First off, congratulations to Roger Deakins!! Dude’s a legendary Cinematographer with fourteen Academy Award nominations and one, I repeat, one win for his work on 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. The film is such a visual juggernaut it’s worth a watch even you don’t get down on science fiction. Deakins saw glory a couple weeks ago adding that golden statue to his already long list of achievements. His repeated snubbing ranks amongst the greatest of “is this the year?” Oscar storylines to date. If it were to be a sexier category say… Best Director, the story would’ve garnered attention like a film industry equivalent of a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl victory.
No joke, Blade Runner 2049 was amazing. How was it not in the running for Best Picture? I even wrote a review of the movie back when it came out. Still learning how to do those by the way. Stay with me people, I promise not to disappoint.
So, even though BR2049 didn’t crush box office records, the film was well generally received by critics and audiences. It made an impact. It reintroduced a genre to fresh generation of movie goers. But we all know the business, is a business. and when people are fans of one thing, usually a push for something similar to that one thing, just not entirely similar. A piece of art, influencing another, or in studio terms, a money making opportunity.
Want a great, easy to follow example from the last ten years? Paul Blart: Mall Cop, released in January of 2009. Kevin James in a family friendly comedy that made enough money to warrant a sequel. Then three months later, Observe And Report arrives at the theater. Another story centered around a shopping mall security guard. Same basic character occupation only way darker with humor completely inappropriate for children.
Paul Blart for its PG rating was completely inappropriate for children, cause it sucked!!
Take 2009’s mall cop renaissance and apply it to a new trend in modern futuristic mega city detective noir, or what I’m calling “Hollywood’s Blade Runner Thing”. Let’s face it, just like in relationships, if you’re doing it a couple times… you’ve got a full on “thing”.
I’m pretty sure that if the studio wanted to make a Blade Runner movie every year they would, taking any chance to cash in on an already established brand. Cue the Hollywood’s run out of ideas argument. Instead, producers will hunt down various intellectual properties that are similar at their core, but ultimately different. Why pay for licensing or naming rights when you can simply find something else in the same vein and pray that audiences are quick to label your work as the next (insert title here).
Hopefully your mind went right away to Netflix’s Mute, and Altered Carbon. Yep… Netflix is really trying to ride this train as far as they can. Don’t get me wrong, when the final product is really good, nobody cares. However, when critics are devouring something like a shark would me, you spend more time wondering if the whole experience was satisfying.
Both Altered Carbon and Mute follow a tall, blonde, handsomely Scandinavian actor through a detective-esque tale set in a cranked up to eleven futuristic landscape. CGI buildings, flying cars, huge AF billboards, are all there. We even get those beautifully haunting shots of our main character walking alone, looking isolated from the plethora of activity surrounding them. You couldn’t be more Blade Runner if a replicant was serving Joel Kinnaman noodles in the rain.
At the heart of these projects is a basic somebody looking for something story with clues, twists, turns, and spikes in the plot to keep the audience on their toes. Altered Carbon features a guy investigating the murder of a super rich dude capable of living forever. (There’s this whole element of body exchange I’ll spare you for now) Mute is more of a man in search of a love interest gone missing. Then the story unravels from there. Each taking a page from the film noir playbook and attempt to make it their own.
Next, this one I’d really want to know more about is the use of sex. There is a lot of hooking up with robots in the future. Granted we’re probably closer to it than we think. Blade Runner 2049 went for a combination tech/real person angle which compared to Altered Carbon and Mute is like a kids movie. Altered Carbon opts for a sinister Eyes Wide Shut approach including synthetic humanoids and virtual interaction. No joke, there’s some intense dark ass stuff going on here that ultimately makes a small statement about society as a whole, but for real, be prepared. Mute is in the same neighborhood as mechanical integration into sex but since the setting is closer to present time than Altered Carbon, the tech or situations aren’t as extreme.
We have two examples, from one network, and because of the need for content, there will be more. Hell, Amazon cut the middle man and outright bought Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, a British anthology series based on the late author’s work. I don’t think much time will pass before every network slate features a down and out sleuth solving crimes in the future. Modeling entertainment after Blade Runner could easily the snap bracelet of 2017 for networks and streaming services. If the show/movie is good, nobody cares. But if it’s bad, you’ll have audiences feeling conned. “I thought this was supposed to be like Blade Runner” or whatever. Which is why when trying to recreate the magic of a film as classic as Blade Runner, you can’t miss.
By now you’re probably thinking of similar examples. Believe me they go way beyond the television and film industries but do notice how every network is looking for “their” Game Of Thrones. When I say that I mean, medieval and successful. But how many have actually stick around? Remember The Bastard Executioner on FX? Neither does FX. Camelot on Starz? It’s like when you try Voodoo Doughnut, nothing else compares. At the very least, we should all be happy Hollywood got itself out of their “Mad Men” phase.
Who knows who’s going to make the next attempt to have their own Blade Runner. Is Starz going to be next? HBO? What would be the source material? There’s plenty of books out there? Maybe the next thirty year sequel will spark an new trend for others to capitalize on? Maybe it never happens again? Yeah right.
By Adam Chmielewski
Photo Credits- Netflix/Warner Brothers