Over the last two days we’ve gotten some intriguing if a little empty updates on two defining sci-fi properties. Behind curtain number one we have Independence day, prom king of mid-’90s action sci-fi, slated to return for a long-debated sequel in June 2016 as reported by Deadline. And then we have Blade Runner, the moody ’80s goth who turns out to be coolest guy in school after all, with its own sequel scheduled for who-knows-when. Roland Emmerich is locking down his directorial return for Independence Day, so the soon-to-be franchise is being treated as business-as-usual by movie fans. But Ridley Scott has stated in an interview that he’s going to be sat firmly in his producer’s chair instead of directing Blade Runner 2.
If the whole idea of a Blade Runner sequel wasn’t a big enough gamble, the absence of Scott as director has gotten people into a tizzy, more so than the apparent absence of Harrison Ford in anything but a smaller “third act” role, as described by Scott himself. This revelation, despite being a drop in a bucket of apparent scoops in the lead up to Thanksgiving Weekend, has people split down party lines. The pro-Scott camp has strong doubts that a sequel without Scott directly at the helm could be anything but a lukewarm disaster. On the other hand you have the anti-Scott’s, who are citing Scott’s track record of underperforming projects including Robin Hood, The Counsellor and the controversy over the unseasonably pale Exodus: Gods and Kings as testament that he is going the way of all ageing directors and walking out into the snow storm…at least until The Martian comes out.
Either way, the absence of Scott even by a title bump is making waves, if not moderate ones. The question is, why do we care so much?
For a regular sequel to a successful first film, it makes sense to want the original director to come back and weave some more of his or her magic. But Blade Runner was 32 years ago. This is the first time in cinematic history that properties have hibernated for decades instead of years and still awoken to relative excitement form the fans. But is the director vital to that revitalisation? Let’s not forget Dumb and Dumber To: a 20 year gap, the writers and directors come back, the key comic performer (Carrey) comes back, and the what should be the greatest high school reunion of all time is a half empty gymnasium with deflated balloons on the walls.
And then you’ve got Star Wars: prequels notwithstanding, it’s been 31 years since Harrison Ford was in a Star Wars Movie, but once again he’s playing doctor and resuscitating his other trigger-happy ’80s icon. But no one is trembling in their boots because George Lucas isn’t directing; if anything people are more excited to have someone new taking the helm – although you could argue that Lucas had his chance at a Star Wars revamp and failed. The fact is, there are no rules for how to make a good sequel with twenty or thirty years of air in between, and there’s an argument that the original director is not required to make a great great grand-sequel.
Over the last 24 months we’ve seen the dams break on the new sci-fi directorial talent in Hollywood. With people like Garth Edwards and Alex Garland establishing themselves as dependable monster hunters and computer hackers, not to mention the wave of indie sci-fi that has kept a steady pace this year, room has to be made to let these guys do what they do best. And what better way to get them to flex their muscles than with properties that audiences are already psyched about? Maybe this is what Scott has in mind by taking a back seat.
How do you feel about the plans for Blade Runner 2?