In an era where studios relentlessly plunder the tombs of movies past, always looking for the next successful remake or reboot, few revivals have caused as much trepidation and excitement as Blade Runner 2049.
The original 1982 Blade Runner, which followed ex-cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as he hunted runaway replicants (machines that look and act human), is considered by many to be the pinnacle of sci-fi/neo-noir filmmaking. Though some might consider it sacrilege to make a sequel to such a singular film, some big names behind the project — including the star and director of the original film, Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott (who will serve as producer and story developer) — have made this one of the most anticipated sequels in the genre.
An official title for the film, Blade Runner 2049, was announced by Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment on October 6, 2016. Set 30 years after the original, with a cast that includes Ford and Drive star Ryan Gosling, Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Arrival filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and premiered October 6, 2017. Here’s what we know about it.
A good start wasted
Estimates for Thursday, October 5 “preview night” ticket sales had put Blade Runner 2049 on a good pace to set at least one opening weekend record.
According to Deadline, Blade Runner 2049 was expected to bring in $3.5 million for Thursday night screenings, which put it ahead of the preview-night audiences for the October premieres of The Martian ($2.5 million) and Gravity ($1.4 million). This is important because Gravity and The Martian hold the first- and second-place records, respectively, for October opening weekends.
It simply wasn’t meant to be, though, as Blade Runner stalled out heading into the weekend and came away with just $31.5 million for its premiere, well short of the October premiere records set by the aforementioned films. However, the film’s initial performance internationally — as well as its positive reviews — suggests that the sci-fi sequel’s run is far from over.
That global success likely depends on how Blade Runner performs in China, the second-largest movie market in the world. As a Forbes column points out, Blade Runner doesn’t fit the mold of the typical Chinese blockbuster. Running heavy on the drama and long in the runtime, the film has a lot working against it in that particular, powerful market.
Blade Runner 2049 opens November 10 in China.
Black Out 2022 short film
On September 15, we received a quick teaser for the third (and final) short film set for release ahead of Blade Runner 2049. Black Out 2022 is an anime film, running just short of 13 minutes — excluding credits and Villenueve’s brief intro — which takes place three years after the events of the original film.
We won’t spoil everything — it’s really an awesome anime, directed by legendary auteur Shinchirô Watanabe, and it tells the story of the Blackout, a seminal event in the fiction that helps to flesh out the world we’ll see in 2049. From gripping action sequences to moments of tenderness, Black Out 2022 has it all. Watch the short above, in its entirety.
No alternate cuts
Asked whether he expects the film to have multiple, alternate cuts released over time, Villenueve firmly denied any plans to release an extended edition or “director’s cut” of Blade Runner 2049 at some point down the road.
“No, no. I don’t believe in that,” he told ComingSoon. “When I cut something out, it’s because it’s dead after that. It’s like a branch of a tree: cut.”
“I never put [out] extended versions or additional footage,” he continued. “If it’s not in the movie, it’s because we felt it was not appropriate or good enough. I don’t do that. I hate that. Honestly … it’s never better, the extended version. There was a reason — even Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now Redux is not a good idea. I don’t believe in it.”
Multiple versions of the original Blade Runner have been released over the years in addition to the initial theatrical cut of the film, including an international cut of the film and several, slightly different “director’s cut” editions.
An animated prequel
After the premiere of 2048: Nowhere to Run, we were wondering when we would get the third short film that director Denis Villeneuve had promised. On Friday, September 15, a tweet by the official Japanese Blade Runner: 2049 account revealed the auteur behind the third short film and its release date.
Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 will be made available on September 26. It’s an anime film, directed by Shinchirô Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), which takes place three years after the events of Blade Runner. According to Warner Bros., a massively destructive electromagnetic pulse occurred that year, so we expect that to be involved somehow. The above video — included with the tweet — shows Watanabe working on concept art for the short film (interspersed with clips from both Blade Runner movies).
2048: Nowhere to Run short film
To bridge the 30-year span between the original Blade Runner and the upcoming film, Villeneuve chose three directors to produce one short film apiece ahead of release, with each telling a story that helps flesh out the franchise’s universe. On Thursday, September 14, Warner Bros. released the second of these films, titled 2048: Nowhere to Run.
The short is focused on Dave Bautista’s character in the film, Sapper. We see Sapper avoid confrontation against some thugs early on before delivering a book — Graham Greene’s The Power and The Glory — to a young girl in the slums. After a business transaction, Sapper sees the girl and her mother being harassed by the same thugs and must choose whether to act on his instincts.
Nowhere to Run was directed by Luke Scott, the son of Ridley Scott (who directed the original Blade Runner). We don’t yet have any details on the third and final short film.
First clip, new questions
The first clip from Blade Runner 2049 was released by the studio in September 2017, and features Gosling’s character investigating a sketchy sweatshop populated by child laborers.
