There are certain words I’ve come to loath when scrolling through movie news pages. Reboot. Remake. Reimagining… basically anything beginning with ‘re’. There is almost nothing as depressing as seeing the words “Paramount Pictures announce plans to remake Ben Hur“… That really actually happened. They really and truly remade Ben Hur. Did you know that? I mean, come on.
There have been so many obscenely unnecessary remakes over the years. Planet of the Apes in 2001 with Mark Wahlberg, The Italian Job in 2003 with Mark Wahlberg…wait hold on, I should check someone else’s IMDb page. The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage, Godzilla with absolutely no brains in 1998 and more recently The Mummy with Tom Cruise.
I have to be honest, I’m a fan of Tom Cruise movies. Not a fan of him as a person but a fan of most of his movies. But lets be real here and I’m saying this with all due respect to the tiny Cruise missile…The Mummy is entirely dreadful. I remember thinking when his name got attached to a remake of The Mummy that was going to kick off the Universal Pictures Monster franchise I was a little worried for old Tommy boy. Because, ugh, is there not something more interesting you could be doing with your time than remaking something like The Mummy? All of the people hired to work on The Mummy could have been working on something far more interesting, worthwhile and god forbid, maybe even a tad original. My point is, I don’t like seeing people whose movies I have an interest in attached to remakes or reboots.
Step up Denis Villeneuve and Ryan Gosling.
I know what you’re saying, Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel not a remake or a reboot. You’re right. You are technically correct which is the best kind of correct. But since it’s been 35 years since the release of the original, the questions remained the same in either case. Why are you doing this? Has it taken you 35 years to come up with a decent sequel idea? How many Blade Runner movies are going to be set up by this one? Will there be an extended Blade Runner universe with release dates for movies years before they’ve even gone to production or even have a name? Is this going to just be another blatant attempt to set up countless more sequels and waste the talents of everyone on board?
With that in mind, I approached with extreme caution. I’m going to come clean at this point and tell you that I am not a huge fan of the original Blade Runner. I’m not a big fan either. I’m somewhere between a small and medium size fan of the movie. I feel like I may have lost points on my Film Nerd card by admitting that. So a sequel 35 years later to a movie I wasn’t too bothered by wouldn’t normally get my attention, but this one had an ace up its sleeve. A Canadian ace named Denis…No hold up, you read that wrong, it’s pronounced Deni, not Denis. Come on.
So Denis Villeneuve was signed up to direct a new Blade Runner movie on the back of making Arrival and Sicario, which are two movies I absolutely adored. I was getting curious. It also had Ryan Gosling, who I’m a big fan of too, so it was starting to take shape and become something potentially interesting. Then at some point the trailer dropped and I was all in.
I didn’t need to see any more. This trailer is more than enough to make me go see this movie – I mean it looks spectacular. It also reminded me that Ridley Scott wasn’t directing it. Which for me was good because when it comes to making sequels to movies from 30 years ago, the Ridlers had some issues…
But still it lingered with me. Why? The thing with sequels, remakes and reboots is that for the most part I can’t figure out why. Apart from money that is. In my mind there are only a handful of truly great sequels that match or improve the quality from the first film. Has there ever been a more joyous feeling than when you finished watching Toy Story 2 and realised it was even better than the first one?? That kind of feeling doesn’t happen very often. So why? Why Denis Villeneuve? Why Ryan Gosling? Why Harrison Ford?…well Harrison’s gonna get paid so I guess that’s why he’s in the movie. But why make this movie? Please tell me it’s because there’s a genuine story to tell. That there’s a natural connection to the original movie. Please tell me you’re going to create something really worthwhile. Please, most of all though, please don’t ruin my birthday. Oh sorry, yeah, this movie was released on my birthday so it had that added pressure on top.
Much like the feeling I had when I saw the trailer for the first time, when I saw the opening shot, I knew I’d be happy.
The entire movie looks spectacular. It feels like they took the aesthetic from the first film and expanded on it. Villeneuve has spoken about how much he loved the original, how it was the first VHS that he owned and how he played it so many times he needed to buy it again and it feels like his love for the original source material shines through. The score of the film is incredible also.
Both of those things made me feel like this was what a cinematic experience is supposed to be. This needed to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the loudest sound system imaginable. The same goes for films like Dunkirk and Mad Max Fury Road. I’m all for being able to access movies at home and watch them in the comfort of your own surroundings but there are some films that just belong on the big screen. This is most certainly one.
But what struck me most about this sequel was that it felt like an organic story that wasn’t forced. It’s not putting John McClaine in another situation identical to Die Hard just to make a sequel. It’s not people for the umpteenth time going back to the island with the dinosaurs on it and repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It felt like a natural progression from the first movie and both Ridley Scott and the original screen writer Hampton Fancher have said that this was always going to be the plot of the sequel.
It’s not a perfect movie though. We do have a Jared Leto problem. Lots of people, including the Ridler himself, have said that the movie is way too long. Its nearly 3 hours in total. My first suggestion is to remove the scenes with Leto in them completely. My second suggestion for shortening the film to speed up….the….way…..he….delivers….his…..lines. But he’s a very serious actor and I’m a schmuck so what do I know? Truthfully though, the length of the film doesn’t bother me. The pacing also is something I love about it. It’s very slow and deliberate…like Jared Leto’s deliveries…maybe he’s on to something.
All of this, including Jared Leto, are why this movie, Blade Runner 2049 is my movie of the year. A sequel greater than the original.
It’s a movie that shows it can be done. With the right care and attention, with the right creative direction and with an actual properly developed story idea, sequels can work. They can be viable standalone pieces of cinema. Maybe we’ll just have to accept a dozen Mummys to get to it.