How do you make a sequel to Blade Runner? A sequel is meant to pick up the story from where the first film left off, but with Blade Runner even that is up for grabs. Does the story end with the original version’s slow pan across amazingly lush forests (using footage shot for The Shining but never used?), or does it end with the cut to black of the later versions, where Harrison Ford gets into a lift not even sure if he’s human or not?
Part of the appeal of Blade Runner has always been that it was a film that was fuzzy around the edges; right from the start fans loathed the voice-over, with rumours of a different, voice-over less superior workprint version turning up every now and then in LA at special screenings. There were already differences between the US and international versions (overseas audiences got more violence), then a decade after the initial release there was a director’s cut, followed fifteen years later by “The Final Cut”.
The differences between the various versions are small but telling, mostly designed to play up the questions about whether Ford’s character was himself a replicant. Considering the original was fairly definite about replicant’s limited lifespans – a favourite fan theory was that the first time we see Ford in the movie it’s the moment he’s been activated – it seems hard to see how Ford can be appearing in the new film without confirming that he’s human. But maybe someone made an old man version of the original robot just to mess with our heads; it’s the kind of twist a 2017 movie would pull off, whereas the 1982 original was extremely straight-forward even for its time.
Robots are on the loose in LA, robots aren’t allowed to be on the loose so they have to be hunted down, so while the robots try to meet their creator to get more life they’re losing their lives – it’s elegant in its simplicity, keeping things moving forward while allowing plenty of space for viewers to soak up the film’s atmosphere.
It’s no coincidence Blade Runner came out just as video games were taking off; its limited story, focus on setting over character – this is a film where the lead was meant to be human but audiences assumed he was a robot – and straightforward quest plot made it the kind of movie that would be rendered obsolete by games within a few short years.
Now the idea of creating a cool space for the audience to roam around taking in the sights is entirely owned by gaming, which means the new Blade Runner is going to have to double down when it comes to the story side of things. Going by the trailers, which seem full of explosions and gun-waving, we’ll be getting more than just another tale of a damp detective enhancing photos and getting beaten up by the robots he’s meant to be killing. At least Edward James Olmos is back; fingers crossed he gets to say “It’s a shame she won’t live – but then again, who does?” one more time.
By Anthony Morris