When it comes to movies that left us wanting more, Blade Runner is… a tricky one. It’s not like there was a lot of story left over after the credits rolled, but with it being perhaps the first film to really drive home the idea of multiple versions – when it was first released on DVD it came in a box set with five different edits thanks to fans that had been obsession over various cuts – it’s hard to say there was ever really a definitive version. And with the 80s currently being Hollywood’s favourite decade to strip-mine for nostalgia, the sequel no-one was ever really asking for is now one of the most anticipated films of the year. Or is it?
With the first full-length trailer being released a week or so ago fans finally got a chance to see what’s in store – and “see” is the operative word, as much of the original Blade Runner’s impact boiled down to a series of stunning visuals. Unsurprisingly, the trailer looked great, with a range of new locations – most noticeably a desert that seems to have become the home of original Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) – appearing alongside the traditional neon-and-rain (now with added holograms) Los Angeles where current cop K (Ryan Gosling) operates.
But already the nits are there to be picked: considering Blade Runner 2049 advertises itself as taking place thirty years after the first film, why does LA still look like it did in the first film? It’s not like the original (set a bit over 30 years in the future) gave us a LA anything like the then-current version – why haven’t the changes continued? But maybe the film itself will explain that, you think, and that’s an even bigger problem: much of the charm of the first film is the way it tells a very small story in this big crazy setting, and this trailer doesn’t seem to be advertising the same kind of film.
The first Blade Runner is about a cop tracking down what are basically escaped criminals (though their crime is being artificial), with a subplot about what the replicants want and some subtext about how Deckard’s job has dehumanised him to a point where he might be a replicant. By modern standards it’s startlingly simple: the film’s charm comes from the way, with such a slight story to tell, it can afford to linger on all the amazing sights it has to offer. It doesn’t get bogged down in explanations or shock twists: the whole “is Deckard a replicant” has zero bearing on the story and is only hinted at in an offhand way twice.
But this new trailer seems, like most modern films, to be stuffed with story, hinting at mysteries and explanations the story simply doesn’t need. It’s like someone in the 1970s making a movie set today about the dark secrets behind the iPhone: the replicants in the first film were memorable because they seemed wonderful to us but were taken for granted by the future. We sided with them because for us the novelty hadn’t worn off: sadly when it comes to sequels novelty is often in short supply.
By Anthony Morris