After years of posturing from Ridley Scott, yesterday saw the promise of Blade Runner 2 edge ever-closer to fruition with the announcement that Harrison Ford, who starred as the protagonist Rick Deckard in the 1982 original, will reprise his role for the sequel.
Scott will reportedly yield directorial duties to Denis Villeneuve, who recently helmed the 2013 surreal sci-fi thriller Enemy, while he co-produces. Filming is scheduled to start in 2016, with producers vowing to deliver “a uniquely potent and faithful sequel”, but there’s every possibility it could go horribly wrong. So, with equal parts excitement and fear, here’s why I remain cautious about the news.
1. Sure, Scott’s back, but not quite at the helm. While the combination of the familiar and unfamiliar is promising enough, it’s worth remembering that the last time Scott collaborated for Blade Runner it didn’t go down so well. That he felt so compelled to release his director’s cut in 1992 – and final cut 15 years later – speaks of the danger that comes with Scott and collaboration, so it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with producing a sequel ‘based on’ his own idea. Having said that, he’s been so preoccupied with tinkering with the original over the years that it’s somewhat of a relief to find someone else in the director’s chair – especially after the atrocity that was Exodus: Gods and Kings.
2. We know the curse of the sequel all too well. Who remembers The Matrix: Reloaded? How about Highlander 2? Hell, Scott himself seems insistent on inflicting Prometheus 2 upon us. Ford expressed that the Blade Runner 2 script, co-written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, is the “best thing he’s ever read”, but it’s worth remembering that this is the man who recently starred in Paranoia. In Blade Runner, Tyrell said of NEXUS-6 replicant Roy: “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. As it currently stands, Blade Runner has burned so very very brightly. What would happen if its metaphorical wick was extended?
3. Nobody’s talking about the score. We’ve got Scott, we’ve got Ford, but we’ve not got Vangelis (yet). At 71 years old, he’s the youngest of the Blade Runner trio, but is sadly the least prolific. If he decides not to return for the sequel (because let’s face it, he’s sure to have received a phone call or two), who will be in line to assume the mantle? Cliff Martinez feels like too obvious a choice, but the work of Anthony Gonzalez (of M83) is too grandiose. Perhaps Johnny Jewel, who contributed a beautifully restrained score to Ryan Gosling’s otherwise indulgent directorial debut Lost River, might be in with a chance.
4. Deckard’s now-confirmed replicant identity will be fleshed out (well, as much as you can flesh out a robot). And that’s a bad thing. Replicants have four year lifespans, so Ford’s mere presence in the sequel – set decades after the original – casts much doubt into the intricacies of Deckard’s artificial life. Though fans and critics have rightly suggested that an existential crisis arc would be an interesting sell, Ridley’s script only sees Deckard return for the sequel’s denouement – which doesn’t afford much time for penetrative self-reflection. Factor in Ford’s phoned-in reprisal of past roles (particularly Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and it’s clear that there’s more at stake with Deckard MKII than just his robotic roots.
5. Where is Rachael in all this? The answer to that, unfortunately, is nowhere. Sean Young, who played Deckard’s replicant romantic interest, has been incredibly vocal about her omission from the project, telling Entertainment Weekly that “if they don’t include me in it, everybody should boycott it. Because it’s stupid not to have me in it.” With the reprisal of Deckard relegated to a third act, it’s understandable that Young would be cut from the narrative. Either way, the hope is that her absence will be explained.
6. It could get overwhelmingly, distractingly meta. And fast. Blade Runner’s now-infamous monolithic Coca Cola billboard set a precedent for advertising in film. Now, more than 30 years on, to slap an Apple logo in its place feels too overt. The danger is that in trying to play up the ‘Blade Runner curse’ – referring to the subsequent decline in the profits of market leaders after appearing in the film – the film will outmanoeuvre itself with meta-text, rather than simply honouring a classic.