It was recently announced that legendary director Ridley Scott has agreed a deal with Warner Bros & Alcon Entertainment to produce & helm a continuation of his classic 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, that Hollywood now deem to be a ‘franchise’.
Some two decades after it’s release where it was a relative box office failure, Blade Runner, like Alien, has creatively become a major influence in all kinds of genre’s, most notably in Christopher Nolan’s superhero film Batman Begins or The Fifth Element. A sequel could reinvigorate this inspiration, or alternatively mess everything up, but if there truly has to be another film set in this universe it might as well come from the man who made the original such a masterpiece.
Therefore I have assembled a list of what we should hope for Blade Runner 2 (for lack of a better name) to include in order to give the film at least a fighting chance to be as relevant as the original. From here there may be spoilers, so you have be warned if you haven’t seen the original:
Before I begin however I should make it clear that I have only ever watched the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner. Because of this I have not witnessed Harrison Ford’s narration and it has an ambiguous ending as to whether he is a Replicant or not. For simplicity (and probability with Scott helming) I am assuming that the sequel will be for this version.
Prequel or Sequel?
The first duty for Ridley Scott and the currently unhired screenwriter (we are betting it’ll be Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof) is to determine whether the film should be a prequel or a sequel. Both have been discussed as possibilities for the continuation of the series and in some ways we know matter of factly the new film will be one or the other as they don’t have the rights to actually remake Blade Runner outright (they could technically reboot the franchise by not having it mention the events of the 82 film in anyway but then why would they bother doing that when they could just setup an original film the same way?).
Personally and perhaps ironically giving that Scott is working on Prometheus right now, I believe that there is much more potential in a sequel because it allows a natural progression for the themes discussed later. Setting the film years and years into the future will allow for an interesting and upgraded even better model of the Replicant. A NEXUS-7 maybe? If the models were even better than the NEXUS-6 they could be trying to transcend humans completely and realise what their own ‘lives’ are worth.
If the film is a prequel the best we can hope for is that they don’t replace any of the main cast with younger versions. We don’t need to see Harrison Ford’s Deckard as a younger man but instead if they do go down the prequel road it should explain what happens to society to make it the way it is in the original. This should be able to be achieved without having to recast any parts with younger actors which would be unnecessary and aggravating.
Style and effects
The unique style of Blade Runner is still distinct, despite being replicated many times since by directors influenced by Scott’s vision. To get the right feel for a new instalment the scenery and even colour scheme would need to be similar to the original. The industrial world that we see can be perfectly demonstrated from the opening shot of the skyscrapers, with the oil rig type structures on top. This immediately conjures up images of a working city that is suffocating in crime. However the film also needs to be able to stand on its own merits. To do this the Scott should try to create a city that could foreseeably exist in the same world, yet looks unique enough to distinguish itself.
The futuristic technology in the film peaks with the ‘spinners’ -flying cars. These are some of the best designed futuristic vehicles in any film, and completely suit the setting. However some of the technology demonstrated ’82 now looks very dated. This can be seen in the scene where Deckard enhances a photo. This technology may not exist but the way the style of the technology has not aged well. For the sequel these need to be updated and to reasonably do this the film should be set quite a while after the year 2019 when the original is set. This would allow the technology to look futuristic and still be plausible within the films universe.
Scott’s film-noir aesthetics should continue into the next instalment, especially as the embodiment of the genre made the original so fresh and interesting. The bleak contrast is an essential part of Blade Runner as it creates a dark, brooding world. It makes it seem as if all the shadows contain some evil. This is especially true in Sebastian’s (William Sanderson) building at the climax of the film. It is without a doubt that a lot of the effects will be created using CGI, as this is the standard now, though Scott has shown with Robin Hood, a movie that used practical over CGI whenever possible, that deep down he prefers it the old way.
I however believe that it would be better for the films look to again use models and to enhance these with CGI, this would hopefully create a rich world similar to Blade Runner and yet not have too many issues with looking fake, like the worlds in the Star Wars prequels (1999-2005). Granted CGI has moved on since then, but come on, those cities and sets looked awful.
