With Blade Runner 2049 soon to explode into cinemas on 5th October, we look at how Ridley Scott’s initially unloved original ended up breaking the Hollywood mould and how Denis Villeneuve's sequel will follow its legacy....
In the annals of sci-fi history, there are few films as revered or influential as director Ridley Scott’s original 1982 classic Blade Runner. Set in a dark futuristic 2019, it created its own genre defined as neo-noir-dystopian-sci-fi (or future noir, for short).
Now that Blade Runner 2049 is coming to cinemas 35 years after, we can honestly say that few films this year promise to be quite as eventful or epic as Denis Villeneuve’s mind-blowing sequel.
If you want to know more about the Blade Runner universe, have a look at our comparison and get lost in things you wouldn’t believe....
When Blade Runner was first released in 1982, the mesmerising far-future it depicted – that of 2019 Los Angeles – blew away those who saw it (which actually wasn’t that many at that time).
So how did director Ridley Scott create such a realistic future world, one that has influenced goodness knows how many storytellers? Simple, by going back to the past. This may seem ironic, but it’s true. In realising his nightmarish, neo-noir dystopia, Scott and his team drew heavily on the fatalistic thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s.
Think about it… detectives wearing trench coats, femme fatale, the moody jazz tones. Blade Runner is basically a hard-boiled detective story, set against the most incredible cityscape you’ve ever seen.
In a recent interview with WIRED, Blade Runner 2049 director, and longtime sci-fi fan and Scott admirer, Denis Villeneuve, talked about the profound effect the original film had on him.
“It’s really the first time that I felt that someone was bringing me into the future… it’s an experience I will never forget,” he shared.
The director promises an even darker vision of the future than the original. It’s the same iconic universe, but it’s changed over the course of the 30-year gap, becoming a lot more bleak in some ways and "toxic", as the director describes.
What we know so far about new developments is that, apparently, space travel has become a bit more commonplace as people are actually living on other planets. A reality that for sure will open to some exciting new scenario...
Blade Runner begins with Star Wars-esque scrolling text, through which we learn that a group of Replicants – advanced robots that are virtually identical to humans – have taken part in a bloody mutiny on an off-shore colony (where they are being used as slave labour). As a result, all Replicants are banned from Earth.
Couple of problems with this. Firstly, it’s really difficult to tell a Replicant from a human being. Secondly, once you have identified one, you can’t help, well, identifying with them.
In 1982, moral ambiguity in moviemaking was unusual. The Cold War was raging and you were either a goodie or a baddie (there were not “many sides”). Blade Runner challenged these perceptions by questioning what it really means to be human and good or bad.
Between the events of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, much has happened in the dystopian, neo-Los Angeles future, including the era of replicant prohibition. What we know so far is that behind some of the changes happening in 2049 there is a man called Wallace, played by Jared Leto.
"Every leap of civilization was built off the backs of slaves," says Leto’s character "Replicants are the future, but I can only make so many. I have the lock, and he has the key."
Wallace unveils a new line of Replicants, the Nexus 9, who he believes will be able to convince the world to drop the prohibition on replicants. But while the new class of replicants can think and feel like any other, they’re also very much under Wallace’s thrall, and he’s got no qualms with asking them to do some pretty messed-up things.
As a result of the mutiny, all Replicants are banned from Earth. Special police squads – known as Blade Runner Units – are under orders to ‘retire’ (i.e. kill) any that fail to comply. And it's here where enters Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), one of the most talented Blade Runners. Or not?
One of the greatest movie questions ever debated in films has been the issue of whether or not Deckard was actually a replicant. While the question of Deckard's status is ambiguous in the original release cut of Blade Runner, subsequent releases of director's cuts included additional footage that seemed to lend credence to the idea of him being a replicant.
The real question now is what will be the role of Deckard in 2049, considering that Harrison's grizzled former Blade Runner looks to be the key to solving a secret which threatens to plunge the futuristic society into chaos.
In Blade Runner 2049, Ryan Gosling plays officer K, a new blade runner who uncovers a mystery that leads him to the door of Harrison Ford’s Deckard. Plot details have been kept under wraps, but it looks clear that K’s involvement in his investigation has something personal.
Obviously, everyone is already asking if K is a human or a replicant. Or, perhaps, he’s the key to all the mysteries started in 2019. Star Ryan Gosling has described the state of things in the upcoming sci-fi sequel as being “more brutal” than the world depicted in the original Blade Runner. We can’t wait to see where his journey will lead....
Although he’d made Alien by this point, Englishman Ridley Scott was still a relative unknown in Hollywood in the early 1980s. Blade Runner’s producers took a punt on him… then lost their nerve, ultimately changing Scott’s bleak ending for a happier one and adding a much-derided voiceover. The resulting box office was poor, but thank goodness then for the arrival of VHS video. It ensured Blade Runner found a new, passionate audience, and would eventually come to be regarded as a classic.
Later on, eight different versions of the film (exactly, eight!) were released since the popular success became viral. And it's easy to understand why. From the awe-inspiring opening sequence – in which we get our first, jaw-dropping glimpse of a sodden, fiery LA – to Rutger Hauer’s gut-wrenching ‘tears in rain’ monologue in the closing scenes, Blade Runner isn’t just a film, it’s a work of art.
With the director of the original film, Ridley Scott, making way for fresh talent to take the Blade Runner reins, Denis Villeneuve has stepped into the breach.
Veteran of 16 films and recently Oscar nominated for sci-fi smash Arrival (2016), French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is no newbie when it comes to big budget projects. He was determined to carry on the groundbreaking aesthetic of director Ridley Scott’s original 1982 neo-noir sci-fi thriller and at the same time, he didn’t want to create a mere replica - or replicant, as the case may be.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Villeneuve revealed that his fellow director gave him the “biggest gift of all, which is freedom". “ He said, "It’s your movie. I’ll be there if you need me, otherwise I’ll be away!’”
‘Blade Runner 2049’ takes us back to the dark future of the original classic to find a new blade runner, Officer K, searching for the missing Rick Deckard.
Deckard disappeared 30 years ago, but K has discovered a secret that could plunge what remains of society into turmoil. With the world continuing to decay around him, he hunts for Deckard, the one man who may be able to help him.
The long-awaited sequel to a landmark of science fiction, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ brings Harrison Ford back to his iconic role, and sees the acclaimed director of ‘Arrival’ put his stamp on the dystopian cyberpunk future.