There’s a lot of chatter over the past couple weeks on why the movie “Bladerunner 2049” under-performed at the box-office. Was it the lack of marquee-names? The film’s almost 3-hour running time? The fact that it’s been 30+ years since the original film came out and that wasn’t all that popular to begin with. “Bladerunner” does hold a warm spot in the hearts of cineastes, primarily for its production design. The smokey, murkey, deeply layered work the Ridley Scott created with PD Lawrence Paul, DP Jorden Cronenweth, and many others was matched by an equally opaque score by Vangelis. The film’s look no doubt influence numerous neo-noir films like Matrix and the early Batman films. It was less successful as a story, evident in the fact that numerous re-edits have been released over the years.
So this was not an entirely successful film to begin with, but you’d think there would be a lot of general interest in a sequel. The real question isn’t why the film hasn’t done boffo business, but why the sequel exists to begin with. We live in desperate times in the movie business. If you’re a studio exec, you are scrambling to find any property that has any kind of public awareness. You have sent underlings to scour the studio’s library of feature films, old TV series, comic book characters or any other property with widespread name recognition.
The reason is that it’s cheaper to market a known product than to market a completely new product. The later requires expensive education to tell the general public what the new property is and who might be interested in it. That’s a tall order. A much easier task it to pluck a known property with a known core of fans, like Bladerunner, and then try to deliver a product that will broaden that audience.
This is why we get the films we get. This is why we don’t see a lot of original content in the theaters. This is why they made a movie called “Battleship.” It’s a rather sad state of affairs, but then we are rapidly approaching the dystopian era of the “Bladerunner.” At least we get flying cars.