We’re all hoping popular films like Star Wars Episode VIII, Justice League, and Alien: Covenant knock our collective socks off in 2017. They’re at the top of everyone’s wish lists and marks on everyone’s calendars.
But with those three films, and many other blockbusters, it’s going to be a fingers-crossed situation. Episode VIII should be fine, Covenant we’re not so sure of, and who knows if we’ll even get something decent from DC anytime soon.
But one movie that none of us should be nervous for is Blade Runner 2049. Not only that, but it’s the movie we should be excited for this coming year. The creative team, the talent, the technical hands of brilliance, everything about this movie screams success. Although no movie is a for sure thing until it hits the screens, 2049 has the highest ceiling and equally lofty aspirations.
When creating a long-awaited sequel like this one, many pieces come into play. Respecting the source material, finding originality within a familiar story, and escalating both stakes and worldbuilding are all valuable when following up a classic.
And there’s good reason to believe that for these following reasons, that Blade Runner 2049 will be able to accomplish all the above.
1. The Proper and Best Direction
Using the word “best” is not taken lightly.
In a world with Scorsese, Spielberg, Nolan, Fincher, and so many others, it’s difficult to crown someone the best director. But in terms of right now, it’s hard to match the roll Denis Villeneuve is on.
Don’t look at the fact he hasn’t won any major awards, because he doesn’t fall under the Oscar-bait categories. It’s fair to say he has yet to have a bad mark on his filmography. Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and Arrival are all solid-to-sensational. Sometimes the scripts have been average or the actors less established, but it doesn’t matter if he’s behind the lens.
To say he’s better behind the lens for this movie than Ridley Scott, the director of the original Blade Runner, would be unfair. Scott is thankfully still connected to the project, which furthers the point of proper direction even more. But what we saw from the gloomy Prisoners and the subtle yet arousing Arrival is a style that translates well to Blade Runner 2049.
A huge theme in Blade Runner’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the subject of empathy. In terms of building relationships and showing the understandings and misinterpretations between different beings and how that impacts the world around them, Villeneuve knows what he’s doing. We’ve seen it in Prisoners and Arrival.
Villeneuve did everything you could ask for in the latter film. He brought another intimate story, expanded the scope of it in comparison to his other works, and put together one of the most beautiful films for less than $50M. And he did so with Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker all on the payroll.
Nolan will have Dunkirk, Scott will have Alien: Covenant, and Rian Johnson will have Star Wars Episode VIII. But there may not be a single director on a bigger roll who is as perfect for a project as Villeneuve is for this one.
2. Expanding, Not Settling
If there’s one trend in Hollywood that doesn’t involve superheroes, it’s the need to trigger nostalgia.
Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, Jurassic Park, they’re all to a certain extent trying to touch those soft spots of wistfulness we have for a different time and place. But in the case for many of them, they didn’t add anything to their franchise with recent installments.
In 2017 we will see a bevy of sequels, prequels, and reboots. But which of them will be able to bring something new to the table? In the case of Blade Runner 2049, it looks as if we may get a much wider scope of its world.
Sure, all we have so far is a teaser showing a desert with a large statue head and an abandoned city hall-type building. But it’s still something on the outskirts where the first movie didn’t take us, and there’s so much to unearth within dystopian Los Angeles. The world is shifting, the reach of the realm is widening, and we’re getting a fresh lead beside Harrison Ford.
It may only be showing limited signs so far, but with the creative force that’s behind this, don’t look for them to play it safe.
3. Casting the Lead
Once upon a time, a particular writer wasn’t that big a fan of Ryan Gosling. It’s safe to say his opinion has drastically changed.
Gosling has shown his repertoire, built a solid filmography, and moved far beyond the days of simply being eye candy. In two drastically different roles in 2016, he completely nailed both. He’s become quite the chameleon, fitting right into a buddy cop movie, a musical, a gangster crime film, a political drama, you name it.
He’s at the height of his career and only going up. There may not be another actor in Hollywood who better fits the role of a blade runner than him. Whether most people want to admit it or not, Gosling has some Harrison Ford qualities in his acting.
Between his personas in such films as Drive and Gangster Squad, he fits the bill here. As far as blockbuster performances go, his could make for one of the most well-rounded and thoughtful ones. The character creation of Ford’s Deckard and Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty in the original Blade Runner were wonderfully layered. A solid script was one thing, but being able to deliver it was another.
This won’t be your superhero, Jedi, monster, or robot movie. Gosling will be allowed to have center-stage and test his abilities more than in those kinds of films, and there’s no reason to think he won’t crush it.
4. The Tandem of Actors/Characters
As said before, Gosling has some similarities in his acting that reflect a young Harrison Ford. The charisma of the two rarely takes a day off, and will be one of the most vital parts of this film.
This won’t be your dystopian buddy-cop movie by any stretch. Luckily, these two are just as interesting as the rough-and-gruff types, which should make for an entertaining building of trust between the two. Don’t expect there to be any big moment of understanding, but simply the necessity of working together for survival. And that’s the way it should be.
These two characters can already relate simply from the perspective of their livelihoods. That doesn’t mean they won’t butt heads, being two confident but sometimes aloof men with their backs against the wall given the world around them.
It should make for a great dynamic few other movies will be able to present this coming year. Most of the blockbusters of 2016 will already have established characters or far less compelling ones with far less compelling actors. The chemistry between the two should drive this film forward, strengthening the script and adding an extra element to an already classic franchise.
5. The Maker’s Mark
Though it wasn’t received as a box office smash back in 1982, Blade Runner became a classic after the fact. Fresh off making another all-time science fiction favorite in Alien, Ridley Scott created likely the best one-two punch of movies ever in the genre.
And now he’s back as an executive producer for Blade Runner 2049, helping the business and creative process. And it came at the best of times.
Scott has owned a share of cinema’s brightest moments, whether with Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, or Black Hawk Down. But even he had a rough stretch recently, one that included the lackluster Robin Hood, the disappointing (but not terrible) Prometheus, a real dud in The Counsellor, and the mother of all bores, Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Luckily for him, The Martian did enough to squash the idea that his days as a top-tier filmmaker were over. And now he’s coming back to help with his masterpiece. Scott and Villeneuve have somewhat similar looks to their films, as Villeneuve seems to mesh elements from the Blade Runner creator and Christopher Nolan.
Having Scott to oversee the film while giving Villeneuve plenty of room to play is exactly what 20th Century Fox wanted. Such a nurturing transition between two excellent filmmakers will pay dividends in the end.