‘Blade Runner 2049’s’ box office shortcomings are being blamed on a lack of younger viewers and bad marketing. I’m just glad it didn’t suck.
If you paid attention to the box office reports last weekend, you would have thought Blade Runner 2049 was a fool’s errand. Sure it’s made over $90 million worldwide so far, but on a rumored $185 million budget it’s underperforming. Or in internet speak: it’s a DISASTER!
According to the blogosphere, there are many takeaways about why it underperformed. The most cited:
- It’s near 3 hour-long running time scared off audiences.
- It only appealed to middle-aged dudes due to its lack of female characters (never mind that my wife and female friends who have seen it all loved it, or that the theatre I saw it in was split fairly even gender-wise).
- Warner Bros. was foolish to green-light a big budget sequel to a film that bombed when it came out way back in 1982.
- The marketing team failed to adequately promote it.
- Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling aren’t bankable movie stars (yeah, they said that.)
- Those damn kids today haven’t seen the original and didn’t bother showing up.
DISCLAIMER: if you are a millennial who loves Blade Runner 2049, forgive me for lumping you into this group.
Perhaps there is validity to all these points (the marketing in particular). But I don’t care if you don’t care about Blade Runner 2049. I didn’t care when people didn’t care about Blade Runner in 1982, when I was only one of a handful of kids in my elementary school who wouldn’t shut up about it (thanks for taking me to an R-rated movie, dad!).
It was a flop upon its release, confounding critics and confusing audiences, who thought it was too slow and disjointed (and were expecting something more Star Wars-y from Harrison Ford).
Do I think I’m too cool for school for getting it right the first time? Sure, why not. I can be insufferable like that.
But time was on the film’s side, helped by director Ridley Scott’s 1992 director’s cut, which nixed a tacked-on happy ending and wonky narration. It became a cult classic.
Blade Runner changed my life, and I’m not even sure how. The rain-soaked visuals, Vangelis’ hypnotic score, the whole otherworldly vibe and questions on the moral implications of creating artificial intelligence. It did a number on my brain. I watched it incessantly. I still do. It never really left my head. Anytime I’m in a rainstorm at night while city lights glow, it’s right there with me.
This made me worry that a sequel made 35 years later wouldn’t stick the landing for me. That it would dumb down the source material. Over-explain things. Reveal if Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard was a replicant (a question I would prefer never be answered: I won’t tell you if it was or not). Blade Runner has existed just fine on its own (and the hundreds of films that it inspired). Was it necessary?
But OMFG. They nailed it. It’s beautiful, expanding on the source material without filling in every blank. Delving more into the moral dilemmas, almost as visually striking as Ridley Scott’s original. It pulled off the impossible. Denis Villeneuve made the sequel we didn’t even know we wanted or deserved (I’m no longer worried about him remaking Dune. He’s a miracle worker).
But apparently the fact that it’s a cinematic triumph doesn’t mean shit because younger audiences can’t be bothered to show up (god forbid, Generation X gets thrown a bone every once in awhile. I know we’re a smaller group than Baby Boomers or Millennials, but we do like to go see movies now and then). And many that did are complaining it’s dull, or sexist, or other complaint pieces that make for good clickbait titles.
I realize this is an oversimplification for Blade Runner 2049 coming up short at the box office: I also think there were plenty of older viewers who wanted to wait for streaming. Besides, Blade Runner is indeed a niche film, that despite a rabid cult following and critical reassessment is still on the fringes. Perhaps that makes it that much cooler.
But I do think it’s weird that there is a lack of curiosity that younger generations display for older films. I’ve seen a few BR 2049 articles have asked “should you see the original Blade Runner before watching the sequel?” Huh?!? AGH!!!!! (waves hand angrily in the air and screams at the heavens).
As someone who grew up bingeing on classic movies and TV (we ate up old programming like a sponge before cable TV gave us other options) that kinda bums me out. Perhaps in this age of endless entertainment options it’s harder to find the time. Or maybe I’m a huge nerd who watched way too many movies as an only child (I’m a TCM junkie now).
I know several younger viewers who were obsessed with the show, but they’re part of a small, exclusive club (Twin Peaks fans are the best, amirite?).
Sure Blade Runner 2049 isn’t Star Wars or Marvel—big budget franchises that cater to every demographic and stick to formula. It doesn’t need to be. It’s a sequel to a weird movie that appealed to folks who liked a weird flick that asked weird questions.
So if we don’t get another sequel because it didn’t make back its budget, I can deal. And if today’s audience is too disinterested or confused to dive in, it’s totally cool. They were back in 1982 as well.
But if the original Blade Runner flopped and found its audiences years later, methinks Blade Runner 2049 will do the same. While the big screen is really where you should see it, watching it at home makes it easier for bathroom breaks. And maybe younger viewers who stayed away for whatever reason will seek it out on their own time, and then rediscover the original. I hope so. They’re in for a treat.
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