In many ways, I think of Blade Runner 2049 as the sequel I never asked for, but am still going to watch no matter what. I'm not someone that is adamantly against sequels, remakes or reboots all the time. There are some that I ask why they are being made, but many others that pique my interest and I will gladly spend money to go check out when it releases. This is definitely one of those sequels that has my attention and for its first official trailer, it seems to hit all of the right buttons.
The first thing you might notice with the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 is that the dystopian future we saw in the first movie doesn't look quite as dark and grimy as it used to, and while there might be some set design and art direction involved with that, I also think a great deal of it is the camera itself. In the early 1980's, film was the only way to shoot anything and the original Blade Runner movie was all Panavision cameras and lenses. That was 35 years ago under Ridley Scott's command with Jordan Cronenweth as his Director of Photography.
Now in 2017, using the big budget digital standard Arri Alexa, it's Denis Villeneuve who has been making some waves in the past few years with Prisoners, Sicario and last year's surprise science fiction hit Arrival, with longtime veteran DP Roger Deakins alongside him. If you've seen The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, or anything by the Coen Brothers, then you have seen his work with the camera. He was also the DP for Prisoners and Sicario so he has definitely worked with Villeneuve before and that's important when it comes to a movie of such high pedigree as Blade Runner certainly is.
Right from the start of this trailer, I got a slight Tron: Legacy vibe in terms of seeing something that I have seen before, but now redone and retooled for today's audience and visual standards. I liked Tron: Legacy, but it had nothing on the original and this time Blade Runner 2049 does appear at least for now to be doing better justice to its predecessor, perhaps. This is never more evident to me than in the first scene with Jared Leto's Tyrell-like character stating, "Every civilization was built off the back of a disposable workforce, but I can only make so many." Then as we see what is likely a Replicant being "born," he shushes it and says "Happy Birthday." Weird, creepy as hell and PERFECT for this franchise.
Thus the tone for this first trailer is set and on cue, we hear the tone of Vangelis over the next number of shots that feature Ryan Gosling's title character interacting with this new, yet familiar world to us, as Robin Wright gives him a speech about order. You do get a vibe that her character is the new Bryant, Rick Deckard's handler in the first movie, but her delivery is more calculated, more direct and less colloquial than M. Emmet Walsh's character was. It serves to give us a clear taste of the tone of this movie as opposed to the old, making it obvious that things have changed since Harrison Ford's Deckard was last on the job and we all need to be aware of that upfront as our brains try to compare both movies, fairly or not.
It's also clear that while this is Gosling's world and movie now, his character is looking for Deckard, who seems to be his predecessor and he finds him for sure, complete with the former Blade Runner pointing his signature weapon at the young protege. Upon Deckard asking him what he wants, Gosling's character replies, "I want to ask you some questions."
It's at this point that the music shifts from the Vangelis harmony to the more modern, electronic sensibilities that a movie like this is sure to command. It's also where the action starts, as clearly those who work for Leto's character are hunting Gosling down as he attempts to find answers from Ford's Deckard. After evoking so much of the look and feel of the first movie in the first half of the trailer, the second half is more action driven and in tune to the modern trailer game for a science fiction action movie. It's a bit jarring at first if you were lulled into harmony by the feelings you have for the first movie, but it makes sense to once again remind you that this is a sequel, not a redux or remastered version of that 1982 classic.
The first trailer for Blade Runner 2049 definitely delivers on visuals, sounds and keeps the plot of the movie close to the chest as it should at this point. It evokes nostalgia at the right moments while also blending well into the modern world of filmmaking. If you are someone that hasn't seen any of Denis Villeneuve's work or you have and you aren't sold on it, it should be reassuring that Roger Deakins is his DP on the movie and that Ridley Scott, director of the first film is executive producer. The greatest worry I had was that the movie would look too sterile and computer generated, which is the exact opposite of how the world of the first movie was established. However, aside from the fact that this future world doesn't seem quite as gritty, it still looks appropriately "real" and full of substance with its textures, set design and costuming. This doesn't look like a Star Wars prequel, this looks like the next Mad Max, at least in terms of visual strength and colors. How the full movie shakes out visually remains to be seen, but it's definitely in good hands with Deakins behind the camera.
This year is once again filled with blockbusters that command our attention on several different fronts, with comic book movies from Marvel, DC and FOX, a new Fast and Furious movie, a new Aliens movie releasing this month, a new Transformers movie and of course the next Star Wars episode in December. It might be too easy for Blade Runner 2049 to get lost in the shuffle of all of these huge tentpole films, but those that are fans of the original certainly have their radars up for this one and will be front and center in a movie theater on October 6 to see the next chapter of the Replicant story, whether we asked for one or not. Count me in.