From the author: An essay on my love of the under-appreciated film Blade Runner: 2049. Originally published on The Book Smugglers in 2017.
The first time I watched Blade Runner, I was perhaps ten or twelve years old—too young to remember much of the story or to truly appreciate its themes. All I remember were the stunning visuals: the cars flying over a neon cityscape, the painted face of the rogue replicant Pris in the still, silent room full on mannequins and parts, the stark cinematography that bathed the scenes in alternating light and darkness—and above all, a sense of both grimness and wonder that I would forever associate with the haunting electronic theme music by Vangelis.
I did not love Blade Runner, not that first time. I enjoyed it more when I re-watched it maybe a decade later, when I could better appreciate it as a work of art and a landmark piece of science fiction. Still, I thought it lacked a gripping plot, a fast-paced storyline, or particularly sympathetic characters. Yet the movie lodged deep into my mind in a way that few films do.
Earlier this year, I re-watched Blade Runner yet again (the final cut, of course) in advance of watching Blade Runner 2049, and this time, I could say without reservation that I loved the film. I loved it the way one loves a familiar place after leaving it and returning older and wiser. In Blade Runner I recognized so many of the elements that drew me to science fiction as a child, that made me a fan and eventually a writer, and that I strive to achieve in my own work today: mesmerizing and unforgettable worldbuilding, unrushed but confident storytelling punctuated by moments of bald violence, dark questions and ambiguous answers, an exploration of how much we as a species can accomplish and yet how flawed and human we will always remain.
I watched Blade Runner 2049 and was taken with it at once. In part, I think, because of how we had to wait so long for it. In this era of endless sequels and reboots, of the rush to turn profitable films into instant franchises, the fact that thirty-five years passed between the films made the thirty years that passed in Deckard’s world feel authentic in a way that no Marvel or DC film likely ever will. I was hypnotized by every frame of the film, every scene of gorgeous and decadent ruin. Blade Runner 2049 in 2017 was much like Denis Villeneuve’s earlier foray into the genre with Arrival in 2016: science fiction cinema that’s thoughtful and thought-provoking, carefully constructed, wondrous and frightening. An antidote to all the frenetic flash and bang and mindlessly easy to digest entertainment that fills theaters. It makes me positively giddy with optimism for his upcoming treatment of Dune.
To date, Blade Runner 2049 has grossed disappointingly below expectations with a take of $245M worldwide. In comparison, Transformers: The Last Knight has grossed $910M. As a science fiction author and a film lover, the injustice of that fact makes me want to, in the words of Roy Batty, do “questionable things.” Then I remember that Blade Runner was critically polarizing and made only $27M in 1982, coming in behind Airplane II: the Sequel and Friday the 13th Part III, and as a fan and a creator I take heart. Blade Runner and its long awaited and worthy sequel will inspire me for years, I’m sure of it, and will continue to stand as hallmarks of the genre until androids dream of electric sheep.
This article was originally published in December 2017 as a guest post on The Book Smugglers.