October 20, 2017 by bck1402
Stars Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, with Dave Bautista, Jared Leto and Harrison Ford
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Blade Runner was a meditative science-fiction flick on death and life. With their finite life-spans coming to an end, four androids, called Replicants, go in search of their creators to find a way to extend their lives while a cop, a blade runner, is assigned to hunt the down and “retire” them. Quite likely to its overly moody setting, almost sluggish pace, and cerebral musings, the movie was a box-office failure but found a devoted cult following in the age of home-video. Depending on who you talked to about the movie, it’s either the greatest science-fiction flick ever made, or the most boring and pretentious crap committed to film. Either way, there was no denying the artistic value that was applied.
Skip 35+ years later and the belated sequel that fans have been waiting for finally arrives. While original director Ridley Scott has taken on the producing duties, Blade Runner 2049 falls into the steady hands of Denis Villeneuve, the assured director of another excellent, if cerebral, science fiction flick, Arrival. Hampton Fancher, who adapted the original Philip K Dick novel with David Webb Peoples, returns to scriptwriting duties with Micheal Green. All together, they create a worthy sequel that pushes to story forward set 30 years past the first movie.
The world within the story has also moved on. While the original replicants, the Nexus-6, had finite life-spans, the last of the Nexus series, Nexus-8, had infinite life-spans. ‘Death’ has been taken off the table, but their existence is now illegal since the fall of the Tyrell Corporation that manufactured them. A new breed of Blade Runners, replicants created by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) whose company absorbed Tyrell’s in his quest to create better replicants, are on the hunt for the Nexus-8. As we’re following one particular blade runner called “K” (Ryan Gosling) doing his job, he stumbles onto a mystery that goes back 30 years and Tyrell’s greatest secret. A secret that could lead to a war between the replicants and humans. K is assigned by his boss (Robin Wright) to eliminate this potential problem, but his investigations are monitored by Wallace and his agent in particular, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Wallace wants this secret to evolve his own replicants to the next level. As his investigation continues, K begins to confront his own identity and existence, something the other replicants are fighting for.
While the themes are different this time around, the exploration of these new themes 30+ years on almost follows a similar thread, even tying to the original with the return of Deckard (Harrison Ford – a huge part of the promotional campaign despite a very diminished screen appearance). Villeneuve takes his direction in a similar approach as Scott did, allowing the atmosphere and the world seep into the narrative. And what a world it is, very likely the world Ghost in The Shell (2017) would have loved to have given how the original Blade Runner had inspired that world in the anime. Aided by Roger Deakin’s mesmerising cinematography, the production design for 2049 is astounding, recalling much of the original and pushing it further to show the changes in the world over the intervening years. Even the new score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch evoke Vangelis’ score from the original.
The stars are uniformly excellent with the leading ladies (Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, and Ana de Armas as Joi, as well as Mackenzie Davis) being major standouts even with Gosling carrying much of the movie by himself. As mentioned, Ford has more of a guest appearance, but he still captivates in bringing Deckard back to the screen. Jared Leto continues to bring the strange and unusual to the modern screen, perhaps revelling only Johnny Depp in creating visually arresting yet intriguing characters.
While there are aspects of the world I could touch on, I’m not going to delve into them here. That’s a whole other article to consider, if I want to compare and contrast this with its predecessor. Suffice to say, the creative team have more than delivered on a very worthy sequel that is very likely to appease the fans of the original for the most part. What the regular movie-going public may think about this is a whole other case (and a peek at the box-office suggests it may go the same way as the original). However, there is no denying the artistic achievement to movie presents, be it with the world-building or the overall production design. The cerebral aspects of the story is pure science-fiction at its best, leaving just enough mystery to warrant repeat viewings, musings and discussion in the time to come.
The pacing is a little faster than the original but the run-time (almost 2 3/4 hours) may make it a butt-numbing experience. Despite it all, there is entertainment to be had and the story itself is captivating enough to draw you in, again thanks to Gosling’s performance. Still, patience may vary.
Rating **** / 5