Publication: Blasting News, 6th October 2017
Director Denis Villeneuve: Stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto.
In a dystopian future, Agent K (Ryan Gosling) is both a Replicant and a Blade Runner, hunting the rogue older models of robot. After making a discovery that questions the very nature of what it means to be human K searches for a former Blade Runner who could hold the answers, Deckard (Harrison Ford).
It took no less than seven cuts over twenty-five years before a definitive version of the original was created. ‘Blade Runner’ remains one the most visually stunning films ever, and one which introduced themes that have defined serious sci-fi to this day.
To create a sequel to “Blade Runner” was a highly ambitious project, one that required a singular artistic vision to succeed.
‘Blade Runner 2049’ manages to place itself as a legitimate continuation, even if its very existence dilutes the mystery of Ridley Scott’s 1982 work.
After the middling responses to ‘Prometheus‘ and ‘Alien: Covenant’, it might be said that Ridley Scott was too close to the works he first helmed to take them in engaging new directions decades later (though George Miller managed this with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘). It then may be a blessing that the director taking over from Scott for ‘2049’ was Denis Villeneuve, an interesting filmmaker who proved his sci-fi credentials with 2016’s ‘Arrival’.
What Villeneuve excels at is achieving a persistent tone in his work, one of introspection and philosophy on the human condition. These themes are elevated here, also building on and taking inspiration from ideas found in ‘Blade Runner’.
2049 explores grandiose themes, from the quest for a soul to the fear of mortal death
The relationship between K and his own robot Joi (Ana de Armas) both relates to and expands on what a human relationship with technology means, previously explored in ‘Her’, ‘Ex Machina‘ and of course the original ‘Blade Runner‘. The compartmentalizing effect of nostalgia also a key idea of 2049, from the 50s housewife Joi can imitate to the days when robots could feel something.
Visually, “Blade Runner 2049” excels almost to the level of the original. As K slinks from room to room, the camera feeds off the shadows. There is a great focus on the grainy details of K’s struggles, and simply incredible shots revealing the great scope of this universe. Standouts are a cityscape devoted entirely to refuse and those who hide among it, and a city of old now a reddish, radiated desert. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is a Hollywood veteran and should receive his first Academy Award for his work here.
I made the mistake of watching the film in 3D.
While I gained the increased layers of technological projection, I missed the finer details onscreen and was left in an oversaturated darkness at points.
Ryan Gosling is cast perfectly as the Replicant hunting his fellow kind. He is able to play off his natural reserved demeanour, while also minutely expressing the character’s internal struggle for a soul. Just as Deckard is lost in a new world, there are points when Ford feels lost in a film world he once had such command of.
The plotline of “Blade Runner” is extraordinarily simple. 2049 is a complex machine, and especially after the introduction of Deckard doesn’t always run smoothly. It can be said that both films are superlative in the visual and abstract fields, while the plot simply provides a structure for this expression.
“Blade Runner 2049” is an impressive work, which richly deserves its own place in cinematic history as well as being the first sci-fi sequel since Terminator 2 to have some real quality. Let us end the saga here, while there is still a soul to be found.