Blade Runner 2049 Director Still Doesn’t Know Why It Underperformed

Blade Runner 2049 Director Still Doesn’t Know Why It Underperformed

Blade Runner 2049 was a critical darling, getting a largely raving reception, but audiences didn’t seem to reciprocate. The movie had lacklustre success, failing to bring in little more than half its budget in the US. And while it’s done better overseas, director Denis Villeneuve is struggling to understand why the movie was such a box office disappointment – though it could be history repeating itself.

Image: Warner Bros.

In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Villeneuve was asked about how he felt about the movie’s less-than-stellar performance in the United States over the past month, making little over $US90 million ($118 million) so far. In short, he’s still trying to figure it out.

As he mentioned in the chat, the movie did well overseas, where it brought in over $US150 million ($197 million), but it isn’t enough to make 2049 a commercial hit.

Villeneuve said he’s having trouble grasping why a movie that was so beloved by critics ended up being rejected by audiences, hypothesising that it could be because the series’ universe wasn’t familiar enough for people to want to spent time in it, especially since the film was so long (clocking in at nearly three hours long).

Honestly, I don’t know because we had the best critics. I’m still digesting it. I had the best critics of my life, I’ve never had a movie welcome like that, OK? At the same time, the box office in the United States was a disappointment, that’s the truth.

Because those movies are expensive, and it will still make tons of money but not enough. I think the thing is that it’s maybe because people were not familiar enough with the universe, and the fact that the movie’s long. I don’t know, it’s still a mystery to me.

However, the actual reason could be, as Villeneuve later pointed out, that it’s simply history repeating itself. The original Blade Runner wasn’t a smash, only bringing in $US27 million during its theatrical run, but it’s since become one of the most iconic sci-fi films of all time. That seemed to ensure victory for its highly lauded follow-up.

Blade Runner 2049 was supposed to be the box office hit that Blade Runner fans insist the original deserved to be. Instead, it might be another situation where the film’s legacy is defined well after it came out in theatres.

That’s the first thing one of my sons told me: “Papa you honour the first movie until the very end.” Because the first movie had the same fate. The original Blade Runner when it came out wasn’t a success, and through time became was it is today. I was not looking for that. But what I really am at peace with is the hard core fans that love the first movie really welcome this one, and that for me it means the world.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens over the next 30 years, to see if Blade Runner 2049 truly follows in its predecessor’s footsteps. You can watch the entire interview below.

[via CinemaBlend]


    • I really have to disagree with that. I thought it was a refreshing change to have a movie that lets itself breath a bit, rather than always seeming to have to rush to the next action scene.

      • Giving itself time and space to breathe is fine, but this went beyond that and well and truly into the realms of self indulgence.

        I did like the movie, but I would have liked it more if it was at least half an hour shorter. And they could have achieved most of that just by trimming down the long, lingering shots of nothing happening.

        • I really loved all those really long-duration shots. It really let me drink in not only the visuals, but also the atmosphere and audio. That ambience of scale.

          Clearly I’m in the minority and most people hate that, but damn I loved that. It was the kind of meditation on isolation you can’t really get in just about any media other than very rare comics and books. Film and games just don’t do it, for reasons that are becoming apparent. No-one else likes it.

          • If I was watching it at home then I might have had more patience for it. Perhaps it would have been better for them if they’d had some discipline with the theatrical cut then put all the padding back in for an extended cut on BluRay.

          • I mean, it was a mongrel planning my day around a 3hr movie, but Justice League was just as long. Blade Runner used the time better.

            Plus I’ve mentioned elsewhere… the cinema turned out to be the perfect place for the atmosphere, compared to home. The oppressive ‘silence’ had its own ambient track that reverberated through the theatre, establishing itself as a physical presence in a way that my home setup never will, out of consideration for my neighbours.

            So I guess all I can say to anyone else is that if you’re going to watch an extended version at home… maybe get some big bass-boosted headphones or something. That physical aspect was unexpectedly powerful in experiencing the movie.

          • I am obsessed with this movie in a way I haven’t been in decades. I can’t ever remember going to the cinema twice to catch the same movie. It truly is a masterpiece.

          • i had a day off work recently and was lucky enough to see this in an entire gold class cinema to myself. it was amazing to be able to sit in complete silence ans take it all in. the visuals, the score, the ambiance.
            its one of those films that just stays with you for a long time. it doesn’t have you leave the cinema going “holy shit that was amazing” but then for the next few weeks its like “damn that was good”
            its a nice change from the whiz bang of mainstream cinema.

      • Agreed! Movies these days rush around much to fast, never leaving some time to absorb and think about what happened. Especially for death scenes, it just jumps to the next scene immediately, not allowing for that emotional pathos.

  • None of the big box office movies are performing, not in the sci fi and action genres at least. It’s pretty sad when Marvel (and to a lesser extent DC) dominate the box office takings while genuinely good sci fi goes under appreciated for whatever reason. This movie is a modern classic (even though it’s a little long, I’ll concede that).

