a replicant. The next thing that I noticed is that it is snowing in the opening scene of the trailer. This makes me wonder if we will be trading snow for the perpetual downpour of the original Blade Runner. If so, this would be an interesting way to bring something new to the franchise, while simultaneously feeling visually similar. The street scenes look amazing, and I suspect that they will have a lot to dissect, just as the predecessor did. For instance, the opening shot is multi-leveled. The street with its large trucks and bicyclists is hard to miss, but above we also have the iconic Spinners and holographic ads – similar, again, to the first film.
The next scene, though, takes us from the familiar to the strange. We see K, Ryan Gosling’s character, walking through a desert wasteland, coming across a decaying sculpture of a head, and then buildings – fashioned after the art deco aesthetic of the original (noticing a pattern yet?). This scene makes me think of the novel that Blade Runner is based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In the novel, we learn that most of mankind has fled the Earth in the wake of climate disaster (the result of war in the book, but probably caused by global warming if this is the explanation they go with in the movie). So, could K have tracked Deckard to a part of the world that has encountered severe desertification and thus abandonment? An alternative explanation that occurs to me is that maybe this isn’t Earth. Perhaps K has tracked Deckard to Mars? The alien, reddish light subtly suggests this.
Following K’s trek through the desert, he finds his way into a massive art deco building. The welcome mat proclaims: Vintage Casino and Korean hangs in the window overhead suggesting the world’s well-established multi-culturalism. Is the building a former casino? Deckard emerges from hiding, classic gun extended, and confront’s K. He says:
I did your job once. I was good at it.
Then K responds:
Things were simpler then.
This confirms that K is, in fact, a Blade Runner for the LAPD, but it also lays down a mystery that Blade Runner 2049 will have to explore. What, exactly, has changed in the 30 years since Deckard’s disappearance. We can assume that it has something to do with the nature of Replicants because K is a Blade Runner (someone who hunts down and terminates Replicants on Earth) and he has sought the aid of a veteran Blade Runner. There is more going on in this scene, though, that one might miss on a cursory glance. On the table between Deckard and K are two glasses. This may be nothing, but it could also suggest that Deckard isn’t alone. Second, behind K in the doorway is a dog. Is this dog artificial (like most animals in the Blade Runner universe)? Is it Deckard’s? Does it have something to do with this scene that Ridley Scott described some time ago?
“Behind it at a distance of two miles, in the twilight, is this massive combine harvester that’s fertilizing this ground. You’ve got 16 Klieg lights on the front, and this combine is four times the size of this cottage. And now a spinner [a flying car] comes flying in, creating dust. Of course, traditionally chased by a dog that barks, the doors open, a guy gets out and there you’ve got Rick Deckard. He walks in the cottage, opens the door… smells stew, sits down and waits for the guy to pull up to the house to arrive. The guy’s seen him, so the guy pulls the combine behind the cottage and it towers three stories above it, and the man climbs down from a ladder–a big man. He steps onto the balcony and he goes to Harrison’s side. The cottage actually [creaks]; this guy’s got to be 350 pounds. I’m not going to say anything else–you’ll have to go see the movie.”
If so, then it suggests that the scene described by Scott occurs prior in the film to the events in the trailer. Of course, much may have happened in the development of the film since Scott described this scene. Following all of that, we see K again walking rain ridden streets. A different season? A different city? We’ll have to wait to find out. What is certain, though, is that this film is going to be beautiful and sound amazing. Random side thought – I was a little disappointed that Deckard was only wearing a gray t-shirt. It seemed very Harrison Ford, but not very Deckard.
Spotlights scanning the streets of a wintery Los Angeles, bicycles riding in the distance, crowded marketplace rows, an abandoned Tyrell pyramid–there’s a beautiful deception in the teaser for Blade Runner 2049 that makes me almost want to take back my position on all the remakes, reboots, and revivals Hollywood subsists on. From the introductory shots to the haunting reinterpretation of Vangelis’ score, this continuation feels so tone-appropriate that a part of me is convinced some superfan kidnapped Gosling and Ford to act out what only they could dream up. Which just goes to show that Ridley Scott, like everyone else, considers Blade Runner his magnum opus. No way was he going to touch the franchise again without having someone who was up to the task by his side, and Denis Villeneuve seems to have studied the style of the original down to the finest detail, which sets it apart from that other big cyberpunk movie coming out in just a few months.
There’s a distinct difference between this revival and the Ghost in the Shell reboot that can’t be ignored. While the live-action adaptation of what’s still the height of cyberpunk in anime form–not to mention science fiction as a whole–has gotten some praise for a few cool art choices in its trailer, everything we saw from Scarlett Johansson’s Major and what little they chose to show of Section 9 looks like a hodgepodge of cyberpunk-y stuff that promises action and flash and not much else. It looked great, definitely put its art department to work, but that trailer showed nothing that felt like Ghost in the Shell. Juxtapose that with Blade Runner 2049‘s trailer–following in the footsteps of cyberpunk perfection in film–and the former seems like an amateurish attempt. I’m no fan of Johansson or Gosling, and I’m not crazy about Ford since the ’80s either, but there isn’t a frame in this teaser that’s out of place. Everything shown here leads me to believe that we’re in for a rare event next year–a revival that honors the legacy of the original.
Blade Runner 2049 has some colossal shoes to step into. We can only hope that the film does what all good sequels do. Maintain the feel of the original, but bring something new to the story that broadens the world’s scope. Blade Runner 2049 will hit theaters on October 6th, 2017. What are your predictions about the film? Let us know down in the comments or social media.
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The film will hit the theaters on October 6th, not 10th.
“Juxtapose that with Blade Runner 2049‘s trailer–following in the footsteps of cyberpunk perfection in film–and the latter seems like an amateurish attempt.” I think you meant the former. The Blade Runner teaser is amazing.
Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas)
Thanks guys for the catches.
Ah, dammit. I really must learn to remind myself that 10.6.17 doesn’t mean 10th June to you lot…
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