Blade Runner 2049 has, against all the odds, made it to the big screen. But, before you head out for Denis Villeneuve's epic, should you watch the original?
The first Blade Runner was released in 1982 to a somewhat muted reception - reviews were mixed at best and it bombed at the box office - but in the 35 years since it's graduated from underground cult curio to bonafide sci-fi classic. Those behind the sequel have said that you can go into Blade Runner 2049 without any prior knowledge of the original and understand it completely, but how true is that? Here's a spoiler-free take on watching (or rewatching) Blade Runner 1982.
Is Watching The Original Essential?
The creator's statements are pretty on the mark; obviously, Blade Runner 2049 takes place in the world of the original and boasts the return of Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, but the story aims to exist in a standalone - or at least self-building - way. Indeed, in the early portion, Villeneuve does a great job of establishing the key facets of the orirginal, which serves as a refresher for those who've seen it and gets those who haven't up to speed.
That said, Blade Runner and its sequel are more than just simple narrative exercises. They thrive on world-building and tonal exploration of heady themes, and as a thematic continuation there's definitely worth in acquainting yourself with what Blade Runner is about. There are also quite a few details that inform the plot and emotional beats that it helps to be familiar with (which we'll get to shortly).
Which Version of the Film Should You Watch To Best Understand 2049?
If you are revisiting Blade Runner, a big question is which version - there's a myriad of different cuts from between 1982 and 2007, each with subtle differences and alterations to the story. Truth be told, they're all broadly the same movie, but some are evidently better than others.
For 2049, Denis Villeneuve has said The Final Cut, the last version released in 2007, is the one that's canon for the sequel. That said, he's also cited the Theatrical Cut as his favorite and some of the ideas more prevalent in it are at the forefront of his film; if you've never seen that version, it may make for good alternate viewing.
Read More: Which Is The Best Version of Blade Runner?
What Information Do You Have To Know?
If you haven't been able to rewatch the film, what do you need to know ahead of Blade Runner 2049? Allow us to explain, although first a note: this is spoiler-free information, but does hint towards elements of character's arc, so tread lightly.
The premise of Blade Runners - cops hunting down rogue replicants - is clearly set up in the 2049's opening text and the world stands by itself. What watching the original provides is story. Chiefly, you need to know the endpoint - Deckard meeting and running away with replicant Rachael - and be somewhat acquainted with the potential of him too being an artificial human.
Knowing characters like Gaff and that the film is, primarily, about the notion of what it means to be human will also provide a strong grounding.
Should You Watch The Short Films?
Blade Runner isn't the only potential pre-reading for 2049. In the build-up to the sequel's release, Warner Bros. produced three short films that fill in gaps between the two feature films, giving a taste of new characters and highlighting the changes in the world.
However, it's hard to say you have to watch them to understand the new movie. All of the information they provide is made clear in the first ten minutes or so - the events of two of them summarized in the film's opening text, and the third resolved very soon after - so any knowledge advantage is quickly spent.
You don't have to watch Blade Runner to appreciate Blade Runner 2049, but it will help you get a full understanding of what it's about. Besides, Blade Runner's a great film regardless of being sequelized; there's a lot worse you can do with your evening than give it a watch.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) release date: Oct 06, 2017