Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 has officially been rated R – just like its predecessor. Arriving in theaters 35 years after Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking Blade Runner, the anticipated sequel tells the story of Officer K, a new Blade Runner in the LAPD who uncovers a secret that has the potential to throw what remains of society in disarray. K’s quest leads him to meeting up with original Blade Runner protagonist Rick Deckard, who has been missing for several decades.
Despite much of the followup’s story being heavily guarded by secrecy, Villeneuve has been open about the immense pressure he feels adding to the legacy of something so beloved, challenging himself to honor what came before and get this new movie right. Star Ryan Gosling, who portrays K, is impressed with Villeneuve’s vision, promising that 2049 stays “loyal” to the seminal first film, while offering viewers a “more brutal” depiction of the universe’s futuristic Los Angeles. Based on those comments and the trailers, many fans assumed an R rating was in the cards, and now that’s been confirmed.
A new bulletin posted by the Motion Picture Association of America lists several new film ratings. Blade Runner 2049 was given the R classification for violence, some sexuality and nudity and language. This development will surely please many viewers who were looking forward to 2049, as it guarantees Villeneuve did not deliver a “watered down” version of the original and is keeping the property true to its roots.
In this era of franchise and tentpole filmmaking, the PG-13 rating is highly-coveted by studio executives, since that is seen as being widely accessible for several quadrants of a moviegoing audience. However, there has been no shortage of R-rated box office hits in recent years, most notably comic book adaptations Deadpool and Logan – whose successes illustrated a high demand for adult-orientated genre entertainment. In all likelihood, Blade Runner 2049 will be able to add to that growing list. Though the 1982 original was notoriously a commercial bomb, that film’s stature has greatly increased in the years since and it’s now regarded as a sci-fi classic. Plus, the star power of Harrison Ford and Gosling should be enough to fuel a strong opening weekend for 2049 as it takes advantage of limited competition.
What’s most important here is Warner Bros. allowed Villeneuve creative freedom to make the film he wanted. It would be extremely difficult to do a faithful Blade Runner followup within the restrictions imposed by the PG-13 rating. After receiving an Oscar nomination for his work on Arrival and building a résumé of several other acclaimed drama, Villeneuve has earned tremendous clout. Hopefully, 2049 continues his career-long hot streak and can post box office numbers the original never could.
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