Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner comes as close to a sacred “text” for me as anything. Drenched in dark beauty, a breathtaking intersection of images, music, narrative, and philosophy. High, high among those films dearest to me.

My first reaction to hearing of the forthcoming Blade Runner 2049 was something like, “Ugh, those sequel-happy Hollywood bastards, eager to tarnish an almost unsurpassed work of art for a few unholy bucks.”

But I’ve gotta say after looking into it that I’m excited about it–more than willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

It’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, fresh off the set of Arrival. I didn’t know of him before, but he absolutely has now caught my attention as a tremendously talented filmmaker. Arrival is sci-fi of rare grace, and quiet, and intelligence, and creativity, and intimacy. Of course much of the praise should be directed at the writers and the actors (especially Amy Adams), and the crew in general. But Villeneuve helped weave it all together in an incredibly gorgeous, painterly way, and I can’t wait to start digging through more of his filmography.

Villeneuve himself was initially hesitant about the prospect of a new Blade Runner film: “It’s more than nervous, it’s a deep fear. I mean when I heard that Ridley Scott wanted to do another movie in the Blade Runner universe, at first my reaction was that it’s a fantastic idea, but it may be a very bad idea. I’m among the hardcore fans of Blade Runner. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a movie that is linked with my love and passion for cinema.” But after reading the screenplay, “one of the best” he’s ever read (co-written by Hampton Fancher by the way, who also co-wrote the original Blade Runner screenplay), and after long deliberations with Ridley Scott, he decided, “Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.”

Speaking of Ridley Scott, he’s taking a producing role on Blade Runner 2049. And I think it’s a great thing that he’s involved with this film but handing off the directorial reins to Villeneuve. I still think a lot of Ridley Scott as a film director, but his more recent work in particular doesn’t match the raw power and restraint of his earlier work (the original Blade Runner and Alien perhaps the best examples). Whereas if Arrival is any indication, Villeneuve is right at the top of his game.

A few other notes: The fabulous Harrison Ford is reprising his role as Rick Deckard, though his isn’t the lead role this time around. That distinction goes to Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, and you can count me a big fan of Gosling. Two other particularly notable names in the cast: Robin Wright and Jared Leto. Cinematography by Roger Deakins, and I have little doubt it will rival the dark beauty of Jordan Cronenweth’s work on the original film. Musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose work I was not familiar with before taking in the haunting and understated score of Arrival. Said Jóhannsson: “[Blade Runner] is one of my all-time favorite films, so it’s a huge challenge to take it on. It feels like a responsibility in many ways–like a big responsibility to take on a project like this.”

And a few more choice quotes from Villeneuve, in no particular order:

On how they will approach 2049: “It’s a huge challenge, because you don’t want to cut and paste, otherwise there’s no point. And at the same time you have to respect what was done, so you have to find the right equilibrium between being faithful to the first one and bringing something new at the same time that will make sense to the Blade Runner universe.”

On whether 2049 will squash some of the mystery of the original: “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 can count on my fingers the amount of times we put a green screen on set. Most of the movie was done on camera, me and Roger Deakins worked very hard to do it that way. […] CGI is a strong tool for backgrounds and extensions but what is around the actors needs to be as real as possible. When I watch a movie that’s mostly CGI, I’m disengaged.”

On whether 2049 will retain the sort of dark edge that earned the original film an R rating: “My producers are finding it fun to remind me that it will be one of the most expensive R-rated independent feature films ever made.”

“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.”

Set to hit theaters October 6th!

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