Blade Runner’s Sequel Sickness

Certain films are so singular in vision, so spectacular in their realization that they’re fundamentally immune to the disease of sequel-itis, or its often more virulent form, prequel-itis. Among those in this rarified canon are Citizen Kane (of course), Casablanca (duh) and, until last week, Blade Runner.

Whether or not one agrees that the futuristic depiction of dystopian Los Angeles circa 2019 belongs in the company of Welles’ and Curtiz’s respective masterpieces is subject to debate (mind you, it made the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list), but what’s not is that, to a certain generation, Blade Runner is something of a holy relic. And now it’s getting some cinematic siblings.

Original Blade Runner producer Bud Yorkin, who retained the rights to the 1982 flick starring Harrison Ford as a hardboiled detective on the trail of a band of rogue bio-engineered androids, is concluding negotiations for both a prequel and a sequel with Alcon Entertainment, a 13-year-old company perhaps best known for the Sandra Bullock weeper The Blind Side and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

The film deal, reports online industry rag The Wrap, also has a provision for “other projects,” which suggests possible spillover into television (paging J. J. Abrams) and video games.

The original film is an adaptation of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, penned for the screen by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, who, like Dick, has some Bay Area provenance. Who will write the sequel? A computer, perhaps? Meanwhile, producers are said to be shopping for an auteur of similar gravitas to Ridley Scott, who delivered the original in three different edits, no less.

Batman rebooter Christopher Nolan has been mentioned in the trades as a candidate. Nolan’s possible participation makes the notion a bit more palatable; as a card-carrying Gen X-er, he should have a native appreciation for cyberpunk and an understanding that, to many, Blade Runner is as profound a statement of existential yearning as Picasso’s Guernica is about the horrors of war. But Guernica 2: Horse Returns is not coming to a museum near you, so why trifle with an icon like Blade Runner?

In a statement released to the media, Alcon co-CEOs Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove explained, “We recognize the responsibility we have to do justice to the memory of the original with any prequel or sequel we produce. We have long-term goals for the franchise, and are exploring multiplatform concepts, not just limiting ourselves to one medium only.”

But do they know they’re replicants?

Here’s our tribute to the films of 1982…