Last year, the Blade Runner sequel that we'd been waiting years to see finally arrived in the form of Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve's journey back to the legendary world originally brought to life by Ridley Scott in 1982. While anticipation for the film was high among many diehard fans and cinephiles, 2049 ended up getting a rather mixed response (much like its predecessor, although perhaps a bit kinder). While critics seem to have largely enjoyed the film, and the fans who like it seem to really like it, the box office appetite for the sequel never really took hold.
The film's had a similar mixed reception from those involved with the original. Scott, original co-writer Hampton Fancher, and star Harrison Ford all signed on to return for the sequel, but even Scott wound up calling the film "way too long." Now, original Blade Runner co-star Rutger Hauer—who became a sci-fi icon thanks to his role as replicant Roy Batty—has weighed in, and he's not a fan.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter during the Berlin Film Festival over the weekend, Hauer did not mince words when asked what he thought of the sequel. The short version is he seems to view 2049 as a cynical exercise in capitalizing on love for the original film. Here's the long version:
"It looks great but I struggle to see what that film was necessary. I just think if something is so beautiful, you should just leave it alone and make another film," he said. "Don't lean with one elbow on the success of that was earned over 30 years in the underground.
"In many ways, Blade Runner wasn't about the replicants, it was about what does it mean to be human? It's like E.T.. But I'm not certain what the question was in the second Blade Runner. It's not a character-driven movie and there's no humor, there's no love, there's no soul. You can see the homage to the original. But that's not enough to me. I knew that wasn't going to work. But I think it's not important what I think."
Now, you could argue that Blade Runner 2049 does indeed have its moments of character-driven emotion and soul if you happen to be a fan, but all art is subjective, and Hauer clearly didn't feel those things when he saw the film. He also never seems to have felt the film was necessary or even an interesting idea in the first place.
Hauer's thoughts on the needless sequelizing of Blade Runner also extend to his general view of the modern blockbuster landscape, a place where commodification reigns and films don't get a chance to simply exist as works of art. It's a common complaint, but Hauer lays it out with the perspective of an industry veteran.
"The big movies now are such an industry where the money has to come back as soon as possible.With a little movie you have a little more room to move," he said. "The eye of the director and the point of view of the filmmaker has suffered (in big films) in the past decades. I look for hard balls. And I don't see much balls in most films today."
Whether you agree with Hauer or not, it's always fun to see a cinema legend who feels free to speak so frankly about film. Hauer, after decades of work and dozens of performances, has earned it.