So the sequel to the 1982 science fiction landmark Blade Runner has finally been announced. It is called Blade Runner 2049, and a couple of somewhat uninspiring visuals have already surfaced from pre-production. The director is Denis Villeneuve, who’s done some very tightly directed, action-packed thrillers recently, including Sicario (2015). In fact, if there was ever a “passport” to directing a Blade Runner sequel, this would be his 2008 short film Next Floor (which will also put you off eating meat for the rest of your life). So it seems that Mr Ridley Scott has made a good choice of director for the long-awaited sequel. Or has he? What if the director for the Blade Runner sequel were Chris Cunningham?
Cunningham exploded onto the music video scene in the mid-90s with the now classic videos for Aphex Twin, which were in turns funny, disturbing, and visually thrilling. Using cutting-edge technology with traditional make-up effects, Cunningham created dark, visceral and sensual narratives that stayed with you long after the end of the video. He was almost instantly proclaimed a genius by the press, and all the big names in the music industry were lining up to work with him. For a period of about 6 to 7 years he created seminal music videos for artists like Bjork, Leftfield and Madonna, winning Grammys and MTV video awards (his video for “All is Full of Love” can still be viewed in the MoMA in New York). He also created memorable adverts for PlayStation, Levis, Nissan and Orange.
And then, after releasing a DVD collection of his work in 2003, and a brilliant if slightly deranged short film called Rubber Johnny in 2005, he all but disappeared. For some time, blogs and fans were speculating on his whereabouts and unconfirmed reports suggested that he was secretly developing feature film projects. The fact is that Cunningham just retreated to a more esoteric kind of creative work, making his own music and working on installations like Jaqapparatus that blend his love of music and technology.
So this is my Chris Cunningham hypothesis: What if he was to direct the Blade Runner sequel? His particular, powerful brand of film-making would have been perfect for this. Just check out his three-screen installation for a reworking of Gil Scott-Heron’s “New York is Killing Me“, and try to think of any other modern director who can visually capture the neon-lit, rain-soaked atmosphere of the original Blade Runner. Cunningham is not just an excellent visual stylist; his work has emotional depth, and the ability to both reference and play with pop culture, whether in a twisted homage to “Singing in the Rain” in “Windowlicker“, or in a tribute to fake alien videos in his Playstation commercial.
All of the above are why I think Mr Ridley Scott should maybe reconsider his appointment of director for Blade Runner 2049. Or, he should at list get on the phone, book Chris Cunningham for any future instalments, and give him the job he was always destined to do — providing, of course, that he is interested.