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May 27, 2014

Hollywood To Deliver That Blade Runner Sequel You Wanted, But You Wanted It 30 Years Ago

Harrison Ford has been asked to reprise his role as the depressive civil servant Rick Deckard. I imagine he'll say yes, because that's what he does lately when people ask him to play the roles he'd played in his youthful prime.

When he was young, he usually seemed embarrassed to play these sorts of roles. He hated playing Han Solo and hated the experience of shooting Blade Runner. Ah well, no one appreciates what they have until it's gone.

Ford really hated Ridley Scott, but apparently he's saying all sorts of good things about him now while they continue to discuss pairing up again.

So here are my questions:

1. In the age of CGI, do we need another Blade Runner?

Blade Runner's impact was not in terms of story or character, neither of which were the film's strong points. Its impact was in design -- a Look of the Future that has dominated our imaginations for 30 years (and in fact spawned an entire genre of novel, the so-called "cyberpunk" novel, which mined the look of Blade Runner for the tone and feel of the future) -- and it was in its special effects.

Which, seriously, remain gorgeous and convincing 30 years later. I do not like this movie much, but have you watched it lately on Blu-Ray? Good Lord, it looks even better than it did 30 years ago, because we've had so much CGI and become so habituated to the particular defects of CGI that we've forgotten how to spot the giveaway defects of model-based effects -- and so Blade Runner's model-based effects wind up appearing much more realistic than stuff being shot 30 years later.

Now, if they were going to get Douglas Turnbull to break out his model-shop to do a model-based Blade Runner, with just some subtle enhancements via CGI, I'd pay to see that.

But you know they're not going to do that. They're going to use CGI all the way through.

And we already saw the CGI version of Blade Runner a half-dozen times, most recently in the Total Recall remake.

2. Putting aside CGI -- do we need Blade Runner at all?

I wasn't really sure we needed Blade Runner in the first place. Somehow a movie that was initially conceived as a pure cash-play -- the book was purchased just because it had laserguns and robots and shootouts and futuristic detectives -- evolved into a much more ambitious nearly art-house affair, with a dark tone that wound up being a genuine noir -- and genuinely distasteful. (Deckard only shoots and kills two "replicants" in the film -- both women.)

Yet, despite the dark tone, it didn't really have much to say about the human condition. How could it? It was still a blast-'em-up robot-hunting Westworld pulp fiction at its heart.

So it was sort of trapped in a very difficult place -- it was sort of like those horrible, depressive 70s "message" sci-fi movies like Zardoz, but also sort of like a more lighthearted pulp like Westworld.

And so the audience didn't like it, and, in fact, didn't even bother showing up to the theater to find out they didn't like it. (Of course, the fact that the VCR would explode in the American market a few years later, and Blade Runner would be one of the most recent movies released on VCR, would change the film's cultural trajectory quite a bit.)

I don't know if I really buy into Blade Runner, apart from the design and effects. I don't know if I can buy into this half-noir, half-zap-happy-pulp sci-fi feathered fish. I don't know if all the depressive, sadsack acting on display actually lends this gonzo premise the veneer of emotional plausibility they hoped it would.

3. Prometheus.

That's not phrased as a question, but as an assertion.

Prometheus. All that really needs be said.

But, anyway, there's money to be made so they're doing a new one.

Below, the trailer for the original Blade Runner.


Interesting for a few reasons:

1. The trailer states that Deckard has to hunt down six Replicants. In the film, it was only four. Well, it's more complicated than that, but if you know what I'm talking about you already know what I'm talking about, and if you don't know what I'm talking about you're not Geeky enough to care about this this point in the first place.

But anyway, this prominent mention of six androids is probably what caused people to start noticing that there's some bad dubbing in the exposition scenes regarding the number of androids at large. (Deckard was supposed to hunt five androids in the script, but to save the desperately overbudget film, all of the scenes with the fifth android "Mary" were simply torn out of of the script. But the scenes explaining that there are five, not four, androids remaining had already been shot, and were badly overdubbed later to change "one" android killed in the escape to "two.")

2. The trailer is Truth in Advertising, which I think was all wrong for a promotional campaign. The movie's dark, weird, depressive tone is well-advertised here, as is a bit of the film's odd Violence Against Women theme.

Strange they'd advertise that. I know how I would have cut this clip: I would have lied my ass off. I would have made it appear to be an Urban Star Wars, nothing but flyin' cars and laser blasts, and I would have framed the Deckard/Rachel relationship as a Han Solo/Princess Leia-like snappy-banter romcom with a bouncy pop song suggesting their ultimate triumph.

"Are you asking me if I'm a Replicant, Mr. Deckard, or if I'm a lesbian?" (INSERT SOUND EFFECT OF RECORD PLAYER NEEDLE SCRATCHING TO ABRUPT HALT, THEN SPRING GOING "BOOINNGGG!!!")

By the way, I had thought I remembered the TV promos being a bit more action-oriented and upbeat than the theatrical trailer.

But this ad I found suggests it was just more of the depressive stuff:

The ad I remember -- the one suggesting a very actioney-adventurey vibe -- featured nonstop jumping:

Well, that one was better. Still, I remember a friend commenting on this movie when it was only being advertised. He called it "That movie with all the jumping."

I guess that's not really the best way to advertise a sci-fi movie, either.

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posted by Ace at 05:30 PM

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