In an announcement that struck a mix of fear and excitement into the hearts of sci-fi nerds everywhere, Warner Bros. announced last week that the long-anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cyberpunk masterpiece Blade Runner now has a release date. It’s set to be released in January 2018, with acclaimed Québécois director Denis Villeneuve at the helm and Harrison Ford returning as Rick Deckard.
It’s tempting to assume any follow-up to Blade Runner would primarily be a cash grab — and the casting of Ford seems to support this theory — but closer inspection reveals that the sequel might actually match the brilliance of its predecessor, at least in ambition if not in execution.
Whatever the filmmakers’ choices, we’ll have to wait almost two years to know whether the result will match its predecessor’s brilliance. If the answer turns out to be a resounding ‘no,’ we can only hope Blade Runner 2 will go the way of all bad sequels: you know, “lost in time, like tears…in…rain.”
1. Denis Villeneuve is directing
At 48 years old, the Montreal-based director is certainly no spring chicken, but he remains committed to stirring the pot creatively as a director. In his work to date, he has wrestled with some of the modern Western World’s deepest neuroses, ranging from our desperate need for individuality (Enemy) to our fear of becoming the very warmongers we have sought to root out in conflict-ridden countries (Sicario; Incendies). The secret to Villeneuve’s style is patience, seeing as his films tend to boil slowly toward a shattering twist near the end, which is precisely the approach that made the original Blade Runner work so well. No director seems better poised to enter the smoggy dystopia of Blade Runner than Villeneuve.
2. More importantly, Ridley Scott isn’t directing
Make no mistake: Scott is a formidable creative mind with a knack for creating memorable cinematic moments, and the original Blade Runner is pretty much one long chain of them. But the 78-year-old Brit was right to opt out of directing the sequel, and for proof of this we should look no further than Prometheus, his 2012 attempt at reviving the flailing Alien franchise.
Scott had good intentions in making the prequel to his sci-fi/horror classic from thirty years earlier, but unfortunately, while the result began an expansion of the Alien universe that will continue with at least two sequels, it also bordered on being one long, tedious bone-throw to fans of the original film. Sure Scott may still be capable of providing audience thrills in his old age, but he’s lost the edge he once had.
3. Imagining the future is a perfect chance to put marginalized individuals onscreen in the present
Villeneuve is no doubt well aware of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy — his Sicario is nominated for three of the little golden guys this year. This might make the progressive-minded director more likely to take these lessons to heart. The original Blade Runner told the story of androids whose struggle to escape enslavement was overlooked by a monolithic capitalist order, but it did so with an exceedingly white, heteronormative cast. What better way to update that struggle to a present-day context than to fill the cast with minority actors?
4. The producers know they can’t just rehash the original Blade Runner plot
Scott has said previously said that the sequel will take place thirty years after the original and that Deckard will only appear in the third act of the film. Apparently, the first two acts will follow the main character, played by Ryan Gosling, in his efforts to find the elder detective.
This turn away from the original film looks to be a wise move. Yes, most Star Wars fans may have forgiven J.J. Abrams for lifting the plot of The Force Awakens almost beat-for-beat from the original Star Wars film, but that only worked because the fanbase had been repeatedly disappointed by Lucas’ prequel films. As a result, the audience welcomed Abrams’ recycling job as a return to form, while Blade Runner’s small but devoted fanbase wouldn’t let the filmmakers off the hook that easily.
5. Ryan Gosling is starring
It’s unclear what role the London-born actor will play, but he’s confirmed as the film’s lead character and he seems up to the challenge. It’s almost as if the 35-year-old has spent the past few years building a resume to star in a Blade Runner sequel. In 2013, He earned his neo-noir chops as a brooding LA cop in Gangster Squad while also demonstrating how well fluorescent lighting suits him in Nicolas Winding Refn’s neon-drenched thriller Only God Forgives. Throw in the vulnerability of Noah in The Notebook, and we’ve got ourselves a formidable Deckard 2.0.