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Does Blade Runner 2 Have The Right Ingredients?
Blade Runner 2 has been gathering pace over the last few months, steadily building excitement and anticipation as Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford are set to return with Ryan Gosling in the lead role. But are we falling into the trap of the long awaited sequel again? And can a sequel to arguably sci-fi’s greatest film, really live up to expectations? Well, the best thing to do right now is to check if Blade Runner 2 has the right, or out of date, ingredients.
The first ingredient I’m throwing in our Blade Runner blender is a healthy one, and that is the decision made by Ridley Scott to pull out of directing the sequel.
I may have some people saying to me, ‘why would you want the director of Blade Runner to not direct its sequel?’ Well, there are a few reasons for that.
The first is that Scott’s recent form behind the camera hasn’t quite lifted anyone’s hopes for his career, with him serving up films like The Counsellor and Exodus: Gods and Kings which have not been well realised and adapted by Scott.
The other reason is that it is likely, from the result of directing Prometheus 2, and The Martian in a very short space of time, that he will be too burnt out to direct a third film so soon. It then makes it even more tiring when you consider they’re two science fiction films, so hopping to a third would probably stifle his creativity. Better to let someone with a fresher mind take the helm.
By doing that, the new director can ping fresh ideas around and can be experimental without the worry of it straying too far from the original as Scott can be a kind of Blade Runner Yoda, and keep things in check when ideas don’t suit the world (as he is still signed on to produce.)
Now, moving on to a new ingredient and sadly this one is slightly rotten.
The screenwriter Michael Green. I’m not saying Green’s writing ability is rotten – I’m sure he has worked very hard to get to where he is and is fully capable of writing great scripts – but what is rotten is that his screenwriting is not tailored for the dark, abstract and hallucinogenic world of the book’s author, Philip K. Dick.
PKD (as we’ll call him from now on) created his stories from strange hallucinations he received that, according to him, were from ‘parallel universes.’ He claimed to live a double life: one as himself, the writer, and one as ‘Thomas’ a Christian who was persecuted by Romans in the first century.
They weren’t the only visions he saw though, he witnessed pink beams and visions of the spirit of the prophet Elijah. It resulted in him becoming paranoid and showing signs of schizophrenia. To make sense of these visions he tried to explore them in many of his novels and as a result came up with highly original plots and ideas which many writers would struggle to replicate.
I’m not saying Green has to become a paranoid schizophrenic, but as you can see PKD’s worlds are totally unique; only he could have thought them up and given that Green has already basically failed with the sci-fi genre in the Green Lantern, perhaps ambitious projects like this might get the better of him. Nevertheless, sci-fi writing talent is not the only thing that will come into question for Green.
It’s the fact that most of PKD’s big ideas have been used and seen since. PKD, for all his originality, used similar themes in his work such as paranoia, drugs, and questioning whether the world is not how we first perceived it, and usually his main characters will begin to lose control of reality and question what is real and what is not, in some capacity.
PKD’s famous theme in Blade Runner, or his book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Asked us “Can robots feel?” as its main question, which has been used a lot in films since. So Green has really got his work cut out in trying to come up with a new way of tackling a battered theme, because otherwise you’re then straying too far away from what made Blade Runner brilliant.
The original was, after all, less about the science and more about the ideas and questions. Something which the original screenwriter David Webb – who wrote the sci-fi gem, Twelve Monkeys – was used to. And his writing abilities were tailor-made for highly complex tales of the future and unfortunately I just don’t see Michael Green in the same light.
To balance things up, we’re going have to put in a stronger ingredient: Relevance.
Blade Runner was all about predicting the rise of corporate power, cloning, and genetic engineering. All these advances PKD predicted have come true, technology has advanced to where it can almost think for itself, and with the fear of it one day wiping us out as professor Stephen Hawking said, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
So having Blade Runner 2 follow this similar theme, it could be perfect timing for the sequel. Plus, the dystopian Los Angeles from the original is not a too out there vision as it was in the 80s.
The original was set in a dank, humid, rainy, and poverty stricken L.A that was hit by so much global warming a new born child may think the sun was a myth like the Earth was flat. In this day and age with global warming posing serious threats, this kind of world would be even more relevant than it was in the 80s.
But the big question is though: If Blade Runner is still relevant today, then why does Blade Runner 2 deserve to be made?
It’s going to take something special to delve back into these themes and advance them in a way that in 10, 20, even 40 years’ time, we could look back at Blade Runner 2 and say, ‘yeah, I can see what it was getting at now.’ It’s going to be one heck of a task for Scott and company.
Moving on to a rather risky ingredient – one that could potentially ruin the sequel is: answering questions from the original instead of expanding on the ideas.
As we have said before, the original was not only enthralling action but a great thinking man’s or woman’s film. It didn’t trouble itself by answering the big questions, risking causing you to disagree with it; it acted as a moving painting, allowing you to draw your own conclusions to its giant questions like robots having empathy, is Deckard a replicant, or is he just lacking empathy because of the current climate?
The great thing was that we don’t know the answers but it allowed the film to live on, to allow us to debate it, rather than criticize it for giving answers we didn’t agree with. Unfortunately with modern day blockbusters, studios may not be willing to risk being too abstract.
It’s not what fans will expect who saw the original but just by going by the news that Harrison Ford’s Deckard is due to appear in the third act, might mean his character holds answers which tie up loose ends from the first film, which is the polar opposite of what Blade Runner stands for.
Blade Runner 2 needs big ideas and it can be weird, it can be out there and it should be daring because if we are served up a piece of cinema to try and please the masses, then we could be in a spot of bother. But do not fear – there is certainly a great hope to blow this sour taste out of our Blade Runner blender.
Denis Villeneuve. He was born for this kind of film; in fact he stated to that “Blade Runner is almost a religion for me.”
He started out making critically acclaimed foreign films such as Incendies, Polytechnique, and Maelstrom, which all successfully balance small human drama with big political themes like the Middle East conflict, and the Montreal massacre. So that’s already a big tick in the box for Villeneuve’s handling of Blade Runner’s big themes but that’s not all he brings to the table.
In his last two English language films, Prisoners and more so, Enemy he has put a firm emphasis on mood and atmosphere to punctuate the worlds the characters live in, which he carries with narrative questions to reel you in.
What’s perfect is, especially in Enemy – which is about a bored history teacher meeting his doppelganger – is that he doesn’t worry about what things mean, he just wants you to form your own analysis and answers, and that is essentially what the original Blade Runner wanted you to do.
Plus, as I stated before, a new director who is hungry for success and bursting with new ideas and invention like Villeneuve (who’s not made a sci-fi before, so will posses even more fresh ideas) is the tailor-made person to helm a sequel to a classic science fiction film.
All these ingredients together could make something which is intriguing but not necessarily ground breaking, as my main worry will be the writing for the film not the cast, nor the director, but I do believe it has the ingredients to be commercially successful: because of Villeneuve, Gosling and Ford.
However, the question that matters is: will it satisfy long term fans? Well that all depends on whether Villeneuve can interpret the script in a way that brings new ideas to the world but at the same time brings back things we loved about the original.
It’s time to let me know below whether you think Blade Runner 2 has the right ingredients to be a successful sequel or not.