Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve has arguably made one of the best sequels of all-time in Blade Runner 2049, a film that's every bit as good as the original, recapturing the complex thematics and futuristic atmosphere with masterclass efficiency. Blade Runner revolutionized the genre in the 80s and now 2049 further extends the dialogue.
Ridley Scott‘s original Blade Runner is no minor work, redefining and revolutionizing the sci-fi game with its willingness to both ask and answer complex questions regarding the human condition, wrapped in a science fiction blanket that posed android beings as less-than-human. Now, years later, visionary Denis Villeneuve recaptures those neo-noire vibes with Blade Runner 2049, a film that’s part sequel, part completely its own thing, yet set in that same dark and damp world, covered in holographic skyscrapers that seem to go on forever.
Many years have passed since the original Blade Runner, which now leads us to police officer K (Ryan Gosling), K is assigned with the task of hunting down old replicant models and “retiring” them, much like Harrison Ford‘s Deckard from the original film.
The only difference now is that K has uncovered a massive discovery that could change the world forever. This discovery could essentially breakdown the wall between humans and replicants, potentially leading into the largest revolution of all-time.
Gone is the Tyrell Corporation and in is “philanthropist” Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Replicants that disobey have since been ruled illegal, which is why Blade Runner’s are hunting them down and eliminating them, yet Wallace has designed a new breed of replicants that obey and cannot revolt out against humans.
Blade Runner 2049 is a film best discovered with as little information as possible. Most critics that have attended screenings of this film were held accountable to not spoil any of the finer details of the film, including most plot points and even character details. I purposely waited to write this review until I had the chance to see the film twice and because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach expanding the plot and setting up the film. I have decided that leaving things as vague as possible works best for fans of the original and for those looking to discover a new piece of science fiction.
As a sequel, Blade Runner 2049 is damn impressive. Director Denis Villeneuve is no slouch behind-the-lens, having directed such visually and thematically dense films, such as Sicario and Arrival. Here, he teams with DP Roger Deakins and writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green to truly capture the essence of Blade Runner and expand on the world in such a vast and limitless way.
Fans of the original might be irritated by 2049‘s answering of certain questions left unanswered and open for debate in the original, but Villeneuve and his team handles the material with such delicacy and respect, paying homage and pushing the envelope in ways that even Ridley Scott couldn’t do in the original.
As its own film, Blade Runner 2049 is a complex beauty, capturing the hopeless and over-populated world through a neo-noire lens that presents new technology with a dirty coat of rust and commercialism slapped on.
The film ultimately tackles what it means to have a soul. Can a replicant be anything more than a means of slave labor for society? Should they?
Each character is forced to face their own interpretation of what a soul means. Ryan Gosling‘s K faces severe loneliness as he clings onto any hope of a grander purpose. He falls for his holographic girlfriend, because she promises him a “normal” life, with normal feelings and emotions that make him feel a sense of placement among the world. Certain story arcs lead him to a grander acceptance of having purpose, only to dodge him right back to size.
K’s eventual conclusion boils down to memories and their significance among the cosmos. Are they interlinked (INTERLINKED!) to each other? Is their purpose and meaning expanded throughout life and his understanding of them or is there no meaning whatsoever?
Jared Leto‘s Niader Wallace is a cold and gazed God-type figure that deals with the definition of a soul through his superiority as a being. He has gifted the world with an army that can ensure our livelihood through the cosmos and into eternity. He is responsible for life and death and must be the end-all decider, yet he doesn’t even understand the complexities of true love. His fear of being forgotten shows through his milky eyes and lack of compassion. One of the film’s biggest pieces of irony is that he’s so soulless, yet he’ll move mountains to ensure that he is the sole controller of replicants with a soul.
Harrison Ford‘s character pops up for an extended cameo. It’s not that he’s not vital to the story (he most certainly is), but Blade Runner 2049 isn’t his show — it’s Ryan Gosling‘s. Ford gives fans of the original a sense of coming full-circle, while giving the story its own sense of fulfillment.
The visuals on display are absolutely phenomenal. Blade Runner 2049 is the type of film that I’m glad they waited for the technology to catch up to make. It’s not that Villeneuve or Deakins relied too heavily on CGI or special effects for the sake of an action sequence, but instead to further engage you with the story, on a visual level. There’s such a richly populated and dense visual aesthetic that is captured perfectly in Blade Runner 2049. I was lucky enough to see the film twice on a rather large IMAX screen and I’d immediately fork over an additional $20 to see it once more — there’s just so much to take in.
The musical score is also a memorable addition to an otherwise near-perfect film. There’s a lot of low-to-high change energy at play, with a synth-heavy drop that’s followed with electrical “static” or “crackling”. I’m not one for describing music, but I must say that Blade Runner 2049‘s musical score is just as important to the film as the visuals are. It betters the mood and environment in a way that’s reminiscent of the first film.
My biggest problem with Blade Runner 2049 is the pacing of the last act. The film is a lengthy one, clocking in over two-and-a-half hours and yet I rarely felt it. I did however feel that Wallace’s last scene sort of killed the rhythm of the film and halted the film’s otherwise consistent pacing. Important information was revealed, but it happened in a way that brought the film to an almost complete stop.
The rest of Blade Runner 2049 is a miracle, — a marvel of the highest order. How someone managed to make a sequel to one of the most inspirational pieces of science fiction of the last three decades is beyond me. Denis Villeneuve not only made a worthy sequel to one of the all-time great science fiction films, but he managed to do it well. The film could have derailed at any point, yet Villeneuve and his crew did their absolute best to ensure fans and newcomers that Blade Runner 2049 is both a serviceable and worthy sequel to the original, yet its own film that could have done just fine without referencing the original at all.
Blade Runner 2049 is one of the only films of 2017 that I’ve felt the need to watch more than once. It’s rich with narrative, both on a visual and thematic level. It’s unafraid to leave the viewer in a state of thought that doesn’t require action every fifteen minutes, yet its paced in a way that’s thrilling and exciting.