For a while now the Internet has been buzzing about a prequel or sequel to the 1982 science fiction landmark Blade Runner. Harrison Ford will return; Harrison Ford won’t return; it is a prequel; it is a sequel. The only confirmation so far – and this is not even a guarantee – is that Ridley Scott will direct. When it will come out or if it will actually happen is in limbo but that has not stopped Internet trolls and the Hollywood moneymen from moving forward as if a new Blade Runner is set in stone. All this and Prometheus, Scott’s latest sci-fi venture, is not even in theaters yet.
Last month in an Entertainment Weekly Online interview Scott claimed a new Blade Runner is still in the planning stages: “we’re still in discussions about whether it should be a prequel or sequel.” The original screenwriter for Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher (who shares his writing credit with David Peoples after Peoples replaced Fancher), has been in contact with Scott but at this point nothing is certain. It is no secret many of the hottest and intriguing Hollywood projects fall into the dust – looking at the almost two decades it took to take Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember it For You Wholesale to become Total Recall attests to this. The success of Prometheus, financial backing and filmmaker interest are all variables that could either make or break a future Blade Runner film.
But the money people have not stopped planning and scheming, selling and buying rights for a film that does not even know what it is yet. A recently released article in Forbes magazine by Dorothy Pomerantz claims Alcon Entertainment (the company behind The Blind Side and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) purchased the rights to Blade Runner “for $1 million (they will have to pay more once the film is green-lit).” The last part of this statement says it all: “once the film is green-lit.” People are paying money for the rights to a film that might not even happen. This is a bold move.
What makes the move even bolder is Blade Runner’s history. Released in the summer of 1982 Blade Runner was a critical and financial failure, recovering only a portion of its almost $30 million budget. It was not until years later, and thanks to cable television and home video, that Blade Runner became a cult sensation. In the early ‘90s Ridley Scott supervised a Director’s Cut of the film after a few archivists found a copy of Scott’s original work print (which made its first legitimate appearance on DVD and Blu-Ray only five years ago), removing Harrison Ford’s narration and inserting a unicorn scene which looks like it is from Legend but was actually shot in London during post-production. This version suggests Deckard (Ford), the film’s protagonist, is not what he seems. Almost 15 years later Scott crafted another version of Blade Runner called The Final Cut. It had a limited theatrical run prior to its home video release. Its past history questions whether Blade Runner can be a blockbuster, selling out cinemas nationwide and sparking a new science fiction phenomenon.
Alcon is taking a big risk on a second Blade Runner film. According to Pomerantz, Alcon “can do anything with the story except remake Ridley Scott’s 1982 film,” but the duo behind Alcon – Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson – probably do not care; for them acquiring the Blade Runner rights is about making a “franchise movie.” Alcon wants a long line of Blade Runner films and if they follow the standard practices employed by other studios (video games, toys, etc.) will the story be compromised by financial concerns? Blade Runner, although envisioned by its producers as a hot commercial product, ended up being one of the more expensive art films of the ‘80s. Its production and design was expensive but highly complex, acting as another character and enriching Scott’s futuristic dystopia. The characters need to say very little about their environment – the environment does the talking for them, conveying the sadness of Scott’s dire world. Instead of creating a new Star Wars for adults Blade Runner was quite possibly the bleakest science fiction film until Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men over 20 years later.
Original test audiences found Blade Runner “unrelentingly oppressive” and cold, traits contributing to the film’s longevity and excellence. Making a Blade Runner sequel with a franchise in mind may compromise the world’s aesthetic, reducing it to a shell of its former self in the hopes of selling video games and other tie-ins. The 2019 Scott depicts is violent and a PG-13 version would probably do nothing but dilute the poignant themes: overpopulation, economic instability and a lack of natural resources, pollution and the film’s existential question of what constitutes intelligent life.
Then again, like I said earlier, it is possible this film will never happen. Scott’s enthusiasm over a second Blade Runner stems from his elation over making Prometheus. Inn the before mentioned Entertainment Weekly interview Scott claimed he “thought Prometheus was so enjoyable – returning to the world of science fiction was so fun – that I wanted [to go back to Blade Runner, too],” and continued “I’m also thinking about what the hell I might do for a Prometheus 2.” Right now Scott is in a second honeymoon with science fiction (the genre he became famous with) but all this could change in an instant. What if Prometheus is a failure or another more exciting project (possible with Russell Crowe attached since Scott has a major man crush on that violent Australian) comes along? At the moment I am hoping a Blade Runner sequel falls by the wayside, lost in pre-production limbo. If Alcon has in store what Pomerantz’s Forbes article suggests I have very little hopes for its integrity.