Movie Pre-Game: Can Blade Runner 2049 Pass the Voight-Kampff Test?

What’s the Deal: The sequel nobody wanted is now the movie everybody can’t wait to see. Aside from The Big Lebowski, Blade Runner may be the biggest cult hit of all time. While we all held our noses when this was announced, Warner Brothers went all in on cast and director. With early reaction being “Best Movie of 2017,” it seems this sacrilegious sequel gamble is about to pay off BIG TIME. Can it truly match the original though, which has popped up on numerous “Best Of” lists for decades.

Daniel Cohen’s Breakdown

I LOVE the original Blade Runner. I just love being immersed in that world. With the exception of maybe Dick Tracy, it’s the best looking film I’ve ever seen. This was made in 1982. Think about that. This was well before CGI, and they were able to pull that off? I know I sound like an old fart, but I don’t care. They don’t make‘em like that anymore.

While I adore the hell out of Blade Runner, I completely understand why some get turned off by it. Despite its look, it’s a very slow, ponderous film. While it speaks to my movie sensibilities, I don’t fault anyone for their yawn-fest reaction.

This movie is also the ultimate victim of hype. It’s one of those films that nobody saw in the theater, but you were told about it years later. Chances are the friend who turned you on to Blade Runner probably made claims of it being one of the greatest movies ever made, so when you finally watched it, it had zero chance of living up to the insane hype. The same thing happened to me when I watched The Wire. We’re only human.

Like most did when this sequel got announced, I shrugged my shoulders so hard I had to go to the doctor the next day. The original is one of those films you leave alone. Don’t tempt fate. As the months went on though, and the cast got more and more ridiculous, I started to take notice. It all came to a head though when I saw Arrival, the best movie from last year, and directed by none other than Denis Villeneuve.

As we’re getting close to hours now, I’m very concerned about my hype level for this movie. It really can’t be that good, can it? While we still have Star Wars: The Last Jedi waiting in the wings, this could very well be the crown jewel of 2017.

I’m salivating to see this damn movie.

The Film’s Biggest Asset: Everything. The cast. Director. Trailers. All of it.

The Film’s Achilles Heel: Absurd hype.

Alisha Wienberger’s Breakdown

There is one thing I will religiously watch on loop when I’m feeling down: Blade Runner. The vehicle designs. The fashion. The neo-noir aesthetic. The star-crossed love story. Blade Runner really is a sci-fi chick flick at its core. But I never understood the gatekeeping that went with Blade Runner.

Don’t get me wrong. I passionately love Ridley Scott’s original film, and if 2049 flops I will delusionally defend it to my grave while crying on the inside. However, I think the reactions to its initial announcement were harsh; fans were quick to group the sequel with the Hollywood trend of reboots and remakes. And while, yes, it’s a sequel, I always felt Blade Runner had an untapped potential to become a full-fledged, fleshed out franchise. With Denis Villeneuve, we might get just that. There is a whole unexplored world in the background of Blade Runner.

I truly can’t see Blade Runner 2049 failing. Lukewarm, mediocre at worst. Denis Villeneuve is the right man for the job. When you take a step back and look at Arrival, much like Blade Runner, it was a sci-fi vehicle for a bittersweet love story. Pretty boy or not, Ryan Gosling’s casting was just as reasonable, if not logical.

After starring in Drive or Only God Forgives, he has this visual association with the whole ’80s neon aesthetic that is all the rage these days thanks to Stranger Things and the upcoming Ready Player One. If not for humanity’s impending approach to the themes of Scott’s Blade Runner or Philip K. Dick’s novel it was based on, the pop culture trends alone are enough of a justification for a sequel, which I personally believe is long overdue.

My one caveat is 2049 might be too focused on being a visual love letter to the original film, too pressured to appease fans rather than explore the world of Blade Runner with new found cultural relevance. But if you take the time to watch Blade Runner Blackout 2022, one of three animated shorts that bridge the two films together, I highly doubt this will happen, as it establishes not just a coherent timeline, but culture themes that would believably exist in the world of Rick Deckard.

The Film’s Biggest Asset: The trailers seem to emphasize the presence of what could potentially be some great lady lead roles. Not to suggest the original Blade Runner didn’t have great performances from its actresses, but it’s reassuring that the only thing that won’t attract a female demographic is Ryan Gosling’s face.

The Film’s Achilles Heel: The film will be too focused on its ’80s derived visuals, which as gorgeous and spellbinding as they are, could lead 2049 to be all bark and no bite.

