Friday, March 4, 2011


Yes, it's that time again. Time to start talking Blade Runner 2. Time to resurrect the chatter that was already in full flow by the summer of 1983, when Ridley Scott's poorly-received but luminal Philip K. Dick adaptation simply wouldn't leave the late night circuit, and stayed on even when The Exorcist and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were starting to look tired to drunken students; that reached fever pitch in the early 1990s with the release of the controversial but much-favoured director's cut, first in cinemas and then as a big hit on VHS rental and keepers. That director Scott himself never let entirely die over the years, always citing rights issues with the estate of Philip K. Dick as the impediment to any real consideration of a sequel.

Now Book Of Eli production company Alcon is apparently securing the rightsto movie and TV prequels and sequels to the 1982 cult SF noir thriller with original producer Bud Yorkin, amongst others. Whatever you think of this, be thankful that the rights to actually remake Blade Runner itself are not on the table in this new deal.

Alcon's Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove released the statement: “We are honored and excited to be in business with Bud Yorkin. This is a major acquisition for our company, and a personal favorite film for both of us. We recognize the responsibility we have to do justice to the memory of the original with any prequel or sequel we produce. We have long-term goals for the franchise, and are exploring multi-platform concepts, not just limiting ourselves to one medium only”. Ironically, Blade Runner is one of the few SF movies to have spawned a pretty good game for its time, but that's not to discount the possibilities of a far more elaborate rendering of the world. But once you're talking about, er, dicking with the original by extending its story into new episodes, that's something else again.

It's perhaps ironic that a movie about cloning has had no sequel, even in this most sequel-obsessed of times, but I can't help but wonder what we have been saved from by the Terry Nation-style stubbornness of the PKD estate. Certainly CGI was not ready during most of the 1990s to handle the rich visual tapestry that Ridley Scott weaved in the 1982 original with VFX wizard Doug Trumbull. By the time The Fifth Element came out, with its own take on urban dystopia, the state of the art was perhaps getting there, but still not quite able to reproduce Trumbull's lavish and elaborate smoke-filled visuals.

Now, four years after Ridley Scott's most vehement promise to try and come up with a sequel, we are apparently getting near again to a return to the smog-filled neon dreamland of Hades 2019 (that's eight years to go, Ford - get to work!). The VFX-capability is there for new Blade Runner - but computers can't solve the bigger problems.

Perhaps, as with the previous abandoned Blade Runner sequel, K. W. Jeter's three 1990s sequel novels may furnish the essential element - a story that leads on from the last. But who could credibly play the same roles? Could anyone accept a recast at this stage? Of the actors in the original, two were playing 'older' - William Sanderson now looks almost exactly like the J. F. Sebastian of Blade Runner. And his death was off-screen...

Likewise James Hong is also now about the age that he was made up to play in 1982, and, like Sebastian, only had an implied demise. But the lean and moody version of Edward James Olmos is no more, whilst Daryl Hannah and Harrison Ford clearly have also lived more than five years since the original; and Sean isn't nearly as young as she once was. Oddly enough, the ever-buoyant Joanna Cassidy is probably nearest to credible in this respect - dead though her character most certainly is in Blade Runner - and even participated in reshoots for the 2008 Blu-ray release of the film (the long overdue amendment of the appalling stunt-double in Zhora's 'window-death' scene).

But all this is academic.

But do you really want to see a sequel to Blade Runner? Really? Is the entire film not an unrepeatable moment sliced from movie history, a dark fairy tale with a semi-unhappy ending (from the director's cut onwards) that really doesn't need any further retconning decades after the fact? What about a sequel toCasablanca? Because if 2001: A Space Odyssey is sci-fi cinema's Citizen Kane, then Blade Runner is its Casablanca. Isn't it enough that 'We'll always have Hades'..? Perhaps Tyrell himself explains better than anyone why a sequel is a bad idea...

I wouldn't necessarily be so averse to seeing a TV sidequel series; the large cast and brooding cast of Blade Runner and the cross-referencing of stories and character arcs is very much in tune with SF TV in the post-Galactica reboot era. But even there, what can you do about the visuals? Generate and repeat stock shots? Cut down on them? Or make the Blade Runner TV show the riskiest and most expensive SF venture in decades? That said, just as the original movie was an easy canvas for in-program marketing, the same environment would offer the same cost-defraying opportunities.

But personally, I wouldn't want any of the characters from the original movie revisited; recasting would be kind of sad, like Woody Allen trying to make the 'lobster' gag work a second time in Annie Hall. There must be more than a million stories in the naked city of Los Angeles 2019, even if the population is thinning out to the colonies, and that's really the only place to go in breathing new life into - God, I don't even want to say it in association with Blade Runner - with the 'franchise'.


1 comment:

  1. I don't want to see a sequel. But if the team at Alcon want to give it a try, I suppose there's no stopping them. I'm not opposed to recasting the movie. Harrison Ford was "the new Jack Ryan" after "The Hunt for Red October" (though that franchise was meant to continue).