THIRTY-FIVE years and 2047 sequels after Ridley Scott’s seminal genre-defining Blade Runner, comes Blade Runner 2049 helmed by acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve.
The 1982 flavour of Blade Runner (depending on which cut you chance upon) leaves a number of unanswered (or half answered) questions. It’s a surprise then that it’s taken this long for the cult hit to get a sequel. But I’d quite happily wait thirty-five years for any sequel if they’re as good as this one.
2049 manages the impressive feat of keeping the beautiful aesthetics and story of Scott’s world and building on it to create something bigger and, dare I say, better. It’s not a rehash of old ideas or a cheap knock off. 2049 is very much it’s own thing, building on the themes of its predecessor. It’s a masterful triumph.
As with the original, 2049 asks the grand old philosophical question of what it is to be human. What it is to have a soul. And as with all great sci-fi, it leaves the audience to make up their own minds. The film takes these ideas and organically builds on them to progress the story in a way that not only feels fitting but necessary.
Ryan Gosling plays K, a Blade Runner as Harrison Ford’s Deckard was, hunting down and ‘retiring’ old replicants. A discovery he makes during one mission begins to unravel a mystery. A mystery which threatens to upset the human-replicant homeostasis. You shouldn’t know more than that going into the film but the mystery cleverly ties K and Deckard’s stories together.
It’s the very definition of a slow-burner. At two hours and forty-five minutes long and very little in terms of action sequences, Blade Runner 2049 is a bit of a slog. While it’s a film that is in no way in a hurry to reach its finale, it does feel focused and linear. Villeneuve is patient and brave enough to give the audience time to think about the themes and the characters. As with Scott’s original (depending on the cut), 2049 leaves us with questions that will no doubt be causing debate until, in thirty years time, we get another sequel filled with ambiguity.
The film is packed full of long, lingering shots of this dystopian LA. It’s quite beautifully put together thanks to cinematography from the brilliant Roger Deakins, who might finally get his Oscar. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer feels like more of an extension of the sound design than a soundtrack by its own rights. However, it seamlessly creates this air of dystopia with borderline horror elements.
Gosling is predictably great. Charismatic yet brooding, his character grows into himself as the film goes on. Deckard’s return gives us a gruff and grisly Harrison Ford on the top of his game. There has been some ciritism of the female characters, or lack thereof. As a white male I’m probably not qualified to comment on this but I’d like to respectfully disagree. Robin Wright is excellent as Lieutenant Joshi, K’s boss, and Sylvia Hoeks is brilliantly bad-ass as the tragically fringed Luv.
However, one of the most interesting characters is K’s partner Joi, played by Ana de Armas. She’s the character who pushes the boundaries of the question what it is to be human farther than any other. Her character adds a significant amount of emotional depth to the film as she questions her own existence.
Blade Runner 2049 is another triumph for Villeneuve and while much of the focus will be on the film’s aesthetics, it’s so much more than that.
Blade Runner 2049 is as convincing a sequel as you could hope for – an instant classic.