The music in Blade Runner helps set the tone for the whole film and Vangelis’ score has now become iconic in it’s own way. The dark melodies help give a sense of mystery and there is also something slightly romantic about some of the chords, which helps to develop the relationship between Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young). I think this can be summed up best by this track:
I’m going to keep this one simple. I don’t believe that there is any more of Rick Deckard’s story to explore, it was all so perfectly told twenty years ago. The one and only scenario I can imagine featuring any of the characters from the original film is if they go a prequel route with Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). However this would mean a recasting of his character and if there is too much back-story given it will undermine the original. Both of these are major issues as Rutger Hauer completely embodied Roy, and to then disrupt his performance would be disappointing.
Therefore I think the best way to go would be to feature a new protagonist and antagonist. If the film ends up being a sequel it could be quite easy to bring back Harrison Ford for a cameo or use him as a mentor of sorts but whether or not Ford would be willing to participate is another issue completely and would anyone really want to see that?
One character that could happily be brought back is L.A. herself. From the original it looks as if there is so much more of the city to explore. If the films does take place once more in L.A. as it should we could see more of what the city has become and maybe even explore what made it the way it looks in the original.
A good story is an essential element to any good film. Blade Runner has a tight concise story, it may not be the easiest to understand or take in from one setting, but it works. The complexity and ambiguity to Blade Runner could be said to be some of its strongest points. When it was first released it was clear that it was a different type of sci-fi film. Blade Runner tried to break free from clichés of the genre, in doing so however it created its own. The dystopian look of the film has been recreated in many films since, such as The Fifth Element (1997). The style has even been seen in video games such as the recently released Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). Whilst it would be excusable for a sequel to be developed in the same style, it would be ideal for the sequel to try and break its own rules. By doing this the film will be able to try and reach the same cultural significance as the original.
The most effective way to distance itself would be to move to another city, or even explore the off-worlds. This would allow the film to create a new style for itself whilst still attempting to develop a strongly held together universe. This would also allow the plot to be different from the original and not just stick to the same ideas. An effective sympathy was created towards the Replicants in Blade Runner, however if a Replicant were to be made the protagonists it would allow a new viewpoint towards the issues. This would also allow a natural progression of the theme of death in the first film as we explore a Replicants feelings towards their impending demise.
Alternatively the Replicants could be shifted away from the main focus of the film. This would allow a newer issue to be discussed within the film. By shifting the focus the film would not be constrained by the first film. This would likely be the most effective way to deal with the sequel as it can become its own film. Allowing the film to choose its own issues could also enable more relevant themes in real life to be discussed. This would however move it away from Blade Runner’s original inspiration Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel by Phillip K. Dick. Considering that the film is not that close to the book anyway this should not be too much of an issue, and the next film is unlikely to follow any of the books own sequels by K.W. Jester. Whatever plot the film attempts it should effectively weave between an engaging story and also deal with themes such as the ones listed below.
Themes and Symbols
Blade Runner featured a lot of various recurring themes and symbols. One of the most notable of these is eyes. Throughout the film eyes are featured everywhere. Eyes are how humans and a Replicant are told apart; Roy Batty starts his mission to meet his maker by intimidating the man who designed his eyes. This is one symbol that should be carried into the sequel, as well as the shine that the Replicants sometime have. Eye are said to be a ‘window into the soul’. This may be why the Replicants are detected via their eyes. To not include this sort of symbolism would undo what the original film was trying to say. Eyes also link into the theme of being watched.
Throughout the film we constantly see a blimp with searchlights piecing the darkness below. This accompanied by the police cars we regularly see during the film make it seem as if the general public is always being watched. This should be emphasised in the follow-up as it is more relevant in today’s society than ever before. With security cameras being abundant in today’s cities it is as if we are always being watched. Blade Runner 2 could tap into this paranoia and give a strong sense that we are never really alone. If this theme were made a major part of the new instalment it could provide an effective plot and opportunities for tension.
Death is a large part of the film, Replicants have a four year life span and is their main driving force. As the Replicants search for a way to prolong their lives, they end many human ones. This includes Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel) who can be seen as a God like figure for the Replicants. The dove he releases as he dies symbolises the peace he is finally experiencing in death. The sequel should carry a natural progression to this theme, such as trying to determine what happens to Replicants and Humans after death, and whether there is any difference.
These are elements that I personally feel should be tackled within any instalment in the Blade Runner universe, if you have any of your own opinions on what to expect leave them below.