Years later, when Scott was asked who was the ‘biggest pain in the arse’ he’d ever worked with, he said ‘it’s got to be Harrison — he’ll forgive me now because we get on’
Runner no favours: it performed poorly at the box office, and only began to gain a reputation posthumously, as it were, on video and DVD.
Some critics loved it, and saw extraordinary vision in its existential musings on what it is that constitutes consciousness, and a soul. Its fan base grew, and led to reassessment, especially after Ridley Scott sanctioned a director’s cut (1997) and a final cut (2007), which restored the film to its original glory.
Without that annoying voiceover, one could finally appreciate that here was a film way ahead of its time. For a start, its look was utterly original: when I interviewed Scott some years back and asked him about his inspirations for Blade Runner’s aesthetic, he told me he’d based it in part on the industrial landscape of his native Durham.
Somehow, that grimy influence chimed perfectly with Dick’s gloomy vision of humanity’s future, and Blade Runner’s speculations about global warming, exponential pollution and the rise of computers and androids have proved worryingly prophetic. It was oddly poetic for a sci-fi adventure — for instance Rutger Hauer’s speech in which a dying replicant recalls the highlights of its brief but extraordinary life.
No wonder all attempts at writing a sequel were blocked by one or other of the original film’s participants — until now. Somehow, original writer Hampton Fancher and Villeneuve have managed to respect the ambiance and themes of the original without being bound by, or overwhelmed by them. In fact, Blade Runner 2049 has managed to expand and blow up Scott and Dick’s original world into something vaster, more desolate, and grandly epic.
All the existential angst is retained, and some scenes would not be entirely out of place in a Samuel Beckett play. But the sweeping panoramas of desolation that Villeneuve and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins have composed are breathtaking, and ought only be viewed on a very large screen. Blade Runner 2 has definitely been worth the 35-year wait.