    • Im keen to watch the movie, but not keen for cinema conditions. I can watch it in 4k at home on a UHD bluray & with my decent surround sound setup and not have to deal with other people talking or playing on their phone at max brightness. Its pretty rare for me to go to the movies these days and its hard to beat the UDH bluray bit rate.

      • I do this as well since I’ve got a good home setup. Going to the movies with my girlfriend is also a $40+ excursion and you add audience uncertainty into the mix on top of that. I’d much prefer to watch something like Dr Strange at home without kids and goofballs everywhere while the wonderful colours try to explode my brain.

        On the other hand I’ve actually moved to watching drama in cinemas because you generally don’t get kids or clowns in those movies, while I watch action and sci fi at home a lot of the time. I think the last Marvel movie I watched i a cinema was Avengers 2 (ugh).

        • I’ve been going to the cinema more than ever the past few months since Hoyts went to $10 tickets for all sessions (although it seems they’ve now gone up to $12 on Sunday). So I go there for the big blockbuster kind of movies, and I’m a member of the Palace movie club so I get concession prices for the indie kind of movies there. It works out to be not-unreasonable in terms of price. But yeah, it is a lottery in terms of the kinds of people you get around you.

          • I’ve been going more lately and I haven’t really had a problem with people. I think the only time anyone has been obnoxious is in Gold Class, where people seem to only see movies because they have gift cards.

      • I watched it in one of the last available showings. There were only four people in the entire cinema, who were all silent. The room fully reverberated with the ambient sounds in a way that enhanced the movie in ways that made me grateful I finally got around to seeing it there instead of on my 4K TV. I’m still getting it on that, of course, but there was something about that cavernous space that heightened the atmosphere of the spaces the protagonist found himself in.

        If you can find a theatre still showing it, I highly recommend grabbing one of the likely MANY available seats.

      • Yeah, pretty much this.

        It costs my wife and I at least $50 to go see a movie. While we are there, we line up for ages, sit through half an hour of advertising, and then run the risk of some idiot talking through the movie or looking at shit on their phone.

        At home we can choose when we watch, be comfortable, pause if we need to, have nobody interrupting like an idiot, and save money. Very few movies are worth dealing with the cinema.

      • I’m much the same, I feel the future for cinema is just going to be superhero and kids movies (much the same thing). US adults who want to watch mature content in peace without the annoyances just don’t see the appeal anymore.

      • No matter how good your home setup is it is not going to give you the sense of overwhelming scale as it is to see this in a huge cinema with a modern sound system. It will be a completely different experience.

        The last example of this I can think of was Gravity. Absolutely breathtaking experience in the cinema, completely unwatchable at home. (Not that 2049 will be unwatchable of course, but you get my drift)

  • It’s was a solid movie but not a movie that needed to exist.
    Although I’ll take this any day over the dull fest superhero movies and fast and furious etc.

  • It definitely wasn’t for everyone. It was very slow but the music created a dark intensity in those slow moments that carried the movie. Many people like myself loved that, but I can also understand why many people hated it. To them it was just a slow waste of time.

  • This was movie of the year for me. Saw it at IMAX, looked and sounded amazing.

    The reason there’s long shots is because Villeneuve uses the same cinematographer in his movies. Won’t be surprised if it gets an Oscar for that and for set designs.

    It underperformed because people’s attention spans. They’d rather see a quick flick like Thor.

  • I thought it was pretty obvious why it was not successful. Unfortunately mainstream audiences lack the patience for a 3hr long movie, where they are forced to actually think. The movie was fantastic but I’m surprised they got it over the line in the first place. Hopefully it makes money for them long term.

  • I thought the trailer that was released here really didn’t reflect what the movie was about. They pushed a generic action type angle and made the film look uninteresting.

  • It’s comes down to it being a niche sequel movie to a 20+ year old sci – fi cult classic.

    The numbers were never going to be really that big

  • Blade Runner has always struck me as a movie that you remember loving but actually don’t like watching all that much. I re watched it again before the sequel came out and it basically put me off. Still love the intro, soundtrack, world building, etc. though.

  • I loved this movie, just as I loved the first one.

    I think there were two groups that didn’t go see this movie:

    1. Those who either hadn’t seen or didn’t like the original. (Ok, three groups)
    2. Those who did like the original, but didn’t think 2049 needed to be made or was going to be any good. (Fine! Four groups)

    Friends of mine (actually offspring of friends of mine), who call themselves serious SF fans, still haven’t seen Blade Runner, though they’ll include it in their list of important SF movies. Mind you, some of them haven’t seen Alien, or Aliens, which is even more of a worry. Damn millennials.

  • I’m a huge sci fi fan, and I particularly adore films that focus on a sense of ambience. But I couldn’t stand Blade Runner, and the sequel is no better. It would feel glacial on fast forward.

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