Blade Runner 2049 could have a sequel, but it wasn't designed that way - and that's all thanks to the MCU. The film is, of course, a sequel in itself, coming 35 years after Ridley Scott's original sci-fi classic and set three decades later. Ryan Gosling stars as K, a new-age replicant tasked with hunting down and retiring rogue older models. That is, until his mission is thrown off-course when he's sent to investigate a brewing underground resistance and uncovers a world-changing secret.
His ensuing journey eventually unites him with original Blade Runner hero Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), leading to an expansive, high-stakes narrative full of twists and turns. Without spoiling too much, the door is certainly left open to continuing the story — something well-crafted, though not necessarily intentional.
Related: Blade Runner 2049’s Ending Explained
In a recent interview with EW, screenwriter Michael Green — who co-wrote 2049 alongside original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Francher — said that while building a franchise is always the hope, their focus was first and foremost on the film:
"So many studios and property rights holders have seen the success of Marvel, which we all adore and wonder how to replicate it. For me, the lesson of Marvel is: you don’t begin by building a universe. You begin by telling a story worth telling. And if it is a great story directed well and performed brilliantly and stays with people, it will become the black hole around which a galaxy can form. If you begin by trying to build the universe before creating a film worth watching, well, there be dragons. At no point in the creation of this story or script did anyone talk about spin-offs or how might things continue. It was always: what’s our story and make sure you have a story that is worth the title."
It's a wise approach. Marvel has built a mega-franchise with incomparable financial success, something many imitators have tried to replicate at the sacrifice of good storytelling. Green's comments makes clear that he's taken notice - logistically, a thriving franchise is any studio's goal: the movie industry is a business, and for many, that means money is the bottom line - but the writer's belief seems to be that if you concentrate on value, not ticket sales, the rest will naturally follow.
In Blade Runner 2049's case, that's at least partially shone through. It's already drawn in great reviews and been hailed as a worthy follow-up; an impressive feat, given how beloved the original is. But whether or not that will carry over to the box office remains to be seen. It opened with an underwhelming $31.5 million over the weekend, despite the hype. Perhaps word of mouth will change the tides, but even with a narrative ripe for continuation, Warner Bros. et al will need to see financial payoff in order to greenlight another film.
Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see filmmakers putting the emphasis on quality, not churning out a cash cow. And, as far as storytelling goes, it's paid off.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) release date: Oct 06, 2017