While it's been 35 years since the original Blade Runner changed cinema forever, only 30 years have passed for the characters who return in Denis Villeneuve's groundbreaking follow-up. Blade Runner 2049 introduces us to an older, grayer Rick Deckard, one who's long since been replaced by a new agent called K, and Rachael is nowhere to be seen.
It seems then that much has changed in the landscape of the Blade Runner franchise, although the reality is that some of the most remarkable landscapes depicted in 2049 actually drew inspiration from something that took place in real life 40 years earlier.
'I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe'
While the Blade Runner franchise is most readily associated with neon lights and shades of film noir, Villeneuve's sequel stands apart from the original thanks to new locations that are worlds removed from the futuristic bustle of the city. In particular, the scorched orange dust that envelops the ruins of Las Vegas may come to define Blade Runner 2049 for future generations, something that already became evident in the midst of the film's promotional campaign before it was released.
Speaking to Variety, acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins revealed that his version of this future wasteland was ironically inspired by the past. Yes, Jordan Cronenweth's work on the original #BladeRunner undoubtedly influenced the sequel too, but Deakins explained that the breathtaking Las Vegas sequences were actually inspired by a rather more unusual source:
"With Las Vegas, Denis wanted it to have the red dust. We discussed it at length and we came up with these images of Sydney during the dust storm that they had a few years ago. There are these wonderful photos of the Sydney Opera House and it’s covered with red dust. That formed the basis for Las Vegas."
On September 23, 2009, dust from the driest regions of Australia was swept up in a giant sandstorm that enveloped the city of Sydney. Measuring 3,450 km in width, this red-orange haze was even visible from space. Inevitably, comparisons to a nuclear winter and even the planet Mars were drawn, alarming residents who believed the Armageddon may have arrived.
While the dust soon dissipated, the eerie yet undeniably gorgeous effect of this phenomenon left its mark on all who witnessed it. Sure, the storm might not have compared to watching C-beams glitter in the dark, but we imagine that the dream-like quality that this inspired in Deakin's work is almost impossible to replicate.
Perhaps now then it's time for Roger Deakins to finally win the Academy Award that he's been owed for so long. Forget questions surrounding the Replicant issue or the ending of Blade Runner 2049. The real question is why Deakins hasn't won an Oscar after being nominated 13 times before. After all, it's impossible to imagine any other film edging out the sheer beauty of Blade Runner 2049 in the Oscars race next year.
What's your favorite shot depicted in Blade Runner 2049? Let us know in the comments section below!