Blade Runner 2049 was originally four hours long and was going to be split into two parts. Denis Villeneuve's sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, was an ambitious project from the get-go. The filmmaker attempted to capture the same magic that made the original film - loosely based on Philip K. Dick's acclaimed novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - so special, while also further developing Rick Deckard's story and helping flesh out a world that could be visited again.
Warner Bros.' long-awaited sequel finally arrived this past October and was critically successful, with the film being cited as an admirable follow-up to Scott's movie. However, it also followed the original film in being a box office failure, grossing $224 million globally against an estimated production budget of $150 million. It's possible the movie's secretive marketing was responsible for the sequel flopping at the box office, though it's also possible that the movie's R-rating and near three-hour runtime had something to do with it. Plus, there's the fact that not many people saw the first movie either. Still, if the studio had gone with the original assembly cut of the film, then Blade Runner 2049 might not have even earned as much as it did.
In an interview with Provideo Coalition, Blade Runner 2049 editor Joe Walker mentioned that the film's assembly cut was a whopping four hours long. The initial idea was to have an intermission midway through the story, with a separate title for the second half. After some time, they ended up paring down the film to the 163-minute length that released in theaters.
"The first assembly of the film was nearly four hours and for convenience sake and – to be honest – my bladder’s sake, we broke it into two for viewings. That break revealed something about the story – it’s in two halves. There’s K discovering his true past as he sees it and at the halfway mark he kind of loses his virginity. (laughs) The next morning, it’s a different story, about meeting your maker and ultimately sacrifice – 'dying is the most human thing we do'. Oddly enough both halves start with eyes opening. There’s the giant eye opening at the beginning of the film and the second when Mariette wakes up and sneaks around K’s apartment, the beginning of the 1st assembly part 2. We toyed with giving titles to each half but quickly dropped that."
While it's rare for major movies to be longer than three hours, it's not unheard of - though it is rare for them to have breaks. The last major film to feature an intermission was Quentin Tarantino's 2015 film, The Hateful Eight. The theatrical version clocked in at 168 minutes of footage, whereas the 70mm roadshow version contained approximately an extra 19 minutes of footage as well as a brief intermission to allow audiences to stretch their legs.
Blade Runner 2049 was slow, but its ending leaves room for an extra story to be told, should the studio decide to move forward with another installment. And while Villeneuve and the creative team managed to get everything they wanted into the film, fans would surely like to see the original assembly cut as well.