Science fiction fans can’t wait for Blade Runner 2049, the highly anticipated sequel to the classic 1982 film.
In the original movie, a bounty hunter is tasked with gunning down renegade synthetic humans. The film offered a quirky mix of old-fashioned film-noir, the dark, moody dramas popular in the 1940s and ’50s in movies like The Maltese Falcon (1941), and futuristic dystopian sci-fi flicks like Star Wars director George Lucas’s first cinematic effort, THX 1138 (1971). Other filmmakers tried their hand at mixing up these two movie forms, including Alex Proyas, who directed two underappreciated films, The Crow (1994), and Dark City (1998), featuring a young, super creepy Kiefer Sutherland. But, Blade Runner director Ridley Scott clearly owned the title of king of “neo-noir science fiction.” But then he, like the film’s enigmatic anti-hero Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), at the end turned his back and walked away. After Blade Runner, Scott went on to make dozens of movies—none returned to the neo-noir science fiction theme.
But now Scott is back to the future with a sequel where, according to the studio “a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.”
Beyond a new plot twist and more neo-noir science fiction, what can Scott bring to the story to make movie-goers want to go to his movie?
Here is a history of six sci-fi synthetic human films that might give a clue as to what direction Scott might take his next story.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Unlike robots that look like humans (such as the 1989 film Cyborg) or aliens that appear human-like (like the 1995 Species), replicants are organic life that take a human-like form. One of the first and most famous efforts to scare us with people who look like us was the black-and-white B-movie where a small-town doctor discovers his town is being replaced by an army of emotionless duplicates that spring from oversized pea pods. This film is still worth a watch—far better than either the 1978 or 1998 remakes.
2. The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
In a devastated post-nuclear world, the surviving humans are served by blue robots with metallic eyes that look like Lady Gaga. The leader of a racist-like group called “The Order of Flesh and Blood” fears the humanoids might try to take over the world. He launches a terrorist campaign to stamp out the “clickers.” Surprise twist—the leader discovers he is himself an advanced replicant, so human-like he doesn’t know he is not human. Blade Runner dabbled with this plot line, including a character called Rachel (Sean Young) who doesn’t know she isn’t human. It’s likely that Scott will have to come up with a better plot twist than that for his film. Though he might try playing up the racism angle.
3. The Stepford Wives (1975)
Who wouldn’t want the prefect wife? In Stepford they provide you a synthetic one and scrap the original. This film, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, played with the idea that the greatest threat from synthetic humans is the loss of humanity. That is a theme that is unlikely to be picked up in the Blade Runner sequel. Scott’s replicants are all desperately trying to be more human. By the way, in 2004, they remade The Stepford Wives as a comedy. Skip that one.
4. Alien (1979)
Blade Runner wasn’t Scott’s first start with replicants. One of the returning characters in a series of sci-fi films done by the director is a synthetic. In the first, and scariest of the films, a space cargo crew gets decimated by an alien life form, thanks in part to the science officer, a replicant-like creature named Ash, who sabotages efforts to kill the alien. Scott liked synthetics so much he brought one back for the sequel Aliens (1986). This time the artificial human named Bishop is a good guy.
5. Blade Runner (1982)
There is no use seeing the sequel unless you watch Deckard, the original blade runner, hunt down human look-alikes. One persistent rumor concerning this film is that Deckard himself was replicant—a synthetic human. I doubt it.
6. Morgan (2016)
This recent movie borrows from the original premise of Blade Runner. A synthetic human tries to be more human by killing its way into humanity. A team of scientists tries to breed a teenager from an industrial program designed to build synthetic assassins. Let’s just say this science project does not end well. Doubt there is much inspiration here for Scott. Morgan is really derivative of the ideas introduced in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the 1968 science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick upon which the first Blade Runner film was based.
Who knows where Scott will take his next replicant tale. Maybe these movies will give a clue. We’ll see in October.