Roger Deakins, it appears that you have outdone yourself. And since you’re Roger Deakins this means everything.
The new trailer for Blade Runner 2049 premiered this morning, online as well as at a Facebook Live Q&A event held at the IMAX headquarters in Los Angeles. I was there to watch the Q&A with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), and to see this new footage in a theater because – I can say with absolutely confidence – that is how the Blade Runner 2049 trailer should be seen. The scale and depth of the imagery is not done justice on a computer screen. Not even close.
I have no way of knowing whether or not the story is any good, or even – beyond the generalities – what the plot is about. I have my theories and I’ll get to one of them in a minute. But what does seem clear is that Blade Runner 2049 has given Roger Deakins, one of the greatest cinematographers working today (or ever), a canvas on which to paint some of his most fantastic imagery.
If you don’t know his work, Roger Deakins was the director of photography on such films as The Shawshank Redemption, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Skyfall and Sicario. He’s working in a more imaginative realm than usual in Blade Runner 2049. In the Facebook Live Q&A, Denis Villeneuve said, “Roger is always focusing of course on the logic of light, and naturalism, but this time – and that’s a kind of expression Roger would hate – but he went wild, okay? The thing is that he was allowed to go more in an impressionistic way. He was, because of the nature of the project, allowed to do things that I think he was not daring to do in the past.”
“And honestly,” Denis Villeneuve concluded. “I can tell you right now that it’s going to be… it is now one of his most stunning works, and I’m very proud of what Roger did on [Blade Runner] 2049.”
What we get from the trailer, beyond that gorgeous imagery, is an enigmatic look at what will presumably be another high-concept, noir-ish mystery. The official synopsis reads as follows: “Thirty years after the events of the first film, 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.”
But it’s Blade Runner, regardless of the year the story takes place, and so audiences are probably going to be eager to dissect this trailer for clues about who in the cast, whether or not they even realize it, is a replicant. You may recall that in the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott used eye lights to make replicants appear otherworldly, and to tease that Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford’s protagonist) might also be a replicant with false memories of a human life. Here’s an example…
Now, take a look at the last shot of the trailer, and take a close look at Ryan Gosling’s eyes…
Coincidence? Almost certainly not. The makers of Blade Runner 2049 have obviously – if this trailer is any indication – gone to great lengths to replicate the look and feel of the original film and the odds that the eye light trick, one of the most famous images from Blade Runner, would have escaped their attention are a million to one.
But it may be an intentional misdirect, so don’t consider this so much a theory as a specific observation to keep in mind for later. You may want to file it right next to the anecdote Ryan Gosling told in the Facebook Live Q&A about Denis Villeneuve’s direction, to imagine that Harrison Ford was on set with him, and to consider whether Ford would approve of Gosling’s performance. Then consider that Ryan Gosling doesn’t look entirely unlike a young Harrison Ford, and consider that if Deckard was once a replicant that there could, conceivably, have been more…
Hmmm… I guess we’ll find out more when Blade Runner 2049 comes out on October 6, 2017.