Day 166: Blade Runner 2049 20I7 + Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens 2015

Blade Runner 2049 20I7

It’s great to see a film that could have disappointed, a sequel to a favourite film o mine, and walk out happy. My wife’s work colleague, who watched the two David Lynch films with us, turned to me as the end titles began, saying, “That was brilliant.” Interestingly, in the lead up to this screening we both watched the original Theatrical Version of Blade Runner (1992). Now, we’re looking forward to seeing Blade Runner, The Final Cut, the most recent Director’s Cut by Ridley Scott.

Two things that I was surprised to learn during the credits was that Ridley Scott was onboard as Executive Producer and that Hampton Fancher who wrote the very first draft of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In fact, Fancher tried to buy an option on the rights of the novel from Dick a few years earlier but was unsuccessful. He didn’t know it at the time but the rights were held by someone else at that stage. In very unlikely circumstances it came back into his life in 1980. In circumstances even more unlikely, he was asked by the originating producer to write the screenplay adaptation of the novel despite the fact he was an actor and had never written a screenplay.

When Ridley Scott joined the project, opting out of his contract with Dino Di Laurentiis to direct Dune, their first dealings with each other were mostly happy. But, as Scott’s vision of the film changed from Fancher’s numerous drafts, Fancher became more and more reluctant to keep rewriting and inserting Scott’s ideas. Despite Fancher being one the three main producers, Fancher’s final draft was given to another writer, David Webb Peoples, to incorporate what Scott wanted.

There was bad blood and, for a time, Fancher, distanced himself from the production, appalled when he discovered that his screenplay was being rewritten by another writer, and that his vision and what he desperately wanted to include from the original novel was now disregarded.

Imagine my surprise when the Blade Runner 2049 screenplay is credited to Fancher (as the author of the story) and Michael Green and that the interfering ‘silent’ producer Bud Yorkin, who put up a third of the money for the original – more when factoring in the budget blowout – is back for the sequel as one of the producers, despite the fact he died two years before the sequel was released and over a year before principal photography commenced. As a producer on the original was this a token effort to credit the man who hounded and fired Michael Deeley and Ridley Scott (temporarily) from the original. More than anyone, Yorkin was responsible for the version that went into cinemas, hiring other writers to create additional words for Harrison Ford to record as a voiceover (three separate times), and listening to feedback from preview audience screenings. As a result of Ridley Scott running over-budget and over schedule, Yorkin’s company was in the position of also being ‘completion guarantor’ giving him the write to take over the film, even taking it out of the director and producer’s hands. This is what led to two different Director’s Cuts many years later when the film had developed such a cult following that Scott got to revisit the film again and again.

Now, we have an excellent sequel. Beautifully made by the Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who impressed with the extraordinary, brilliant, film Arrival. Now he brings that measured approach to good material by approaching BR2049 in a different way to Scott’s visual approach to Blade Runner.

One concern I had walking into the cinema was that the sequel would copy the visual approach, but with a difference of thirty years, a lot has happened to Los Angeles physically and the areas where this story is set. In fact, it is so vastly different visually that I did feel that it possible had gone too far away from the Blade Runner – a little – of 2019. Better, though, to have a different, individual, approach than to copy another person’s style.

Another concern for me that potentially, like a lot of sequels, this film could simply rewrap the first film in slightly different paper, holding onto to the most obvious crowd-pleasing factors and paying too little attention to the story and structural aspects of the new film. My worry was that it would be a film about a Blade Runner tracking down and retiring several Replicants. But it wasn’t and what a surprising joy to discover a plot that grew out of the original film that is completely different but still about the importance of life – any life.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens 2015

Tonight is one of the events of the last few years. Another entry in the Star Wars series, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, screening. In preparation, a 9pm screening of Episode VII: The Force Awakens with a few special guests, Luke, Matt and Jeff.

Wow, what an excellent film in the series. Also, John Williams best score in the series after A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.