Blade Runner 2049 could be the year’s most controversial sequel

The trailer for Blade Runner 2049 is out — what does it tell us about the hotly-anticipated movie?

Watch Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner today, and it’s easy to overlook how revolutionary the film was when it came out. So much of Scott’s dystopian neo-noir setting has been absorbed by other science-fiction movies that it can be hard to imagine the shock of seeing it for the first time in the theater. Since then, it’s become one of the canon of science fiction movies, a classic loved by both fans and critics.

Speculation about a sequel to the original film has been rife pretty much ever since it came out 35 years ago. Several re-releases of Blade Runner, culminating in the 2007 “Final Cut,” have kept fan excitement alive. There have also been three sequels to the original 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The novel’s author, Philip K. Dick, died shortly before the movie’s release in 1982, so the sequel novels were written by his friend and fellow science-fiction author K. W. Jeter. Yet despite all the apparent enthusiasm for the movie — and for more stories about its characters and themes — no film sequel ever made it into production.

Until now, that is: after rumours and announcements of a movie dating back to 1999, we’ve finally got a trailer for the new sequel, Blade Runner 2049. And it looks … well, it sure looks like Blade Runner, all right.

So like Blade Runner, in fact, that the trailer replicates many elements of the original. Still, though, there are some obvious differences. And of course there should be, with a thirty-year time difference between the films (as an aside, has anyone explained why the setting of the films is 30 years apart while the two films are 35 years apart? Did they just not like the sound of Blade Runner 2054?).

We see what you might expect — more focus on the nature of replicants within the Blade Runner setting. It looks like Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is living out in the middle of nowhere, which would make sense considering how we left him at the end of the previous film. The yellow-brown colour suggests dryness and a desert setting, a marked contrast between the rainy, bluish tones of the original. Maybe the rumours that the plot touches on environmental issues are true?

The new film is being directed by Arrival director Denis Villeneuve and will star Ryan Gosling as K, an LAPD officer. Jared Leto plays replicant manufacturer Wallace, while Ana de Armas plays Joi, about whom we don’t know much. Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos reprise their roles from the original movie. Look for Lennie James, Robin Wright and Dave Bautista in supporting roles. While original director Ridley Scott is producing this time around, original screenwriter Hampton Fancher is back, so expect strong story continuity. Thirteen-time Academy Award nominee Roger Deakins is handling cinematography.

Critical reaction to the trailer has been … let’s say mixed, with many people outraged not so much by what they’ve seen as by the whole notion of a Blade Runner sequel. After all, other classic science-fiction franchises have struggled with sequels — take Scott’s own Alien as an example. Still, with a director as accomplished as Villeneuve, it’ll be interesting to see whether this new take on a classic manages to win the hearts of fans of the original.

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