Applying Chaos Theory: Announcing Blade Runner 2049

Jeez, anybody want some music with that feedback?

The first thing to notice about this trailer for Blade Runner 2049, once your ears and pulse recover, is the due date — next October. It’s way too early to start promoting this movie.

More and more, a film’s fate is determine entirely by its opening weekend, and marketing campaigns are designed around that. The goal isn’t just to make people aware of the film, it’s to turn it into a cultural event. You need people talking about your movie in advance. You need people marking their calendars and making plans in anticipation. If the first trailer drops too early, marketing teams run the risk of letting any buzz it generates drift away.

Last August’s Suicide Squad is a good example of a fumbled marketing campaign, though the movie did very well anyway. Warner Bros. released the first trailer almost a full year in advance — they said it was pirated from comic con and they couldn’t take it down, but that’s simply not true. With the cat out of the bag, the marketing team needed to keep the movie a constant topic of conversation for more than a year. With a sister film releasing in March, a bevy of merchandise and headline-grabbing production difficulties, they pulled it off, but if you were as tired of hearing about this movie by its release as I was, this is why. The marketing team did their job well, but for about twice as long as they should have.

While it risks running into the same problem, this spot for Blade Runner 2049 isn’t meant to be a real trailer. It’s just an announcement, and it’s prefect for what it’s intended to do.

Making a sequel to the 1982 cult classic Blade Runner presents a unique problem. The film — the good cuts of it, at least — ends on the question of whether or not lead character Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is himself an android implanted with false memories. Since replicants have a built-in four-year lifespan — though this could conceivably be modified — having Deckard in a sequel set far in the future ostensibly answers a question that the first movie is much better without a definitive answer to.

The rumor for years has been that the sequel would be set on Mars. This would be a brilliant thematic expansion — in the original’s first scene, Deckard scoffs at an ad encouraging people to migrate to the off-world colonies. Replicants are used for slave labor on the colonies, but banned on Earth. The vision of 2019 Los Angeles is a bit of a shithole, but the question of how much worse the colonies must be, given that they’re apparently old hat at this point, haunts the first movie.

Instead of revealing plot details to anticipate, this trailer takes those two questions — is Deckard a replicant and is this set on Mars — and hammers them into the ground with just one color and two cryptic lines of dialogue. The speculation about this movie should be ceaseless until the next trailer drops — ideally sometime in late February — and that’s exactly what you want.

Of the little that we do get to see, it’s all exciting. Denis Villeneuve, the best working director, is handling this project, and he’s got his gang back together — cinematographer Roger Deakins, who did Prisoners and Sicario, along with composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, the man responsible for all that feedback as well as Arrival’s mysterious choral notes and Sicario’s menacing sound. Arrival is still in theaters, and if you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing and go right now. They’re all working with writer Hampton Fancher, who worked on the original Blade Runner.

Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t just look like a good sequel — because of who’s involved, it looks like a good movie. This teaser is just a glimpse of what’s in store.

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