Blade Runner doesn’t need a sequel. There have been a lot of moans and groans that Michael Green, who had a hand in the much-maligned Green Lantern, is writing a Blade Runner sequel, but it wouldn’t matter much to me if the script were being penned by Philip K. Dick himself (may he rest in peace). Blade Runner still wouldn’t need a sequel. The film isn’t just good, it’s truly iconic. And icons need to stand alone.
The look of Blade Runner is solidly a 1982 vision of the future. Set in 2019, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir gives us a neon-lit but grungy Los Angeles landscape filled with flying cars, vague Asian influences, and a whole lot of shoulder pads. Yes, the ‘80s are back in fashion, but our modern effects give off a high-gloss shine that speaks to our tastes today. Blade Runner is from the era of the VCR; we live in an era of the iPhone. It’s unlikely that Scott or any other director would willingly return to the comparatively slow processes it took to achieve the somewhat-dated effects, although those are what make help to make Blade Runner so iconic. Instead, I fear that those smoke-filled noir scenes will be filled with perfectly animated smoke curls.
Movies with iconic imagery, like Brazil and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, don’t need modern sequels, either. They pushed the envelope at the time that they were released but have weird imperfections we notice today. Imagine a sequel to Labyrinth.: There are scenes in that film in which the green screens are apparent, the puppets look like puppets, and David Bowie’s pants are seriously too tight. But all of those imperfections have made the film identifiable, unique, and cult-worthy. Please, David Bowie, if they ask you to reprise your role as Jareth, just say no.
A potential Blade Runner sequel has another hurdle to overcome: We know a lot more about genetic engineering and artificial intelligence than we did in 1982. There were only 14 years between the first printing of Philip K. Dick’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and the release of Blade Runner. That film is now more than 30 years old, and in that time, we’ve learned more about the nature of human psychology, the ability of computers to mimic human thought, and the downsides of messing around with consciousness. It’s possible that in the hands of a gifted writer, these themes could be adapted to be more present, to make more sense in 2013 than they did even way back in 1982. But, that requires a gift for subtlety, and a true understanding of what made Blade Runner so fascinating to begin with.
Given enough time and enough money, almost any movie could end up with a sequel. In the future, someone will look for a way to add another chapter to Inception, or bring back the gang for Avatar 2 (heck, James Cameron is already talking about Avatar 4). But those films have become iconic to our era. Whether you love or hate them, they will be remembered as reminiscent of how the decade looked and felt. They reflect our hopes and our fears about the future. Let’s hope future generations are kind to them.