Bill Bodkin’s Breakdown

I’ll keep my thoughts on the original Blade Runner to myself, as I will be publishing a column on them tomorrow.

Blade Runner 2049 has been one of my top, must-see movies since I saw the first trailer. I remember thinking “Do we really need a sequel?” before watching the trailer, and then immediately begging the movie gods for forgiveness afterwords.

Everything about this movie looks awesome — the visuals, the performances, the action the plot. I’m mega-hyped for this film. And I have incredible amount of faith in the director.

However, I have two fears — my hype is too high, and this film may be way too heady for its own good. Remember, Arrival was not an easy watch (I loved it), so we’ll have to see.

Daniel Cohen: I’ve been banging the drum for months that this is Mad Max: Fury Road all over again. Both are Rated-R. Both are Warner Brother movies. Both faced intense amount of skepticism. Both got insane early word of mouth. Both will win multiple Oscars (Yup. I’m already going there). This means the box office will probably be similar, right?

Mad Max: Fury Road clocked in at just under $155 Million domestically. That sounds about right. As this isn’t a summer movie though where competition is tight, I could see Blade Runner 2049 easily reaching the $200 Million mark.

Bottom-line: This movie is going to do really, really well.

The Ceiling: $675 Million Worldwide

The Floor: $300 Million Worldwide

Alisha Weinberger: As I mentioned, I firmly believe we are long overdue for a Blade Runner sequel or branch off of some sort. It just happened to arrive at a period of seemingly creative laziness in Hollywood. But this nostalgia craze might just be what contributes to its success as well. A double edged sword.

People love the 80s, even those who weren’t born and raised during the decade (and I’m just as guilty myself). Just take a look at Stranger Things, It or even the Emmy-winning “San Junipero” of Black Mirror. Visuals and brand alone are going to gross. But with sci-fi hit predecessors like Ex Machina, Black Mirror, or Arrival, if Villeneuve manages a new thematic spin, that surely will take the box office home.

The Ceiling: $400 Million Worldwide

The Floor: $250 Million Worldwide

Bill Bodkin: This is a tough one. I think this film is going to have a strong opening weekend — will it do the numbers IT did? No, I don’t think so. That film came out after months of nothing at the movies, and right now we’re really hitting a nice groove of well-received, and/or well-liked films, so the desperation isn’t there. The big question is staying power — can this keep strong numbers passed opening weekend? Will word of mouth from the general populace be strong enough? Arrival did well, but it was a compiler – it had a nice four week run of 10+ million. If Blade Runner gets good word of mouth, I can see this doing something similar, but with higher receipts. However, if people think the film is too wonky and out there, it could fail to meet expectations.

Ceiling: $550 million

Floor: $300 million

Daniel Cohen: Geeze Louise, where do I begin? In looking at this cast, it could be a plethora of people. From the very, very little I read (and I’m trying to avoid everything till game time), Ana de Armas has been getting a lot of praise. I know this seems like a cop out, but I’m going with Harrison Ford. At the end of the day, his scenes will be the most impactful.

Alisha Wienberger: Love or hate him, there’s something very unnerving about Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace. Assuming he’s the villain, it feels as though there’s a quiet megalomaniacal rage under his fatherly, god-like facade. I can’t help but feel he’s going to deliver a villain that will redeem his Joker.

Bill Bodkin: All hail Big Dave. That’s right, Dave Bautista isn’t just a man who walks through a pit of a danger (he walk’s alone – yes, that’s a wrestling reference) — he’s been a terrific actor. He shined in roles in Guardians, Man with the Iron Fists, and Spectre. While his role here requires his requisite physicality, I think people will be stunned at how powerful his performance is going to be.

Daniel Cohen: If I don’t see this movie soon, my head is going to explode worse than when Ray Batty squeezes the life out of poor Dr. Tyrell.

Anticipation Level: 5 Voight-Kampff Tests out of 5

Alisha Wienberger: My own fan bias aside, Blade Runner 2049 is coming in at a convenient time. 80s nostalgia is all the rage right now, and there’s more than enough current content out there to prove it. That paired with a recent upswing in sci-fi gems, 2049 going to be at least a:

Anticipation Level: 3.5 Voight-Kampff Tests out of 5.

Bill Bodkin: I bought my tickets. I’m hyped. Let’s do this.

Anticipation Level: 4.5 Voight-Kampff Tests out of 5

Total Anticipation Level: 13 out of 15 Voight-Kampff Tests

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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