Titled “Bigger Than You,” the clip has Gosling’s Officer K checking out a room filled with children recycling metals from junk, then revealing his Los Angeles Police Department badge to a character played by The Walking Dead actor Lennie James. The latter hints that “bigger than you” have tried to shut down his operation and that “they were men.”
That last statement has generated a new wave of speculation, as it has fans wondering whether Gosling’s character is, himself, a non-human replicant.
Back to the beginning
A television spot for Blade Runner 2049 that debuted in September 2017 offered a few more hints about the role Ford’s character will play in the film.
Titled “Begins,” the brief teaser for the film included some additional footage that hadn’t been seen up to that point, and the accompanying voiceover suggests that Deckard could hold the key to an impending war. (Perhaps with an army of replicants?)
Warner Bros. Pictures added to the mystery by framing the teaser with a short, but ominous description: “Our future begins with his past.”
Blade Running … forever
Variety reports that Blade Runner 2049 will have a runtime of 2 hours and 32 minutes, not counting 11 minutes of credits. It’s no secret that modern films are longer than ever before — for better or worse — and the iconic sci-fi franchise is no exception.
Blade Runner 2049 will run 35 minutes longer than the 1982 original — and that’s not even counting the three short films being rolled out prior to October 6 (one of which you can view below). Based on what we’ve seen, we think all 152 minutes will be worth watching.
2036: Nexus Dawn short film
The first of the prequel films, 2036: Nexus Dawn, was released on August 29 exclusively to Collider.
We won’t spoil too much, but the nearly five-minute film, directed by Luke Scott, shows a meeting between Neander Wallace (Jared Leto), a character that we have seen from trailers for Blade Runner: 2049, and a group headed by Benedict Wong (we don’t get a name for his character). Wallace appears to have a philosophical disagreement with the group, which he demonstrates in a unique fashion.
Questions and answers
In August 2017, Warner Bros. Pictures released a pair of teasers for Blade Runner 2049 featuring some new footage from the film and introducing some of the big mysteries surrounding the movie.
What’s the story? Was Deckard a replicant?
So far, the film’s story is veiled in mystery. Director Denis Villeneuve has said that the film takes place decades after the original (which makes sense, given Ford’s age), in a world where the climate has “gone berserk.” The latest trailer establishes that Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, a designer of replicants, believes humanity is a doomed species and replicants must take its place. Robin Wright’s character (Lieutenant Joshi, according to IMDB) claims that Wallace controls all the weapons in the city, whatever that means. Going off this trailer, the movie certainly seems more action-heavy than the original, but if Sicario is any indication, Villeneuve can blend frenetic action scenes with quieter, character-building moments.
Is it possible to look to the source material for answers? Blade Runner was an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? While Dick himself never wrote a sequel, his friend K. W. Jeter did — three of them, in fact. Although the sequels are official, they were not nearly as well-received as Dick’s novel, and given the differences between the plot of Blade Runner and Dick’s novel, it seems unlikely the screenwriters will turn to the sequel novels for inspiration.
One of the enduring mysteries of Blade Runner is the question of whether Deckard, who is hired to track down and eliminate a group of rogue replicants, is himself a replicant. All three versions of the film (including the theatrical, director’s cut, and The Final Cut) offer hints but no definitive answer. After all, one of the movie’s big points is that androids and humans, as thinking beings, can be indistinguishable.
Beyond the textual evidence, Scott has said in interviews that he considers Deckard a replicant. Time has not dulled his conviction, as he told Yahoo in 2015: “Of course he’s a bloody Replicant! He’s going to have to admit it.” Given Scott’s role in developing the story, it’s entirely possible that he will use this opportunity to reaffirm his take on the character.
Villeneuve has hinted that the new film could also touch on the question of Deckard’s humanity.
“The thing I must say is that I love mystery,” he said in an interview with Crave Online. “I love shadows. I love doubts. I would just want to say to the fans that we will take care of that mystery. I will take care of it.” The wording here is appropriately ambiguous. Will he take care of it in the sense of resolving the mystery? Or take care of it by preserving it?
Staying true to its roots
Just like the OG Blade Runner, Blade Runner: 2049 has officially received an ‘R’ rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Screenrant reports. If fans were concerned that the new movie would be toned down or neutered in any way, this should assuage those fears. Gosling has already mentioned that the film will be “more brutal” than its predecessor; we cannot wait to see what director Denis Villeneuve has in store.
Villeneuve confirmed that the film would be rated ‘R’ in 2016 but nothing was set in stone until now. The rating was assigned as a result of “violence, some sexuality, nudity, and language.”
