By far, the press released that was sent out today by Alcon Entertainment is one of the strangest I've ever seen.
“Warner Bros-based Alcon Entertainment… has an offer out to Harrison Ford to reprise his celebrated role of Rick Deckard in its Ridley Scott-directed sequel to 'Blade Runner.”
There's more in the release about the script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green and how excited the producers are and how important it is for Harrison to return to the role, but I'm still just trying to wrap my head around the idea of sending out an official statement to the press to celebrate the idea that you made an offer to an actor.
I mean, let's set aside how weird it is for anyone to be treating “Blade Runner” like an important cornerstone for a franchise. If you weren't alive in 1982, you may not have any idea how big of a critical and commercial disaster the film was, but rest assured, it was. I've written extensively about that summer, maybe the single best movie summer of my life, and “Blade Runner” was a big part of that for me. I saw it six or seven times, and I was fascinated by it. I loved the novel that inspired it, but recognized that they had built their own unique thing, simply using the book to jump off, and I thought then, as I still do, that it was one of the most beautiful movies ever made, simply on an aesthetic level.
While the film has certainly grown in esteem over the years, it's still the same movie that bombed in 1982. It is slow, it is talky, it is ambiguous in a way that Hollywood does not normally embrace. It features a weak hero who does questionable things with no real redemption, and it delivers an experience that is almost the antithesis of what studios normally want from event movies.
And make no mistake… Alcon didn't buy the rights to “Blade Runner” from Bud Yorkin so they could make cerebral art films about human identity. That's not the business they're in. If they're making this film, they are planning to make it a big tentpole picture, which really isn't “Blade Runner” at all.
Look at what happened with “Prometheus.” All during production, everyone involved said all the right things. The cast looked great. Ridley Scott talked about making this grand movie full of big science fiction ideas. And what we got in the end was a muddled, beautiful-to-look-at, ideologically confused mess, with some of the dumbest horror movie beats imaginable jammed into the middle of what tried to be a serious look at the possible origins of mankind.
I want to believe that Ridley Scott will get a new “Blade Runner” right, but the various things he's said about the first film in the years since it was released all make me afraid that he's not even sure what it was about the movie that was special. This press release feels like Alcon is putting a toe in the water and practically begging for the feedback of fandom. In essence, it's free test marketing for them as they hop around and look at comments sections everywhere to figure out how people feel about this possibility.
It's also distinctly probable that Harrison Ford's people will be looking at those same comments sections and using the reaction to negotiate his price-tag for the movie. Ford's spoken a few times about it in interviews recently, saying that he'd love to return for the right film. Time must truly heal all wounds, because any time the film was mentioned for Ford in the '80s, he seemed like he seriously hated the experience with Scott as a director.
We'll see what happens, but I have to confess a good deal of skepticism towards this entire project. It feels cynical to me, like a cash grab piggybacked onto a film that the suits never liked or wanted. The first one feels like a minor miracle, and I suspect it will take another miracle for this one to be any good.