When it comes to the sequel to a cult classic sci-fi film, which has pedigree in spades both in front of and behind the camera, a January release date seems like the last possible place for it. And yet, that’s exactly where Warner Bros. has decided to slot the untitled Blade Runner sequel, which will arrive in theaters on Martin Luther King Weekend, January 12, 2018.
This is odd, to say the least. It’s not like Blade Runner 2 is some low-rent VOD sequel with an ancillary attachment to the original. Ridley Scott himself conceived of the idea for the follow-up, enlisting Blade Runner co-writer Hampton Fancher to pen the script alongside Michael Green. Then he landed Prisoners and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve to take the helm, with Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard alongside a character played by Ryan Gosling. And if that wasn’t enough, cinematography legend Roger Deakins is lensing the whole thing, marking his first sci-fi film since 1984.
So what gives? Well, I’d imagine this January 12th date is when the movie will go wide, but perhaps Warner Bros. is thinking awards potential with this particular film, planning an Oscar-qualifying limited release in late December. That’s the track they took with American Sniper to huge box office success, but Blade Runner 2—we can only assume—is far from that kind of movie, and instead more of a heady sci-fi thriller. Then again, Deadpool just proved that you can open a genre film in early February and break all kinds of box office records, so we’re close to living in a year-round tentpole kind of world. Indeed, Marvel’s Black Panther is due for release in February of 2018.
Filming on Blade Runner 2 is set to get underway this July, and I’ll admit I assumed this would be positioned as a major summer blockbuster. After all, you have Harrison Ford reprising one of his iconic characters shortly after he did the same with Star Wars to enthusiastic effect, so the obvious decision would be to play into that angle and promise fans another nostalgia-inducing spectacle. But given his filmography thus far, perhaps what Villeneuve has planned is something more introspective, more challenging. If that’s the case, then I’m even more excited for this follow-up than I was before.
The only other film currently scheduled for January 12, 2018 is Paramount’s aptly named Sherlock Gnomes, which I imagine has zero crossover appeal to fans of Blade Runner, so box office wise this may indeed be a very smart move. While it’s a bummer we have to wait so long to see the thing, I am slightly encouraged by the insinuation that WB might make an awards run. After being blindsided by the Oscar potential of Mad Max: Fury Road and Creed, maybe the studio doesn’t want to underestimate the potential of yet another blockbuster that’s both commercially and critically acclaimed.
For more on the sequel, check out Steve’s recent video interview with Roger Deakins.