Blade Runner 2049” (2017) is largely an exercise in returning to the world of “Blade Runner” rather than significantly expanding the narrative. No surprise then that the three short prequel films – which can be found on YouTube – have the same philosophy. Narratively, the more things change, the more they stay the same in the “BR” world: Nexus designations may change, the conflict between humans and replicants may flare and fizzle, but the problems remain.
Although many “Blade Runner” fans are probably familiar with the references to Tannhäuser Gate in “Soldier” (1998), I think this film – likewise written by David Webb Peoples — should be more embraced as part of the “BR” universe than it is. At three points in the film – once on a monitor showing Todd’s (Kurt Russell) military campaigns, once as a tattoo on Todd’s arm, and once verbally by Mace (Sean Pertwee) – the battle of Tannhauser Gate is referenced. And The Shoulder of Orion is also in Todd’s files.
With only a year between novels, it’s unlikely K.W. Jeter was reacting to readers’ complaints about “Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human” when crafting “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night” (1996). But it plays like he was. His second sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott classic breaks free of rain-drenched bounty hunting and delves into Philip K. Dick’s most beloved themes. (Some readers complained that “Edge of Human” wasn’t Dickian enough. Some were disappointed that it’s not a sequel to “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – although I don’t know what more Bantam could’ve done to make it clear it’s a “Blade Runner” sequel.)
Back when a “Blade Runner” movie sequel seemed unlikely, Bantam (the publisher of “Star Wars” spinoff fiction at the time) and author K.W. Jeter delivered three follow-up novels from 1995-2000. The first, “Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human” (1995), returns us to the world of the film nine months later, and the author paints a picture with words as beautifully as Syd Mead and his team created the movie’s dystopian Los Angeles.
Blade Runner” (1982, with director Ridley Scott’s “Final Cut” following in 2007) serves as a demarcation of child and adult movie tastes. I grew up a “Star Wars” kid, and as a teenager in the 1990s, a friend helped me catch up on other sci-fi classics via VHS rentals of “Alien,” “Terminator” and “Blade Runner.” Hoping on some level for space battles or at least flying-car chases, “Blade Runner” seemed slow and nonsensical to me.
Blade Runner 2049” (2017) – now available via Redbox and streaming – brings us back into the world of the 1982 Ridley Scott classic. It feels like director Denis Villeneuve, who also helmed the overrated “Arrival” (2016) and the excellent “Prisoners” (2013), just wants to play in the sandbox of “Blade Runner,” complete with all the action figures and gadgets. There’s no debating that this is a gorgeous film, but every scene is twice as long as it needs to be for story purposes, and the characters are nearly copies (give me credit for avoiding the “replicant” pun) from the original, starting with blade runner K (Ryan Gosling) standing in for Deckard (Harrison Ford). If you just want to soak up the “BR” vibe again, you’ll be in heaven; if you expect new sci-fi themes or ideas, you’ll be let down.
There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
So, what was the best? Let’s get to it!
“Soldier” – “Rambo” meets “The Terminator” meets “Blade Runner” with a twist: The soldiers of the future are not robots, they are human beings who have had their humanity stripped away. Todd (Kurt Russell) doesn’t say much, but that lifeless expression on his face is worth 1,000 words. Paul Anderson’s film features powerful moments as Todd discovers emotions. It throws in a wealth of themes – the dangers of technology, the horrors of war, the value of human rights (even the bad guys are victims of this society) – along with clever action scenes and wonderfully bleak landscapes. At one hour and 40 minutes, it’s too short.
– John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, January 1999
One of the fun things about re-reading golden age sci-fi novels is seeing how their predictions compare to reality now that we’re coming upon the dates in which those books are set. Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (1968) is of interest now because of the recent theatrical release of the “Blade Runner” sequel and because its fictional date of 2021 isn’t far away.