Blade Runner 2049 Director: Denis Villeneuve Screenwriter: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto Distributor: Warner Bros. Rated R | 163 Minutes Release Date: October 6, 2017
Blade Runner doesn’t have all the flashy substance that makes up what some would say is a traditional sci-fi film, but it sure does have all the nuances and subtleties that would make for a great sci-fi noir. Slow-burning detective stories still continue to unravel even in the distant future. You still have the stark monochromatic colors, a constant stream of pessimism, and a character that is drawn into the world of crime. You add a splash of sci-fi, that not only mixes well together, but proves that the elements can work in the right hands.
Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve‘s strikingly visual follow-up, takes place 30 years after Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The filmmaker stays true to the themes explored by Scott’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick book (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), while also building upon the mystery and intrigue, as well as adding even more themes that will have audiences talking, even well after the film has ended. Check out the full review below.
I’ll admit, (full disclosure) having never watched the first Blade Runnerin full before seeing the sequel was a bit of a concern. I recognize its place within the genre, as well as the fact that the film had somewhat of an existential ending. But the way that Blade Runner 2049 plays out, it feels like you don’t need to be familiar with its predecessor. That being said, Villeneuve does not forget that this is a follow-up. Blade Runner 2049 still asks those existential questions about androids’ place on Earth, and if, one-day, they will be able to achieve humanity while also still being created by a machine.
That question is the heart of the sequel’s plot. Here we have a replicant, Detective K (Ryan Gosling) who knows that he isn’t real, yet wants to truly be flesh and blood. K has all the toys that make him believe he eats and drinks like a human. He has a device that allows him to have a significant other, despite the fact that she is nothing more than a hologram. He even has a human job. But he doesn’t have the respect of a human. Neighbors tag obscenities like “skinner” on his front door.
Gosling’s stoic and distant performance is actually a benefit to the character’s existential crisis. Because K is an android, he lacks the soul needed to connect like a human. As one of the newer models made my the Wallace Corporation, lead by the deep-thinking Wallace (Jared Leto), he’s much more subservient than the ones made by the Tyrell Corporation. Those have either been decommissioned or have gone into hiding. So it’s up to K to find these old units. But one of them (played by Dave Bautista) holds the key to a deeper mystery. K just doesn’t know it yet.
So as K begins to discover more clues, he starts to go against his programming, which is something that his commanding officer (Robin Wright) begins to notice. And as K starts to experience unexplained flashbacks, his investigation takes him to areas ravaged by time. Los Angeles is no longer the sunny city it once was. Instead, the skies are gray, the city is surrounded by a wall that blocks the rising ocean water, and cities south of it are now a dump site for towering garbage.
As invested as you will be in the slow-burning story, you will be stunned by the visuals in Blade Runner 2049. The film is one of cinematographer Roger Deakins’ best work since Sicario. While there is a dystopian aesthetic to this world, there are also bright neon lights that contrast against the industrial smoke-filled city. But even the orange hues can make the film feel dark as it shines against the decayed statues.
While I may not know much about Blade Runner, I found Blade Runner 2049 to be a rich and complex world that is full of contrast. It poses questions about our own existence in life as well as if A.I. can truly be human. That is something of a recurring theme when we see K’s love interest, JOi (Ana de Armas) enter the picture. She may be a hologram, but she possesses the most humanity of the cast by invoking emotion in a rather emotionless film.
Getting deeper into the plot would only reveal spoilers, so this review won’t get into it. But Harrison Ford‘s Deckard, the protagonist of the first film, plays a large role in this sequel, even if it does take a while to get to that point. But it is a satisfying one, similar to his presence in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, another franchise the actor returned to after several decades. If anything, the two films give us even more of a reason to revisit the iconic roles that Ford has played in the past.
It’s hard for me to say if Blade Runner 2049 is truly the perfect follow up or if it even surpasses its predecessor. However, if we are looking at it just as a film, it is a neo-noir standout with stunning visuals. Combined with a deep and involving story, Blade Runner 2049 takes the genre to places it hardly explores and is a must-see.