Sequels? Generally, not a big fan. The concept more often than not makes me roll my eyes. Roger Ebert observed back in 2011 “As the leadership of many studios is taken from creators and assigned to marketers, nothing is harder to get financed than an original idea, or easier than a retread.” I think it has only gotten worse. BUT! But, some of my “go-to” cheer-me-up movies were sequels: The Thin Man series of six, 1934-1947, and the Topper trio, 1937-1941. As Ebert noted in the same article “The idea of a sequel is harmless. One Thin Man movie is not enough, nor one Tarzan, James Bond, Star Trek, or Star Wars. There may have been an excess of zeal with Francis, the Talking Mule. Some sequels improve on their predecessors, such as Spider-Man II and The Dark Knight.” So I try to pay enough attention to either have my interest piqued or to follow through with the eye roll. So, what two sequels of 2017 have piqued my interest and are now on my personal “Watchlist”?
Blade Runner 2049, is expected to open 6 October 2017. Director Denis Villeneuve was hired for this sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Film Noir meets Science Fiction, Blade Runner.
T2 Trainspotting, just opened on 24 March, director Danny Boyle returns with the same core cast of Trainspotting (1996).
So, what about each of these film sequels has piqued my interest?
Blade Runner 2049
When I first heard that there was going to be a sequel to Blade Runner, a personal favorite of mine which I return to watch periodically, I was dismayed. I was expecting a lame pseudo-story, “market the brand” movie that had little or nothing to add to the original. How quickly that assumption changed when I learned that Ridley Scott was (originally) going to direct and produce it. If anyone “grocked” Blade Runner, it was Scott. Later as plans for the sequel progressed, French Canadian director Villeneuve was tapped for the director’s role:
“Scott said in November 2014 that he would no longer direct the film and would only produce. Scott also revealed that filming would begin sometime in late 2014 or 2015, and that Ford’s character will only appear in “the third act” of the sequel. On February 26, 2015, the sequel was officially confirmed, with Arrival director Denis Villeneuve hired to direct the film. Ford was confirmed to return as Deckard, as was original writer Hampton Fancher, with the film expected to enter production in mid-2016.”
The involvement of Scott, Fancher and Ford, all Blade Runner “veterans” along with the choice of French Canadian director Villeneuve, spoke volumes that this would not be just another “retread”. Now that the early trailer is out, one can see that the mood, tone, and atmosphere of the story are carried forward, this looks to be a strong movie. I like Villeneuve’s perspective on making it real:
“Villeneuve also talked about how Blade Runner 2049 used many practical effects and sets, one reason why it has such a high cost. “I can count on my fingers the amount of times we put a green screen on set,” he said. “Most of the movie was done on camera, me and cinematographer Roger Deakins worked very hard to do it that way. My actors were not walking on green screens all day long. CGI is a strong tool for backgrounds and extensions but what is around the actors needs to be as real as possible. When I watch a movie that’s mostly CGI, I’m disengaged.””
While Trainspotting is not by any stretch an “easy” film and I’ve only watched it twice, once at its release in the theater and once recently at home, it was and is a strong film, it is real, as Roger Ebert put it in 1996:
“Because no one can really understand that urgency as well as another addict, there is a shared humor, desperation and understanding among users. There is even a relief: Lies and evasions are unnecessary among friends who share the same needs. “Trainspotting” knows that truth in its very bones. The movie has been attacked as pro-drug and defended as anti-drug, but actually it is simply pragmatic. It knows that addiction leads to an unmanageable, exhausting, intensely uncomfortable daily routine, and it knows that only two things make it bearable: a supply of the drug of choice, and the understanding of fellow addicts.”
It is also a well-crafted film especially considering the low budget. And oh, um the soundtrack? Iggy Pop, Lou Reed… So when its director, Danny Boyle, decided to take a “twenty years after” look at the same group of surviving friends (remember Tommy, Kevin McKidd, falls victim to his addiction), I am interested. When he is able to gather the same actors (Ewen Bremner, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle) to play their Trainspotting characters twenty years later, I’m more interested. When the “hook” is that Mark asks Simon “So, what have you been for 20 years?” I’m even more interested. I’m sold after seeing PBS Newshour’s Art Editor, Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Boyle:
Danny Boyle Speaks With Jeffrey Brown Re T2 Trainspotting
Roger Ebert On Sequels and Unoriginality