When that first Blade Runner 2049 movie teaser hit, I was amped. Because I'm #residentold at Complex, I grew up with Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner being a revered piece of cinema. Hell, even President Obama fucked with the sci-fi classic. Thing is, as more information and trailers came out about the movie, it didn't seem like my compatriots cared. Was this film, which found Harrison Ford returning to his now-iconic role of Deckard, replicant hunter, something that people didn't give a fuck about? Even with Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, and Dave Bautista being thrust into this world, it just didn't seem like this movie was connecting like I thought it would, and when I got around a crew of like-minded individuals, it felt like I wasn't alone: it just didn't feel like people were giving a shit about a sequel of a 35-year-old niche sci-fi film.
That is until the early box office numbers starting coming in. It's looking like Blade Runner 2049 is anticipated to make somewhere between $43 million and $47 million for its opening weekend, with advance ticket sales outpacing the critically-acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, which was in the similar boat as Blade Runner 2049 (a sequel coming out decades after its original to audiences who may not be up on it). The film is said to have been made for $185 million, which would make it one of the most expensive R-rated films ever, but its Rotten Tomatoes score of 96% (at the time of this writing) and the desire to see if it reclaims the original's magic could help this film be well worth the wait...and the price tag.
From what I understand, a knowledge of the original film is a must; being that I'm the Complex staff's #residentold, I figured it made sense for me to break down where the original Blade Runner came from, its influence, and hopefully make those with a passing interest even a bit more excited to hit the theaters to check out what could be one of 2017's finest films.
It's based on Philip K Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? took place in a post-apocalyptic 1992 that found a bounty hunter by the name of Rick Deckard chasing six escaped Nexus-6 androids in hopes of "retiring" (aka killing) them. The novel dips into themes of empathy and what it actually means to be human, and has been turned into everything from a comic book series and a play to the film Blade Runner.
The term "blade runner" didn't come from the novel, though. That term came from a treatment for a 1974 novel The Bladerunner that was never used. People had been wanting to turn Dick's novel into a film for years, and after liking the term "bladerunner," Ridley Scott ended up adopting it for his cinematic adaptation of Dick's novel.
Sadly, Dick never got to see Blade Runner, as he passed away months before its June release. Dick was said to have been upset with the project, as he wasn't initially aware of the film's existence. He reportedly hated one of the first scripts, but before his death, was able to not only read a revised script (which he is said to have been pleased with), but he was even screened footage of the special effects being used in the movie, telling Ridley Scott that he made the world look just like he'd originally imagined it.
The hunt for the replicants
In Blade Runner, the search for the rogue replicants (a.k.a the androids) makes up the main crux of the story. Deckard, who is now an ex-police officer, is the best replicant hunter in the land, and using the "Voight-Kampff" test (which is made up of a series of questions that are used to determine if the interviewee is in fact an android or a human), he's able to decipher what's what. We see very early on the destructive tendencies of these replicants, as well as how they become so wrapped up in the memories that are implanted in their heads that they feel they themselves are real.
It's considered a highly-influential cult classic
While it wasn't a commercial success (making $33.8 million at the box office on a $28 million budget), Blade Runner's been revered as a true cult phenomenom. It's seen as one of the cornerstones for the cyberpunk movement, which highlights a juxtaposition of technological advances against a breakdown of social order; everything from the Matrix trilogy and Ghost In the Shell to games like Perfect Dark can be seen as direct descendants of Blade Runner. Hell, movies like A.I. and I, Robot feel like direct-descendants of the "science is going to kill us" storyline.
One more interesting point is that the movie (and its cult status thereafter) helped coin two terms: replicant and retrofitted, the latter describing (as The Conversation put it in 2016) "the film’s clever design, with its postmodern flourishes and visual in-jokes." It also helped further put Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer onto the path of stardom.
There are multiple versions of the movie
Here's where Blade Runner's history and legacy gets interesting. A total of eight different versions of Blade Runner exist, front test audience to final cuts. Why? It genuinely feels like there was a number of differences between what Ridley Scott wanted the film to be and what Warner Bros. thought would work for audiences (including the "happy ending" that Warner Bros. wanted included). Everything from Deckard's narration (which was said to have been included in post due to test audiences not understanding the film) to the end credits have been removed and replaced, can cause confusion and debate on which version is the best version to watch to experience the film in its intended format.
For the film's tenth anniversary in 1992, the "director's cut" was released, after Scott was pissed about a workprint version of the film being leaked to the masses. Scott, who had been working on Thelma & Louise at the time, wasn't satisfied with this version, and Ford himself said told Empire that the movie didn't move him at all, calling it "an exercise in design." In 2007 for the film's 25th anniversary, the "final cut" of Blade Runner was released, which was the only version Scott had complete artistic control over.
Which version you watch depends on what's more important to you. The 1982 theatrical cut might be the easiest to understand, with Ford's 13 points of narration, plus it lends itself to more of the noir influence that the movie draws from. The 1992 director's cut may be closer to Scott's original plan, but also contains the seeds for the biggest questions: is Deckard himself a replicant? It also includes an restored soundtrack, as well as three extra scenes that were only seen in the international cut. It's as complete as the original is going to get, and puts adds a new layer to the film's long, drawn-out conversation about what it is to be a human.
Blade Runner truly is a magnificent chore to watch. Even in its greatest version, its still a massive undertaking, challenging viewers to endure a brooding, lowkey detective tale set in a futuristic dystopia with characters that may or may not be human. Without the narration, the slow-paced tale demands your attention. It's an important film, especially for anyone calling themselves a true film buff, and hopefully the long-awaited sequel finds a way to capture even a bit of the original's essence.