The long awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s neo noir sci-fi classic “Blade Runner,” titled “Blade Runner 2049,” finally arrived in theaters on Oct. 6 after years of dispute over the direction the sequel should take. Ultimately, the film turned out to be a triumph of filmmaking, and a sequel that did more than justice to the original film.
The film was spearheaded by acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, who is no stranger to science fiction, as he directed the Academy Award winning film “Arrival” released last year.
With a team consisting of original screenwriter Hampton Fancher, cinematographer Roger Deakins and composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, Villeneuve’s take on life after the first film seemed destined for massive success.
However, as of Oct. 19, the film has drawn in an estimated $161 million worldwide, just surpassing its estimated budget of $150 million. As a gigantic fan of the first film and one who has seen the new one twice, it’s hard for me to come to grips with why the film had such a low turnout. But, thinking about it, it’s easy to see why.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a film for people who love the medium. Not just the people that love to go out and see a movie on the weekend, but the people fascinated by the different ways that a film conveys ideas, feelings and what makes for not only a quality film, but a distinct film.
The two “Blade Runner” movies in the fledgling series succeed in all of these objectives tenfold. Just like its predecessor, “Blade Runner 2049” turns out to be a very patient movie, a slow burner that builds on itself in terms of visuals, sound and plot. Movie buffs and long term fans of the first film will flock to go see a movie like this, but perhaps not the average moviegoer.
This is what distinguishes “Blade Runner” from sci-fi classics of its time, such as “Star Wars,” “The Terminator” or “Back to the Future.” The original film did not waste any time in crafting the universe that surrounds the plot, action and excitement are primarily swapped for cinematic spectacles. When action is used, it’s used carefully, and ultimately makes for a different impact on the film than say a battle between Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing and Darth Vader’s TIE Fighters.
Clocking in at two hours and 45 minutes, “Blade Runner 2049” proves even more patient than the first, repelling typical moviegoers from watching the masterpiece. Even in an age where young people embrace the neo-futuristic neon aesthetics of Hong Kong and Tokyo, that alone can’t often save a film if one does not stick around for the plot.
Regrettably, “Blade Runner 2049” was largely overshadowed by other films that have come out in the coming months—or, by one film, I should say. Coming out a month before the new “Blade Runner” film, moviegoers have not yet lost their excitement over the new “It” film. Drawing in $117 million in its first weekend alone, it became the highest grossing horror film internationally as of Oct. 19, earning roughly $631 million.
Marketing for the film was strong, which admittedly was one of the weak points of “Blade Runner 2049.” People had been talking about the release of “It” for months before it finally arrived in theaters. Excitement for the film was high, as older and younger fans of the original “It” have grown massively over the years, something that cannot be said about the first “Blade Runner.”
Horror is also a genre of film that is very popular among all types of moviegoers, often because people know what the outcome of the film will be: they will either be scared or not scared. It’s very easy to gauge whether the film accomplishes its goal, in that respect. “Blade Runner 2049” affects one differently than that. It’s a movie that makes you reflect upon who you are and what makes you a person, and that can be a challenging and uninviting notion.
Ultimately, if you have not seen “Blade Runner 2049,” my emotional side says get your act together. My more logical side understands why you may have no interest in seeing it, but it urges you to. The film succeeds as a film for certain people, but never would it have been suited for the mass market as a film like “It” has.
The film’s patient, building plot and the unfamiliarity of many with the first film has unfortunately been the Achilles’ heel of this film’s success.
However, years away in hindsight, I believe this film will be cherished by movie buffs of all types, as a testament to all that is possible in making a sequel, and how filmmaking still remains, at its core, an art form.
Gabe Sagherian is a student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at GS889554@wcupa.edu.