The mere idea of a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was always going to be troubling to me because the original is one of my favourite science fiction films, let alone one of my all-time favourite films. Seeing what Denis Villeneuve had done for the science fiction genre with his recent Arrival had only left me raising my hopes, and to say they were met is an understatement when talking about Blade Runner 2049. For not only is Blade Runner 2049 a sequel that expands beautifully upon the creativity that was shown in its predecessor but one built with the same thought and care which made the original as remarkable as it is. It isn’t a sequel that merely retreads a path that people are familiar with, but one that expands upon the ideas its predecessor had established forming not only a worthy sequel after a long period of time, yet also one destined to become a landmark of its generation in the same way the original film is.
Taking place thirty years after the first Blade Runner film, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel brings its attention to a new blade runner, officer K. A new brand of replicant is formed, and Deckard has been long missing since the events of the first film. Quickly enough, a discovery made by the replicant K had only went to set him on a quest to find Deckard in order to uncover more truths about the meaning of his own life, furthering upon the philosophies presented in the original film with Deckard’s own quest as he went hunting down replicants from the Tyrell Corporation. But Denis Villeneuve has only set up one step to making Blade Runner 2049 a distinct work from its predecessor, examining humanity upon the effect of death – all with a sense of optimism for meaning.
Within how Ridley Scott had portrayed relationships between humans and machines through their own treatments of replicants in Blade Runner, Denis Villeneuve is doing no different and as he expands the elaborate universe of the predecessor while leaving viewers to meditate upon what they are seeing in its near three hour running time. Yet the film’s length barely even seems present even within the distinctive slow pacing that the first had moved within at 104 minutes, but every scene still creates a lingering effect. For the film’s success is built within a psychological realm, beyond the straightforward nature of the preceding film’s narrative – now taking on a more expansive mood that plays upon how memory is perceived, and its impact on how we, as humans, behave.
If the opening shot of a dystopian Los Angeles from the original couldn’t be matched again, Roger Deakins’s cinematography only proves itself stunning once more, just as it always has. But it isn’t just his beautiful cinematography that allows Blade Runner 2049 to carry so much life within its imagery, but the elaborate production design is still something to behold for it represents the very best of the genre in years. Whether big or small, there’s always something present in Blade Runner 2049 that is sure to catch one’s eye, but accompanied with the score it all feels perfectly put into place. Even if Hans Zimmer’s score cannot match up to what Vangelis had composed for the original, it still feels welcoming enough as is, making for an immersive experience from start to finish.
While I have seen complaints about the film’s dialogue as being expository on occasion, I feel the opposite, because the actors always found a way to breathe life into their delivery. As K, Ryan Gosling restrains his own emotions in the best sense, making a conflicted persona that resembles what made Deckard a compelling protagonist for the predecessor just as Harrison Ford does when reprising the famous role. Even Jared Leto, whose role is brief and has never particularly blown me away as an actor, seemed to turn his part into one with great impact, but my curiosity always went towards Ana de Armas as Joi. She’s a constructed figure that is built upon the emotion of love for her owner, but one asks how real she is – put next to Mackenzie Davis. For a character whose part is to act as a construct, there was so much humanity present to the point I was only slowly falling in love with Blade Runner 2049 just as I was the original.
I don’t really know if I can properly express how satisfying this experience was for me, but given my initial skepticisms I feel glad enough to say that Blade Runner 2049 did far more than just serve as a sequel. But even if it can’t match what Ridley Scott’s original has left for me, the easiest thing to say about Blade Runner 2049 is that it truly is a worthy sequel to a landmark of the genre, after so many years have passed by. By the end of the film’s near three hour running time I still feel as if I would have wanted more, because questions kept running through my head just as they were even as I conclude viewing the original so many times over the years – because I don’t wish for these moments to be lost in time, like tears in rain. For even if it may not have as much influence as the original just yet, only time will tell what people will take from Villeneuve.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay by Hampton Fancher, Michael Green, from characters in the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Produced by Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, Cynthia Yorkin
Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 163 minutes