Ask any fan of quality science fiction what the best month of 2017 will be, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you – October!
Why? Because that’s when Blade Runner 2049 comes out.
Do you remember Blade Runner? It’s hard to believe it first came out in 1982 isn’t it. I’ve never forgotten how much I was enthralled by the story of near-future ex cop, Rick Deckard – a blade runner – whose job was to track down bioengineered superbeings known as replicants and "retire" (a euphemism for killing) them.
Unmatched in skill, Deckard is called on by his ex boss, Bryant, and told that four dangerous replicants have managed to reach Earth, illegally. As Tyrell Corporation Nexus-6 models, they have only a four-year lifespan and it is suspected they have returned to try and extend their lives.
Deckard watches a video of a blade runner named Holden administering the "Voight-Kampff" test designed to distinguish replicants from humans based on their emotional response to questions. The test subject, Leon, shoots the investigating officer and makes off. Bryant wants Deckard to retire Leon and the other three replicants: Roy Batty, Zhora, and Pris. Deckard initially refuses, but after Bryant ambiguously threatens him, he reluctantly agrees.
What follows is a dark and haunting story of Deckard’s investigation, during which he is followed by another officer – Gaff – and discovers the creator of the replicants - Eldon Tyrell – has advanced the production of his artificial humans to such an extent that they don’t realize they aren’t human. Enter Tyrell’s assistant, Rachael, an experimental replicant who believes herself to be a real woman. Rachael has been given false memories to provide an "emotional cushion". As a result, a more extensive test is required to determine whether she is a replicant.
Events are then set into motion that pit Deckard's search for the replicants against their search for Tyrell to force him to extend their lives. Excellent stuff. It’s earthy, gritty, and you can almost taste how downright depressing it would be to live in a world like that.
The film culminates in a high-rise apartment where Deckard is ambushed by Pris. After a fierce struggle, he manages to kill her just as Roy – a combat expert – returns. As Roy starts to die, he chases Deckard through the building, and they end up on the roof. Deckard tries to escape by jumping to an adjacent rooftop. Misjudging the distance, he misses and is left hanging precariously between buildings. Roy makes the same jump with ease, and as Deckard's grip loosens, Roy surprises him by catching his arm and hoisting him to safety.
As Roy's life at last runs out, he delivers a now famous monologue about how his memories "will be lost in time, like tears in rain." Roy dies in front of Deckard, who, exhausted, looks on silently. Gaff arrives and shouts across to Deckard, "It's too bad she won't live, but then again, who does?" When Deckard returns to his apartment, he finds the door ajar, but Rachael is safe, asleep in his bed. As they leave together, Deckard notices a small tin-foil origami unicorn on the floor, a familiar calling card that brings back to him Gaff's final words. Deckard and Rachael quickly leave the apartment block.
Macabre; disturbing; provocative. Solid; thoughtful; insightful of human nature. Blade Runner was all of these things and I loved it.
But that was thirty-five years ago.
We can only guess what’s coming. But if this new rendering possesses only half the atmosphere of the original, it’ll be an outstanding film.
Roll on October...