The success of Tron: Legacy proved that even a cult fanbase vehemently opposed to anyone appropriating their beloved memories will nevertheless give in to nostalgia and their overwhelming curiosity, and turn up alongside everyone else. And so here we are, looking at the prospect of expanding Blade Runner into prequels, sequels, and other skin-job simulations of the original. In a way, this became inevitable the second Tron: Legacy crossed the $100 million mark.
Now, replicants are like any other machine—they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not our problem. So here’s the silver lining in this news: The deal between Alcon Entertainment and Blade Runner executive producer Bud Yorkin absolutely excludes the rights to remake the original—and Alcon co-founders Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove have assured that they “would never want to remake the original,” adding that it’s a “personal favorite film for both of us. We recognize the responsibility we have to do justice to the memory of the original with any prequel or sequel we produce.” So to that end, they’re concentrating on coming up with a new story that actually justifies returning to it, and one that’s “neither too close to or too far from the story laid out in the original” rather than a crass continuation. So in all likelihood, any sort of sequel would not pick up on the storyline of what happens to Rachel and Deckard, for example, like the one that Eagle Eye writer Travis Wright was pitching a few years back—and that’s definitely a relief.
And at the moment, Alcon seems more preoccupied with the idea of a “prequel” anyway, one that would fill in the blanks on a story that we pretty much already gleaned from the film’s opening crawl. Still, they seem well aware that’s its own tricky proposition, acknowledging in particular that setting any story before Blade Runner’s 2019 timeline would move it fairly close to our present. However, they believe that doesn’t matter so much because “technology changes quickly” and, besides, Blade Runner is set in “an alternate universe.”
All in all, Alcon seems determined to approach this project very carefully, and ensure that it doesn’t piss all over the Blade Runner legacy, and it’s even left the door open for Ridley Scott to return and direct—although they obviously haven’t met with him yet. For his part, Scott has danced around the idea of returning to Blade Runner recently with his since-abandoned Purefold web series—and of course, he more or less remade Blade Runner himself like a half-dozen times with all his various director’s cuts—and his sort-of Alien prequel Prometheus confirms he’s not completely opposed to this kind of expansion. Considering he wasn’t a part of this deal from the beginning, however, we’d be really surprised if he was game.
Here’s a further admonition: The gulf between intention and execution is huge, and Hollywood has a long history of promising one thing and delivering another, particularly when it comes to “honoring” films with sequels. It’s also worth noting that, while Alcon’s founders may be huge Blade Runner fans, their personal track record mostly includes The Book Of Eli, The Blind Side, and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants—all grim, post-apocalyptic visions, yes, but not necessarily reassuring to fans. Also, this is a “multiplatform” deal, and Alcon says its plans for what it’s now calling the Blade Runner “franchise” are “not limited to one medium only,” meaning it also includes the possibility of Blade Runner TV shows, comic books, video games, Col. Tyrell’s Fried Chicken—in short, all the sort of ancillary oversaturation that tends to make a special property way less special. As a wise man once pointed out, any attempt at further recombination tends to “give rise to an error in replication, so that the newly formed DNA strand carries with it a mutation.” Memories. We’re talking about memories. Please don’t ruin them.