Last Thursday, the Internet was ablaze with the news that director Ridley Scott was set to make a new Blade Runner movie. Opinion has been divided so far over whether a prequel or sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic is a good idea or not, but one thing’s now clear – the story’s far more than a rumour.
On Friday, Alcon Entertainment’s Andrew Kosove, whose company now owns the rights to Blade Runner, revealed in an interview with the LA Times’ 24 Frames blog that shooting could begin as soon as 2013, with the following year a possible window for release.
According to Kosove, Alcon were willing to press ahead on a 21st century Blade Runner without Ridley Scott’s involvement, though they were understandably enthusiastic about having him aboard. A handshake and a few legal documents later, though, and Scott was formally signed up as the new film’s director.
One thing Kosove did emphatically rule out, however, was the involvement of Harrison Ford. “If you’re asking me will this movie have anything to do with Harrison Ford,” Kosove said, “the answer is no. This is a total reinvention, and in my mind that means doing everything fresh, including casting.”
The big question mark now is, who will write the script, and what will it entail? At this stage, it’s likely that not even Scott or Alcon has much of an idea. One logical step would be to base the next Blade Runner film on another Philip K Dick story, since many of the author’s works are similar in tone and concepts, in any case – while Blade Runner was only based loosely on the author’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, it nevertheless captured many of Dick’s preoccupations about memory, consciousness, and what it means to be human. Using another of his stories as a jumping-off point would at least ensure some form of thematic continuity, if it were adapted sensitively.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to contemplate another Blade Runner film without a sense of nervousness. Scott may be returning to the universe of Alien with Prometheus, due out next year, but that’s a franchise that has already been sullied by weak sequels and its association with the appalling Aliens Vs Predator movies.
Aside from a couple of videogames, a comic book adaptation and a few books, Blade Runner stands alone, unsullied. Its initially tepid performance at the box office in 1982 ensured that it never became the fodder of lunch boxes, straight-to-video sequels or other nonsense that can tarnish the reputation of a popular film.
By agreeing to make another Blade Runner, Scott may be opening the door to all kinds of videogame tie-ins, mobile phone apps, hurriedly-written novelisations, more sequels, and various other pieces of multimedia nonsense. A film that has been allowed to stand proudly on its own merits could be dragged into the same depressing arena as franchises such as Star Wars, Jaws, Starship Troopers and RoboCop.
More consternation: if Alcon’s Blade Runner really does go into production in 2013, that gives everyone involved precious little time to work on it. To put it in perspective, look at how long it took Blade Runner to reach the big screen – Hollywood’s interest in Philip Dick’s novel began shortly after its publication in the late 60s, but it was only in 1977 an adaptation went into preproduction. Numerous rewrites of Hampton Fancher’s early script meant that shooting only began in 1981.
Ridley Scott won’t have that luxury this time around, particularly if Alcon are anxious for him to stick to a 2014 release. It’s also worth noting, in passing, that Scott celebrates his seventy-fourth birthday this year.
On a more positive note, it’s possible that a less protracted pre-production phase may prove to be a good thing. Beautiful though Blade Runner was (and is), it’s fair to say that Roy Batty is the only character you could describe as anything like a well-rounded character – in the hands of a strong enough writer, maybe the new Blade Runner movie could provide more characters to root for, as well as startling music and visuals.
At the very least, Alcon’s Andrew Kosove seems confident that its film will succeed artistically, in spite of fan scepticism. “We want people to know that we’re very serious about doing this in an artistic way,” Kosove said. “This isn’t just commercial fodder.” Let’s hope he’s right.