An iconic addition
The original Blade Runner was lauded for many reasons, its sound direction chief among them. Greek composer Vangelis combined classic orchestral instrumentation with synthetic, futuristic sounds to create a unique soundscape that underscored the movie’s eerie tone. Lucky for fans of the original film, 2049 promises to bring more of the same, as legendary composer Hans Zimmer — known for his work on films like Inception, Interstellar, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series — has joined the project, according to an interview with French publication Studio Cine Live.
Zimmer will work alongside Benjamin Wallfisch and Johann Johannsson, who has been tasked with creating the main theme. It’ll be interesting to see how Zimmer’s influence shapes the sound for 2049. Typically, his compositions are epic and bombastic, which is in stark contrast to the more withdrawn, atmospheric sound of Blade Runner.
A lock and a key
We recently received the second official trailer for Blade Runner 20149, offering a further look into director Denis Villeneuve’s vision for the dystopian thriller. In it, we get a bit more insight into the relationship between Ryan Gosling’s Officer K and Harrison Ford’s Deckard, as well as more screen time for Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, and Jared Leto (who looks to be poised as a villain, though nothing is certain).
After some brief flashes of several scenes — with stunning visual effects, we might add — the trailer begins with Officer K interrogating Bautista’s character, presumably in search of Deckard. The rather massive man (he was a six-time WWE World Champion, after all) does not seem to take kindly to K’s questions, and a scuffle ensues. Later, Leto’s character (who appears to be either blind or some sort of android) ruminates on the role of slavery in human progress and reveals that his means for creating replicants are limited.
The rest of the trailer, filled with more gorgeous cinematography and CGI, shows several action sequences involving both Gosling and Ford, as well as scenes depicting some sort of refugee camp. Ana de Armas and Mackenzie Davis are also heavily featured in the trailer.
Recapturing the magic
A behind-the-scenes video released in June 2017 offered quite a bit of new footage from Blade Runner 2049 for fans to ogle, both from the film itself and from a “making of” perspective.
Presented by Entertainment Weekly, the “Time To Live” feature also includes interviews with the cast and creative team on the film, in which they offer some insight on director Ridley Scott’s vision for the film and the methods they used to recreate the look and feel of the original. Beyond all of that, though, the video also offers a taste of the sequel’s musical vibe — which features an audio element that would initially seem right at home in the 1982 film.
Same world, new problems
Warner Bros. released a trailer in May 2017 that offered the most substantial glimpse yet into the world of Blade Runner 2049. As in the first teaser, this trailer shows some dialogue between Ryan Gosling’s Officer K and Deckard, with the former seeking answers from the latter, although the trailer does not give any insight into what questions are driving K. The trailer also gives viewers a look at Jared Leto’s character, a seemingly blind man responsible for building a “disposable workforce.” Along with a speech from Robin Wright’s character about “keeping order,” it seems as if the film will take place in a society where tensions about labor and hierarchies may boil over.
While the trailer is, as expected, guarded about story details, it does show off Roger Deakins’ spectacular cinematography. An image of a replicant sliding out of a plastic bag is beautifully creepy. While the script is still an enigma, there is no doubt that the filmmakers have a solid grasp on the tone of the original film.
Not losing its edge
While there’s a lot that remains a mystery about Blade Runner 2049, one thing that’s certain is that the producers and creative team aren’t looking to soften the 1982 film’s ‘R’-rated tone.
Director Denis Villeneuve confirmed the ‘R’ rating for Blade Runner 2049 in December 2016 adding that he’s under no small amount of pressure to prove that the film can generate mainstream blockbuster money despite its restricted rating.
“My producers are finding it fun to remind me that it will be one of the most expensive R-rated independent feature films ever made,” said Villeneuve in an interview with Screen Daily.
Restricted-audience fare is nothing new for Villeneuve, whose critically acclaimed films Sicario, Enemy, and Prisoners all went to theaters with an ‘R’ rating. He even wants to remake Dune, though that seems like a longshot.
The first look and the first details
Warner Bros. Pictures and Alcon Entertainment released the first teaser trailer for Blade Runner 2049 on December 19, offering the first look at the film and stars Ryan Gosling and Ford, as well as some of the iconic environments that hark back to Scott’s original, 1982 film.
The trailer was accompanied by a brief synopsis of the film, which reads as follows:
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Who’s in charge here?
Blade Runner fans worried that the upcoming sequel is the brainchild of studio executives hungry for a reboot, do not fret. As mentioned above, director of the first Blade Runner Ridley Scott is producing the new film. Scott has been exploring the idea of more Blade Runner projects for a while now, too. In 2009, he and his brother, fellow director Tony Scott, announced a web series called Purefold, set before the film.
The project eventually fell through, but Ridley’s interest in the franchise remained, and he eventually committed to producing and directing a full-length Blade Runner film in 2011. In time, Scott relinquished his role as director, though he remains involved in the project. Scott also brought back Hampton Fancher, who wrote the screenplay for the first film.
