The highly secretive sequel Blade Runner 2049 has finally been released in theaters, and the most important question needs answering: what are the film’s Oscar chances? Okay so maybe awards notices aren’t really all that important—I guess we could just talk about the film’s artistic merits and thematic weight and brilliant performances. But we’ve already done that. A few times. And this is Oscar Beat, so enough with the pretense—is Roger Deakins finally gonna win that Academy Award?
Maybe! As Collider’s resident Oscar expert I’ve been covering the awards race incredibly closely for a few years now, and 2017 marks a really weird year. Normally around this time we have a frontrunner or two, or the race has taken some sort of shape. But right now, it feels like anything could happen. And that both muddies and boosts the Oscar chances of Blade Runner 2049 at the same time.
Traditionally speaking, the sci-fi film has the goods. It’s at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is good! And the important thing is that people who love the movie really love it. When it comes to getting Oscars, passion matters. It’s also got pedigree. Director Denis Villeneuve was a somewhat surprise Best Director nominee last year for Arrival, so we already have evidence that the guy has support within the Academy. Box office is the big question mark. The film raked in just $31.5 million in its first weekend, which is well below expectations but also kind of solid for a two-and-a-half-hour R-rated sequel to a very slow 35-year-old sci-fi film. If it picks up legs in the weeks to come, that boosts its profile and keeps it rich in the minds of Academy voters. If not, well, it’s not game over, but it may be a tougher route ahead. Critical support will be key as well. If it starts popping up on Top 10 lists at the end of November/beginning of December, that further increases its chances.
Many have been making the comparison to Mad Max: Fury Road, another Warner Bros. blockbuster that was nominated for 10 Oscars and won six. The comparison actually isn’t too far off—they’re both visually stunning, impeccably crafted sci-fi films that are basically auteur twists on blockbuster storytelling. Commercially appealing on the surface, but substantive and introspective on the inside.
Moreover, it really seems like Blade Runner 2049 has been embraced by those in the filmmaking community, who appear to be responding to the tremendous craftsmanship. So yeah, I think it definitely has a shot at a Best Picture nomination, and depending on how the rest of the year shakes out, Villeneuve could be back in the Best Director race. I even think it’s possible that Harrison Ford could maybe sneak into the Best Supporting Actor race. He gives a great performance, and it feels like the kind of legacy nomination to recognize an entire career that sometimes happens.
Beyond that, like Mad Max: Fury Road I think the film could clean up in the technical categories. Deakins has maybe his best shot ever at finally winning for Best Cinematography, but he does have serious competition in Hoyte van Hoytema’s work on Dunkirk. But a nomination is a given. Ditto to Production Design, Costume Design, Visual Effects, and the Sound categories. Best Original Score for Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s wonderfully evocative, pulsing soundtrack is also very much in the cards.