I’m not gonna lie. This sounds just awful. In truth, I can’t see any way it could be anything but. Not in today’s filmmaking climate and not with whatever oversized budget this puppy’s gonna have. I suppose it’s a good thing that Ridley Scott isn’t directing again since the original BLADE RUNNER was the last film he directed that I liked and his ALIEN prequel (PROMETHEUS) suggested once again that the man who made Scott’s first three films no longer inhabits the body and mind of the man who now calls himself Ridley Scott.
Too harsh? Probably. But the promise and talent exhibited in THE DUELLISTS, ALIEN, and BLADE RUNNER never returned to the screen with any of Scott’s subsequent projects. Yes, I include the Best Picture Oscar-winner GLADIATOR in that group. I didn’t like it at all. For me, Scott’s signature “style” lost its substance and seemed to revert more to what pleased the eye than what best told the story.
Some directors can use style AS substance. Josef von Sternberg, for example. Oftentimes working with a less than stellar script, von Sternberg used his mastery of visual language to create multiple story layers. Scott began his career with solid scripts and a visual style that suggested a particular depth and vision. As his career progressed, that visual style seemed to become more of a crutch than a creative storytelling device. A one-style-fits-all approach to filmmaking. Scott’s eventual “re-cutting” of his original ALIEN years later also suggested that the Ridley Scott of today doesn’t recognize much of what the Ridley Scott of yesterday inherently sensed. Either that, or those first three films were damn happy accidents. Scott has gone on to be more of a representation of the demise of content and substance in modern-day filmmaking than an artist working from his heart. Scott began his career by altering the tide. Somewhere along the trajectory of fame and accolades, Scott appears to have comfortably slipped into maintaining the status quo.
Suffice it to say, I consider Scott’s BLADE RUNNER the last film he made wherein everything came together just perfectly. Not that everyone recognized BLADE RUNNER for what it was at the time it was released. If I may indulge in an “I told you so” moment, I remember back to the summer of ’82, I was on a cross-country summer trip with my high school. There was a busload of us and we decided one night to go to the movies. I was already a fan of Scott’s and of Harrison Ford, so I suggested we all see BLADE RUNNER, which had just opened. There was some other film in the running –probably some early 80’s comedy– that some of the other kids were hot on, but somehow I convinced everyone that BLADE RUNNER was the film to go to. I was right. And I was wrong. I loved the film, but most of the rest of the kids I dragged with me (there must have been, like, 50 of them!) hated the film, complained that it was interminably boring, and they never, for the entire rest of the summer, let me forget what I’d “put them through.” I suppose I was somewhat vindicated in later years by the fact that BLADE RUNNER went on to be considered a sci-fi masterpiece by many, one that has been endlessly copied, but never matched. Only now the film’s legacy is about to be stained with not only an inevitable sub-par sequel, but most probably the beginning of a disappointing and creatively vapid franchise.
As for the chosen director of this 33-years-in-the-making sequel, I haven’t seen most of the films directed by Denis Villeneuve, but what I have seen hasn’t instilled the hope necessary for me to have written a different post than the one you are now reading. I thought his 2013 film PRISONERS was underwhelming and too self-conscious for my personal tastes. Truth be told, even if I had liked the film more, I still couldn’t trust the tastes or creative abilities of today’s financiers and producers in putting a film of this size together. I can’t help but feel relatively certain that no one involved with this project will be able to resist trying to one-up the original film with even more impressive and eye-popping special effects and action sequences. The result will be, if modern history is a trustworthy indicator, a film so top-heavy with its eye-candy budget, that the actual story and characters will suffer horribly. It is very likely this new film will be the antithesis of the original.
Boy, what a bitter pessimist I’ve become! I guess I’m just tired of all these rehashes of older films that are representative of how things once were and how far Hollywood has fallen. If I had seen a few examples of a film like this actually living up to its predecessor’s reputation –or even just being a decent film with solid writing, directing and layered characters– I might hold my breath in the hope that this one might turn out okay. But Hollywood’s contemporary track-record is undeniably discouraging, so me thinks I’ll just exhale now and get it over with.
Yes, the old saying, “They don’t make ’em like they used to” seems to resonate more deeply with each passing year.