Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Blade Runner 2049 poster Rating: 8.5/10 (139,023 votes)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Hampton Fancher (screenplay by), Michael Green (screenplay by), Hampton Fancher (story by), Philip K. Dick (based on characters from the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?")
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Mark Arnold
Runtime: 164 min
Rated: R
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Released: 06 Oct 2017
Plot: A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.

I must admit to some trepidation regarding this sequel to one of the seminal ‘cyberpunk’ films of our time.  The first film was a box office flop, but built enough of a cult following to allow for multiple re-edits, and re-issues over the years.  I was unfortunate to read some of the sequel books that came out in the mid-90s (I read the first and second, but decided it was best to ignore the last one), so know well how any attempt to continue the story could go completely wrong.  Then, during the marketing of this film, the trailers showcased what looked like an action-fest, with explosions, gunfights, and stunt-work.  Nope, that didn’t look at all like a film in the same mold as Blade Runner.

I am pleased to report that not only is Blade Runner 2049 a more-than worthy sequel to the original (well, ‘Final Cut’) film, but it is, perhaps, one of the best sequels ever put to film.

It is 30 years after the events of the first film, and replicants are still in use as slaves and servants, and they are still hunted down and ‘retired’ when they begin to age and show signs of going ‘off-baseline’.  Ryan Gosling plays the part of K, a Nexus 9 model who is recruited as a blade runner, and given the job of hunting down his own.  One investigation into a rogue Nexus-8 leads to the uncovering of a long buried secret, one which could spell the future for replicants, and push the boundaries for the Wallace Corporation – the organisation who bought out the remnants of the old Tyrell Corporation – in the field of genetic engineering.  However, some secrets are supposed to stay buried, and K finds himself not only hunting for answers, but also hunted in his pursuit.  The answers he finds will lead him to confront his own position within the world.

If that synopsis sounds a little generic, that is simply because I am trying so hard to not reveal any of the twists and turns in the story.  Whereas the first film was quite linear and simple in the tale (at least on initial release – the later cuts and edits added a few layers of ambiguity to some moments), this sequel plays out differently, with it being more of a detective film than the first.  Close attention to detail in scenes is required, and maybe a little familiarity with the first film – although it is possible to go into this film ‘blind’, knowledge of the events of the original will benefit the experience.

The first film was a sci-fi film noir, slow paced with stunning imagery and a memorable soundtrack.  Shots of cityscapes, close ups of eyes, and a deluge of electronic billboard advertising lent a beautiful realism to proceedings.  2049 takes those stylistic choices to the next level.  Billboards are now also holographic in nature, interacting with passers-by.  The cityscapes are still present, with long, lingering shots as the story progresses to a new location, allowing you to get a feel for the environment.   As for the eye close-up…well, the film opens with one, immediately sounding a cry that this IS a sequel to that film in style as well as substance.  And the music?  Oh, whilst it would have been perfect for Vangelis to have returned, nobody can claim the score is any less than brilliant.  Zimmer and Wallfisch have crafted a score echoing the resonance of Vangelis’ one, but adapting it and adding to it for this new, further future setting.

Director Denis Villeneuve takes his time to tell the story, with the film running at 163 minutes, but never once feeling drawn out.  With Roger Deakins on cinematography duties, the end result is a beautifully shot and lensed film which takes time to allow you to appreciate the splendour, digest the story, and immerse yourself into the lovingly crafted tale.  Gosling in the lead role of K is well placed, with his cold replicant nature being prominent at the start, but showing signs of underlying emotion waiting to break out – the interactions between him and his holographic companion, Joi (Ana de Armas), are packed with nuance and emotional undercurrent.  Jared Leto as Niander Wallace, the CEO of the Wallace Corporation, is chillingly calm and determined, whilst also being as cold and emotionless as the replicants he crafts.  His right-hand operative, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), is packed with charming menace.  Harrison Ford returning as Deckard (and maybe answering a few questions left from the first film…maybe) actually seems superfluous to the core story, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of his inclusion.

Blade Runner 2049 is an ideal example of why plundering the vaults of older films to reboot them, or make sequels is not necessarily a bad idea.  Whilst the Alien franchise is floundering under the pressure to revisit the earlier films, this film doesn’t even seem to be trying too hard, and naturally follows from that 35-year-old film.  Possibly the finest sci-fi film of the past decade, there was talk of a third film being possible if this was a success.  As it currently stands that looks unlikely, but let’s not forget that the original film was a box-office dud, but built a loyal audience on home release.  Maybe, just maybe, 30 years from now we will revisit this lost world of the Blade Runner?

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