Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 is not for everyone, as evidenced by its box office performance. Despite a star-powered cast and special effects befitting a summer blockbuster, the long-awaited sequel is a deliberately paced and contemplative film that is more interested in asking philosophical questions than having four quadrant appeal. This is not unlike the original Blade Runner, which earned a cult status over decades. So if anyone were to appreciate what Denis Villeneuve's film did you would think it would be one of the stars of the original film. But that is not the case with Rutger Hauer, who played Roy Batty in that 1982 classic. The actor recently spoke about why he doesn't like Blade Runner 2049, saying:
I sniff and scratch at it. It looks great but I struggle to see why that film was necessary. I just think if something is so beautiful, you should just leave it alone and make another film. Don't lean with one elbow on the success of that was earned over 30 years in the underground.
If there is one thing Rutger Hauer hits the nail on the head about and one element of Blade Runner 2049 that is beyond reproach, it is that it does indeed look great. Beyond that, the actor seems to question the reason for the sequel's existence. A cynic would say that the film is necessary because it is a recognizable name with a loyal fanbase in a Hollywood climate obsessed with franchises and brand recognition. Rutger Hauer's argument while speaking with The Hollywood Reporter that something so beloved should be left alone is a common refrain among film fans fearful that cherished films will be ruined with ill-advised attempts at reboots or sequels. But the world brought to life by Ridley Scott years ago is a fascinating one and one that can still be the soil from which compelling stories can grow.
The original Blade Runner took decades to be truly appreciated. The film is hugely influential and is held up as one of cinema's greatest sci-fi achievements. Like all great science fiction, Blade Runner asks some fundamental questions and holds up a mirror to humanity to help us truly know ourselves. But for Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner 2049 does not live up to its predecessor in this regard, and falls short in others as he explained:
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.
Rutger Hauer is right in that the sequel does not contain the same kind of quirkiness and humor that the original has. Hardly a box of laughs, Blade Runner had some enjoyable weirdness in large part thanks to Hauer's Roy Batty character. Blade Runner 2049 is more serious in this regard, but in my opinion it is not without love. The relationship between K and Joi is arguably far more developed than the one between Deckard and Rachael in the original film. Blade Runner 2049 does not necessarily ask any new questions as huge as the one the original film posed, but it does expound on what it means to be human, offering new wrinkles to that unanswerable question. In some ways Denis Villeneuve's film has more soul than the original, beyond love, touching upon family, our need to be special and the importance of choice.