Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Blade Runner 2049”
PRODUCERS: Ridley Scott, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, Cynthia Yorkin and Andrew A. Kosove
DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros.

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve
WRITERS: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green

CAST: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Barkhad Abdi, Mackenzie Davis, Edward James Olmos, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Hiam Abbass, Lennie James, David Dastmalchian and Sylvia Hoeks

SYNOPSIS (via IMDB): Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Ryan Gosling as K

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: Off the heels of his Best Picture-nominated “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve has cemented himself as an edgier, darker Spielberg. Concerned with themes that bridge humanity and science, Villeneuve’s genre attempts are of the philosophical kind. Therefore, this makes him the perfect candidate to uphold the legacy created by 1982’s “Blade Runner.” As witnessed with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” cult classic sequels tend to do well despite (or perhaps because of) a long absence. Over time, more and more moviegoers will get around to seeing what all the fuss is about. By the time the cult franchise unveils its long-awaited return, everyone will have the knowledge to both prepare and anticipate.

When viewers recall “Blade Runner,”  searing imagery of a cyberpunk Los Angeles with an Eastern architectural design comes to mind. Rupert Sanders’ “Ghost in the Shell” provides a glimpse of what might be, but in Villeneuve’s hands everyone is expecting an updated return to the original film’s iconic metropolitan landscape. The milieu of Philip K. Dick’s source material is a playground for production designers and effects teams to show their skills. If the film’s awards-friendly release means we have a contender on our hands, expect it to fill out all of the appropriate tech categories.

More than anything, Academy members and moviegoers alike are looking forward to Harrison Ford stepping back into the replicant/Blade Runner (?) shoes of Rick Deckard. After an incredible career of super-stardom, Ford is overdue for an Oscar. All eyes will be on Ford for his supporting turn, as it looks like recent Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling will serve as primary protagonist. Among his famous science fiction roles, Deckard is Ford’s most complex and fascinating. This means screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green need to dole some awards-caliber material for the veteran actor to harness.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: Based on the trailer, “Blade Runner 2049” might have thrown a wrench into its likability factor pre-debut. Fans who meticulously combed over every version of the original “Blade Runner” resound Ridley Scott’s confirmation regarding Deckard’s identity. If it’s to be believed that – *SPOILER* – Deckard is a replicant, then why is he noticeably older thirty years later? The original replicants had a lifespan of four years, so perhaps Deckard was able to freeze the countdown and maintain activity.

Either way, seeing Deckard alive and significantly aged lends credence to the opposing view that Deckard was never a replicant. This will surely anger “Blade Runner” obsessives who dedicated so much of their time proving their theories were correct. A franchise never wants to start off on the wrong foot with the fan base. There’s a huge possibility “Blade Runner 2049” will frustrate more than stimulate in this regard.

Finally, there’s the dilemma of competition. After consuming so much franchise fare this spring and upcoming summer, audiences are going to feel burned out. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will replenish their spirits, but something as narratively esoteric as “Blade Runner 2049” likely won’t. The reviews will have to be glowing if Warner Bros. wants box office glory, much less awards buzz. The biggest concern is that “Blade Runner 2049” will get lost in the shuffle just like its predecessor did. Critics might be so consumed by the Deckard identity controversy that their blinders will ignore the potential great film at hand.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture — Ridley Scott, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, Cynthia Yorkin and Andrew A. Kosove
  • Director — Denis Villeneuve
  • Actor in a Leading Role — Ryan Gosling
  • Actor in a Supporting Role — Harrison Ford
  • Adapted Screenplay — Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
  • Production Design — Dennis Gasner
  • Cinematography — Roger Deakins
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Costume Design — Renée April
  • Film Editing — Joe Walker
  • Original Score — Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • Achievement in Hairstyling and Makeup
  • Achievement in Visual Effects

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Also, check out the latest Oscar Predictions and see where “Blade Runner 2049” ranks!