Taking Scott’s place at the helm is red-hot French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, whose star has been rising dramatically as of late. Among his recent works are Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), both critically acclaimed films that demonstrated Villeneuve’s formal expertise and a desire to explore more complex ideas than the typical thriller. He seems a perfect choice to oversee the sequel to Blade Runner, a film that took time to explore the ethical implications of its protagonist’s mission.
Villeneuve has confirmed that he does not have final cut of the film, speaking to Variety. He does not seem perturbed about it, however, claiming that while he did not have final cut on Prisoners, it ended up being the best version of that film possible.
Joining Villeneuve is recurring collaborator Roger Deakins, who handled cinematography on Sicario and Prisoners, as well as other acclaimed films like No Country for Old Men.
Deakins is not the only collaborator that Villeneuve is brought on for 2049. Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also worked on Prisoners and Sicario, will compose the score for the film. Jóhannsson’s Sicario score landed him an Oscar nod.
Who’s in it?
Since Scott first announced his involvement, the biggest question looming was whether Harrison Ford would reprise his role as Rick Deckard. Although Ford has historically seemed reluctant to reprise old roles, he seems to have had a change of heart lately, suiting up in recent years as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and now Deckard. Scott claims that Ford was unwilling until the director convinced him to read the script, which he reportedly called “the best script [he’s] ever read.”
However, it seems that Deckard will have a smaller role this time around. Although details about the story are scant, Scott recently told Variety that Ford’s character “comes in in the third act.”
The lead this time around is ostensibly Ryan Gosling, one of the first actors to sign on for the film. Gosling has been incredibly secretive about his role, and so far no information about the character has been made available. Dave Bautista, the former WWE wrestler who plays Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, has also hinted at his involvement in the project through a cryptic photo in which he held an origami unicorn.
I can't wait to share some really exciting news… pic.twitter.com/fI2VjDjcXM
— Dave Bautista (@DaveBautista) April 2, 2016
The unicorn resembles the one found by Deckard at the end of the movie, a symbol that can be interpreted a few ways depending on which cut of the film you watch.
Another notable addition to the cast is Robin Wright, who is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Claire Underwood in Netflix’s House of Cards.
The most recent big name to join the cast, however, is Jared Leto. Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, is largely a mystery. In the first full-length trailer, he is shown philosophizing about how societies throughout history are built on the labor of disposable workers. He then caresses what appears to be a newly born replicant, saying “Happy birthday.” It seems likely that Leto’s character will be the antagonist, though as with everything in the Blade Runner universe, there may be more to him than meets the eye.
Other notables actors and actresses rounding out the cast include Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, Hiam Abbass, Ana de Armas, and Lennie James.
Familiar (and synthetic) faces
Although Ford was once the only cast member from original Blade Runner set to return for Blade Runner 2049, other familiar faces are now set to make an appearance.
One of the original film’s more enigmatic characters will be present in 2049. On an episode of The TRENDTalk Show in March, Edward James Olmos revealed that he will be reprising his role as Gaff, a mysterious cop who appears throughout Blade Runner, giving cryptic messages to Deckard. He also has a habit of making origami sculptures, including the unicorn Deckard finds at the end of the film.
Citing an anonymous source close to the film, movie news site The Terminator Fans suggests that a replicant — one of the androids pretending to be human — from the first film will also return for the sequel. The film will reportedly use digital effects to bring the character back as he or she appeared in the 1982 film, but the rumor doesn’t hint at which character will make a return.
The most likely candidates to return are said to be Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, Daryl Hannah’s Pris, Sean Young’s Rachael, or possibly Ford himself as the young Rick Deckard, since Scott has long insisted that the character was also a replicant. Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has insisted that the sequel will definitively confirm the longstanding question regarding Rick Deckard’s humanity, so including the eternally young version of Ford’s character could indeed serve that purpose.
Shooting, release date, and more recent updates
Filming was scheduled to begin in July, and production seems to have begun on time, based on an enigmatic Instagram post by Ana de Armas in which she writes “My heart is racing … Day 1 for #BR!”
On September 29, 2016 Gosling and internet company Omaze announced a contest to win a tour of the set. Contestants pay to enter, with the proceeds going to organizations such as the Enough Project, which investigates human rights violations. The video does not offer any real hints about the film, but Harrison does make an appearance at the end.
On October 6, 2016, the studio announced the title of the film and released a new set photo showing — from left to right — Villeneuve, Scott, Ford, and Gosling.
Is 2049 merely the start of an expanded franchise, though? Scott indicated that could be the case in his Yahoo interview. When asked if he would want to do four Blade Runner films like he is doing with the Prometheus franchise, the veteran director responded: “Everyone else is, so why not? I love to work.”
Scott may be joking, but even if he is, more sequels hardly seem out of the question these days.
Update: We added opening weekend numbers for Blade Runner 2049.