The decades-long debate about ‘Blade Runner’ ends for good on January 12, 2018

While I remain unconvinced that we need a sequel to Blade Runner, we now have a release date for the still-untitled film, which Denis Villeneuve will direct. January 12, 2018 is a long way off, and my first question is why Warner and Sony are aiming for what is traditionally a dog of a release date when they haven't even started rolling film yet.

The press release that went out this morning basically just restated all the information we've already heard about the film. Ryan Gosling will co-star with Harrison Ford in the film that Hampton Fancher co-wrote with Michael Green based on a story by Fancher and Ridley Scott. The film is set several decades after the original film, which seems like it would have to be the case if Harrison Ford's in the movie.

Right now, we live in the world of franchises when you're talking about the studios and what they're making. Everything is a brand. Everything is fodder for spin-offs and sequels and prequels and reboots and a constant nonstop ride through the Human Centipede of IP management, no matter how unlikely. I don't think every movie automatically needs a sequel, or can support one, and I'm very confused about why Ridley Scott is involved in this.

If you've never read Future Noir, it's one of the best books ever written about the making of a particular movie. Paul M. Sammon did a remarkable job of gathering information about how everyone involved with the film contributed to the transformation of Philip K. Dick's original novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? into the 1982 film that has become a cult classic after a disappointing initial release. In that book, it's clear that Ridley Scott had one vision of the film, Harrison Ford had another, and writers Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples had yet another, and part of what makes the film great is that friction between those visions.

After the discovery of the workprint in the early '90s, Ridley Scott began to tinker with Blade Runner, and in doing so, he finally made explicit something that was kept ambiguous in the original theatrical cut. I would argue that the original film never connected the dots on Rick Deckard being a replicant himself, and that the film is undermined by making him one. I would also argue that Ridley Scott is well within his rights to put together a cut that explores that idea more fully. One of the reasons I don't have any problem with the multiple cuts is that Warner Bros has always gone out of their way to make the various versions available to the public instead of letting Ridley Scott replace earlier versions completely. If George Lucas had handled Star Wars the same way, it would have robbed fans of much of their ammunition against him.

If Ridley Scott's preferred version is that Deckard is indeed a Replicant, then his film's going to have to address how Deckard lived longer than any Replicant was ever supposed to live. That could even turn out to be the central mystery of the film. But whichever way they go, they're going to have to put an answer to the first film together, and that's a shame. They're ending one of the things that has made the film such a pleasure to share and discuss over the years. I feel like the same thing is true about Ridley Scott's return to the Alien universe, and I am sort of dreading Alien: Covenant, even with the unexpectedly delightful news that Danny McBride will be one of the film's stars.

I think Villeneuve is a very strong visual filmmaker, and he has done great work with the actors in his films like Prisoners and Sicario. Gosling and Ford together is an exciting combination. It really does sound like an exciting overall package. I'm just having some trouble with the combination of that weird January release date and this film's overall impact on the story told by the original.

The Untitled Blade Runner Sequel opens January 12, 2018.