The problem with 'Blade Runner' emerging from the ashes of its initial critical and financial failure to become known as one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time (said without an iota of hyperbole, thank you very much), is that it runs the risk of becoming just another popular commodity, ready to be used and abused by the powers that be. Now that Ridley Scott's epic sci-fi film noir is officially the prettiest girl at the ball, everyone wants to get their hands on her.
So many others have tried, but it looks like Alcon Entertainment has succeeded: Variety reports that the production company is in final negotiations to secure film and TV rights to 'Blade Runner,' allowing them to do whatever they want with the franchise (man, 'Blade Runner' is a "franchise" now) short of remaking it. After all, this girl does have some measure of class.
You are forgiven if your initial reaction is one of abject horror -- How Dare They Tamper With This Masterpiece! -- it's only natural. Alcon's deal will allow them to play in the 'Blade Runner' sandbox, letting them produce prequels and sequels to the original 1982 film in any media. A brief perusal through science fiction film history will reveal many great movies having their reputations tarnished by both sequels ('Alien'!) and prequels ('Star Wars'!), so getting up in arms and raging into the internet feels like the only appropriate action.
It's tough to be optimistic in general, but nearly impossible to be optimistic when you examine the often nefarious machinations of Hollywood.Believe it or not, however, it is entirely possible to remain optimistic on the subject of further adventures in the 'Blade Runner' universe. It's tough, but let's go ahead and put on those rose-tinted glasses for just a moment, okay?
'Blade Runner' functions beautifully as a great, two-fisted noir tale, but what really separates it from its contemporaries is the universe in which it's set. The film's depiction of 2019 Los Angeles (surely they'll add a couple of decades to that date if they go ahead with future projects) manages to feel terrifyingly alien while being eerily prescient, a nightmarish exaggeration of our own world. There may be flying cars, space travel and fugitive robots on the loose, but it's the anti-Roddenberry vision of what we'll do to ourselves. The world is dirty, dark, overcrowded and polluted. New languages have emerged in every neighborhood and communication feels impossible. It's a world in which it's easy to get lost and easy to vanish in, a world teeming with so much desperate life that there must be a story worth telling on every street corner.
'Blade Runner' took this world and wove a film noir through it. What else can this world offer? What is it like to work in this world, to commute, to raise a family? What's it like to fall in love in this universe? What kind of movies do people watch? What happened to the education system? When will the robotic slaves known as Replicants finally take a stand and fight for their civil rights?
There is enough life in every shot of 'Blade Runner' to inform a hundred fascinating stories. If you're going to explore this universe through prequels and sequels, don't dwell on previously tread stories. Don't make a sequel with the same plot as the original film. Branch out. Explore life in a science world. Heck, Alcon, you have the option of taking this to television. Why not deliver the science fiction equivalent of The Wire?
Sadly, any 'Blade Runner' prequels and sequels we'll see will probably be fairly straightforward action films (it's not like noir is in style right now, anyway). However, Alcon should realize that 'Blade Runner' does not share the same audience as the common summer blockbuster. Going a little smarter, a litter darker and a little deeper can only prove beneficial.