When I first heard word that a sequel to Blade Runner was in the offing, I rolled my eyes. The book sequels to Philip K. Dick's own Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? had been ... passable, I guess (if nothing else, K.W. Jeter mimed Dick's writing style with unnerving precision), but I always felt there was no particular reason to try and follow up something that was sui generis.
I didn't want a sequel to Blade Runner. I wanted something entirely new that would provide the same electric jolt as the original.
But we got a sequel anyway. And, to my surprise, the decisions made with it along the way began to turn my head.
One of the original screenwriters, Hampton Fancher, was involved; ditto Ridley Scott as a producer. It was the choice of director, though, that really changed my mind: Denis Villeneuve, of Arrival and Sicario and many other good-to-excellent films that had the kind of icy splendor well-suited to a movie in the BR-verse.
I'm not against these kinds of follow-ups, in principle. It's just that most of the time they are motivated entirely by cynicism and greed, not by the urgency of storytelling. But Blade Runner is an odd duck in that respect; it wasn't a moneymaker, but it did cut a swath miles wide through the landscape of SF on film (and pop culture in general). So if they were going to make a follow-up of some kind, it would either have to be motivated by real need, or it would end up being as horrible and disposable a project as The Blues Brothers 2000.
Whatever the motives, I figured at some point I would watch BR'49, if only out of morbid curiosity. But it wasn't morbid curiosity that brought me to the first 7:00 showing on Thursday night at my local megamultiplex; it was genuine excitement, built by the sense that the people involved were not slumming it. By the time I walked out, that excitement had been replaced with the best kind of surprise, the kind where you say to yourself (to paraphrase a character in the film), "Now you've seen a miracle."
That said, I think it would be a bad idea to use BR'49 as an absolute model to follow — that just because Villeneuve & Cie. followed one classic with another, any other classic can be followed up on with enough sweat. I have to regard this movie as a happy aberration, and not as a blueprint, because the minute you start thinking about it as a blueprint, it becomes all the easier to not do the thing I mentioned at the top of this post — look for the genuinely new thing and create that, instead of capitalizing on the old new thing.
Still, this is a tremendous piece of work. So I won't spoil anything, I hope, by saying a few things directly about the film itself: