A Sequel We Don’t Need

18 02 2016

Apparently Blade Runner 2 is coming. A release date of January 12, 2018 has been set, even before principle photography has started. They’ve selected a director (Denis Villeneuve) and Ryan Gosling will be in the leading role. This worries me, and frankly, we don’t need this movie. Blade Runner didn’t exactly beg for a sequel.

Familiar Faces Won’t Matter

As if to try to soften the blow, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as Rick Deckard, and one of the new script’s writers is Hampton Francher, who also worked on the original screenplay. It doesn’t matter. Barring a miracle, I don’t expect much from this, in part because I’m not convinced there’s a new story to tell.

The beauty of Blade Runner is that the movie is self-contained. It doesn’t need a prequel to better develop the back stories. It doesn’t need a sequel to deal with unresolved questions (and no, Deckard isn’t a Replicant, and any expectation that he was isn’t supported by anything in the movie). The ending wasn’t left open-ended with a compelling “I wonder what happens next” moment. It’s a slice of life: a problem comes up, the main character solves said problem, story ends.

The Original Was About Texture, Not Just Pictures

Unless the sequel is a visual stunning and deep as the original, it will likely fall flat. The plot itself wasn’t all that complex. But what gave the story life was the incredibly detailed, and very believable world that Ridley Scott created. There wasn’t just visual richness. There was a texture you could practically feel, taste and smell. It came about, in part, because the actors were working on a set that was more than just skin deep. It wasn’t just a bunch of building fronts, costumes and lighting.

If you read Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, you’ll discover that they did things like print hundreds of copies of newspapers that weren’t just a front page, but nearly an entire paper’s worth of content (news and ads) that were contemporary with the story. They printed hundreds of copies, so that a news stand wasn’t just one paper with blank fakes behind or beneath it. Reach into the pile, and all of them look and feel very real.

The same went for the magazines. They designed and created dozens of different issues, and printed several of each. They went so far as to put parking fares that they expected in 2019 on the parking meters! Sure, none of this shows up on screen. But the actors could see it and feel it and touch it. That puts them in the world of Los Angeles in 2019, not just on a movie set.

The result is a movie where the performances feel real. They feel believable. Everything is gritty. It has a patina, just like the real world. It doesn’t feel like over-the-top dystopian, it looks and feels like a big city that could actually exist. I should know: I was in Bangkok one time, during monsoon season, and it felt just like the world I saw in the movie.

And It Isn’t Just What We Saw, It’s What We Heard

The sound and music for the original Blade Runner was something else as well. The original Vangelis soundtrack was a wonder (with Vangelis having performed pretty much every instrument himself, and then editing it all together to create a rich and amazing musical sound for the movie).

The background sounds simply added layer upon layer in concert with the images. The sound of the rain. The sound of neon buzzing, blinking, flashing. The announcements from the billboard blimps. The cross walk notifications and warnings, the background radio chatter in various scenes with the cops. Listen carefully during the scene where Deckard meets in Bryant’s office: there’s an entire radio exchange involving some woman at the Santa Monica pier!

So Why Bother With A Sequel?

I just don’t understand what they hope to accomplish with a sequel. The Tyrell Corporation will carry on without it’s leader and founder. The Nexus 6 will continue to be manufactured, and there will probably be a Nexus 7 (and who cares if there is). Depending on the version you see, we either get to guess what happens to Rachael and Deckard, or if you saw the original “happy ending” version, we know Rachael goes on to live a life of some kind and Deckard finally gets out. Either way, the outcome really isn’t “man, I just gotta know”.

Seriously, there’s nothing left to resolve that really matters. This isn’t like the original Star Wars, which was clearly part of a much bigger story, and one we would hopefully see more of (and eventually did). It isn’t like the ending in Back To The Future, which was clearly meant to have a sequel (but would have been fine without one). This is a story that is self-contained.

Sure, I’ve toyed with the idea of drafting some kind of sequel to Blade Runner. But the problem is that it would have to be an entirely new story, and involving old characters would seem to be pointless. This feels too much like trying to squeeze money out of the fans of the movie. Originally, it didn’t do well at the box office, but it has become a cult classic (The Final Cut version has an 89% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes). I get that studios would like to sell into a friendly market. But given the reactions I’ve seen so far, I think people are far more concerned it will turn out poorly.

To say I’m worried about this sequel is a bit of an understatement. The original is one of my favourite movies of all time (and has been from the first time I saw it in theatres). Taking something this good and this treasured is very, very dangerous, and it won’t take much to screw it up. I’m almost scared to see it, and they haven’t even started filming yet. It isn’t too late for the studio to rethink this idea.

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