Director Denis Villeneuve replicates the essence of Ridley Scott’s original in Blade Runner 2049 – a sequel thirty five years in the making.
Blade Runner didn’t need a sequel. Ridley Scott’s interpretation of Philip K. Dick’s classic novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, resulted in one of the finest science fiction movies in cinematic history.
Scott’s stunning vision of a bleak, dystopian future where rogue replicants (synthetic humans) are hunted by Blade Runners provided a fine balance of action with morality and romance at its core.
The film posed a long-standing ambiguity – is Deckard a replicant or not? – which should have provided enough punctuation to ensure no second instalment to the story was ever needed. It was perfect.
Alas, thirty five years later a sequel arrives and the news made my heart sink. But where Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise proved somewhat less that spectacular, Blade Runner 2049 is entrusted to director, Denis Villeneuve, who’s 2016 first contact, sci-fi thriller, Arrival, rates as one of my favourite in a decade.
Set thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, Villeneuve has clearly approached the project with respect, managing to recreate the feel of the original on-screen. The futuristic world that Ridley Scott so remarkably brought to life in 1982 is built upon and presented in even greater scale. Visually, the film is a masterpiece in cinematography. Every shot is beautifully lit and coloured. Every camera angle offers an interesting take on this dystopian vision.
Similarly the filmmaker has spent as much effort in bringing the human side of the story into Blade Runner 2049 without rehashing the same plot. In fact Blade Runner 2049 picks up the story of the first film whilst taking it in an entirely different direction, bridging the gap between the two with aplomb.
Harrison Ford reprises his role as ‘Rick Deckard’ though Ryan Gosling takes the lead as a young replicant Blade Runner known as ‘K’. David Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) also feature alongside cameos from a couple of the original cast.
There’s a fairy tale element to the film. Through a journey of emotional awakening K, wants nothing more than to discover he’s been loved, to be a ‘real boy’. His discovery of a long-buried secret creates a conflict between two parties. One that wants to utilise the information for personal gain, another that wishes to destroy it. Caught between the two, K must track down an old Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, to determine the truth.
With a runtime of two and three quarter hours Blade Runner 2049 is as epic in length as it is visually. Despite a slow pace, similar to that of Blade Runner, the viewer’s interest is maintained throughout, either by the beautiful visuals accompanied by the familiar synthesised score, or by moments of explosive action.
One could argue that the film could easily have been condensed by moving the plot along a little quicker or shortening moments of silent contemplation. A cameo from Edward James Olmos’ character (Gaff) is superfluous to the story, as is – to a lesser extent, the appearance of Sean Young reprising her role as Rachel. This isn’t a film that needs to be compromised on though.
Much of the film is indulgent, but it’s the attention to detail, the commitment to keeping faithful to the look and feel of the original, and those fan-pleasing moments along with a fairy tale story that add up to a very enjoyable experience.
Where the film falters is in trying to replicate the ambiguity of the first. Blade Runner 2049 leaves plenty for the viewer to contemplate. But whilst there’s a lot that goes unanswered – the film fails to raise a worthy question.
For more than three decades we’ve been debating whether Deckard is a replicant or not. I doubt very much we’ll be having the same discussions about Blade Runner 2049 in thirty five years… and that’s ok.
Denis Villeneuve has drawn on his strength for non-linear storytelling and delivered a film faithful enough to the Blade Runner aesthetic without being a glorified remake. Fans should be overjoyed.
Blade Runner 2049 is in cinemas now.
A near perfect return to the world of Blade Runner. Epic sci-fi, a visual stunner and more than a glorified remake. 4-5