Should Warner Bros. Produce ‘Blade Runner 2’?

Harrison Ford recently expressed strong interest in a Blade Runner sequel on Reddit during an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session. The 71-year-old actor, best known for his iconic roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, stated that he was "curious and excited" about the prospect of filming a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi film, and that he was "anxious" to work with director Ridley Scott again.

The original film -- based on Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- wasn't a huge box office hit for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) /Warner Bros. -- it only grossed $34 million on a production budget of $28 million.

Nonetheless, Blade Runner was positively received (receiving a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and Harrison Ford's steep climb to stardom made the film a cult hit over the last three decades. Warner Bros. officially greenlit the film two years ago.

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982). Source: Medium.com.

Understanding the business of Philip K. Dick
Although a second Blade Runner film could be a much bigger hit than the original, the project will have to overcome some major creative hurdles.

First and foremost, Philip K. Dick's stories generally work better as one-shot films. After Dick died in 1982, shortly after the theatrical release of Blade Runner, his work became a creative goldmine for Hollywood studios.

Let's take a look at five of the most well-known adaptations of his work: Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) Total Recall, Fox's (NASDAQ: FOX  ) Minority Report, Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA  ) /Paramount's Paycheck and Next, and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) /Universal's The Adjustment Bureau.

Film (Year)

Original Story (Year)

Production budget

Global box office

Total Recall (1990)

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1966)

$65 million

$261 million

Minority Report (2002)

The Minority Report (1956)

$102 million

$358 million

Paycheck (2003)

Paycheck (1953)

$60 million

$96 million

Next (2007)

The Golden Man (1956)

$70 million

$76 million

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Adjustment Team (1954)

$50 million

$128 million

Source: Wikipedia.

It's easy to see why Hollywood keeps adapting Philip K. Dick's works into films -- they're profitable. Dick's stories also tend to be well received by audiences, since they often feature mind-bending questions regarding existence and shocking twist endings, both of which translate well into smart sci-fi films.

Minority Report (2002). Source: Cinemablography.

Yet as profitable as the film adaptations are, attempts to continue the stories in books and on film have been less successful. Author K.W. Jeter attempted to fill Dick's huge shoes by reviving the Blade Runner franchise with three new novels published between 1995 and 2000. Overall critical response to the books was mixed -- Entertainment Weekly rated the first book a "C-" and it currently holds a lackluster 3-star rating on Amazon.

In 1999, the TV show Total Recall 2070 attempted to blend elements of Total Recall and Blade Runner into a single show. The show, which was broadcast on Canadian TV channel CHCH-TV and CBS' (NYSE: CBS  ) Showtime, was canceled after a single season.

Most importantly, Blade Runner is not a long-running blockbuster franchise like Star Wars or Indiana Jones. While the film has a cult following, it's unclear if a big-budget sequel could attract more viewers than the original.

A lack of creative direction
Although Warner Bros. is reportedly interested in making Blade Runner 2, no one seems to know how to make it. One key problem is the ambiguous ending, which implies that Rick Deckard, a man tasked to identify and capture androids, is actually one himself. Launching a direct sequel off of that ending would be as a silly as making a sequel of Inception, which reveals the fate of the spinning top.

Meanwhile, completely rebooting Blade Runner, which IMDb ranks as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made, is unnecessary. Many aspects of Blade Runner -- the Asian influences in future Los Angeles, Vangelis' synthesizer soundtrack, and a younger Harrison Ford -- will simply be lost in a modern reboot. Warner's answer to this creative conundrum is baffling -- the studio has reportedly hired Michael Green, one of the four writers of Warner Bros.' disastrous Green Lantern, to pen the script.

Letting Ridley Scott direct the sequel or reboot could also be a mistake. Since the release of Blade Runner, several other directors have admirably recreated Dick's dystopian worlds on film. Of these, Steven Spielberg's creative vision in Minority Report was arguably the most impressive. As seen in A.I., Spielberg also excels at fleshing out the theme of identity among robots and humans -- a key theme of Dick's novel, which isn't as deeply explored in Scott's Blade Runner.

Steven Spielberg's A.I. (2001)

Therefore, handing the franchise to Spielberg and a new writer, instead of Scott and Green, might breathe fresh life into the film.

The business of 1980s remakes and sequels
As I've stated previously, Hollywood keeps banging on the nostalgia button by releasing sequels or reboots to well-known 1980s franchises. It's easy to see why -- the children of the 1980s are the adults of today, and everyone loves to feel like a kid again. That's why The Goonies, Top Gun, Gremlins, Poltergeist, and Short Circuit could be headed to the big screen again.

So what do you think, fellow sci-fi fans? Is a Blade Runner sequel necessary, or is this just yet another example of Hollywood milking nostalgia for all it's worth?

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