'Blade Runner 2049' Director is Keeping CGI to a Minimum
Coming out in 1982, years before the CGI boom that started around the '90s, the original Blade Runner is full of impressive practical effects work that brought Ridley Scott's grimy cyberpunk vision to life. Which raises the question of whether the upcoming sequel, Blade Runner 2049, will continue that tradition, or whether it'll be easier to identify a green screen than a replicant.
Fortunately, director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) seems to be a big supporter of practical special effects. Speaking to Variety, he called himself very "old school" in regards to how he constructs his films, and regretted that it was ultimately too expensive to create practical aliens in the Oscar-nominated Arrival (although a good deal of the film's science of was indeed real).
But although he didn't realize his Arrival dream of a "gigantic aquarium with gigantic beasts that would be moved by puppeteers," Villeneuve likely has a bigger budget with a major sequel like Blade Runner 2049, and he hates green screens:
Villeneuve also praises his cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who inevitably had to do some heavy lifting after the decision to avoid computer effects was made. Deakins played a ton of visual tricks during production, and Villeneuve says he can count on one hand how often he saw a green screen that whole time. Of course, some computer enhancements were used, but the problem with CGI has always been over-reliance on it.
Keeping away from CGI could be especially important for a setting like Blade Runner, which pushes away the clean, futuristic landscapes of most sci-fi in favor of a seedy, industrial underworld. Messy, small details like dirt and dust are hard to pull off with CGI, and any movie set in the Blade Runner universe can't look too clean if it wants to set the right tone.
But possibly more interesting, is that Villeneuve will soon be bringing those sensibilities to the Dune remake he'll be directing. Which is good news for anyone fearful of CGI sandworms in their future.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford (returning as possible replicant Rick Deckard), and comes out October 6, 2017.